Man in Box

Man in Box

Monday, March 30, 2009

Not even the most narcissistic self-made man...

by Philippe Van Parijs

Our race,
and citizenship,
how educated and wealthy we are,
how gifted in math
and how fluent in English,
how handsome
and even how ambitious,
are overwhelmingly a function of who our parents happened to be
and of other equally arbitrary contingencies.

Not even the most narcissistic self-made man
could think that he fixed the parental dice
in advance of entering this world.

from What's Wrong with a Free Lunch?, Boston: Beacon Press, 2001. p.25.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Body Image Survey

We are looking for men willing to participate in an online study examining male perspectives on their bodies. If you are female, please forward this email to your male friends who may be
interested in participating.

If you are male, please consider completing the survey by clicking the following link:

Your participation is voluntary, but greatly appreciated. You will be asked to provide some demographic information; however, no identifying information will be associated with your answers. Once you have completed the entire survey, you will be redirected to a separate page to enter your name and e-mail address for a chance to WIN one of FOUR $50 gift cards. The information you enter for the drawing will not be linked to your answers.

The questionnaires should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Please read and answer all questions. Thank you in advance for your participation in the study!

Also, we would greatly appreciate if you would forward this email to other men who may be interested in participating.

Any questions may be directed to Samantha Daniel at samd15nau(at)

for aunt cathy

by Kevin Powell

life ain't never been promised to nobody
that's what grandma lottie used to say
and you
her youngest daughter
and youngest of six children
snuck into the city
on a greyhound bus
with my mother
and scraped the side of a boarding house for good luck
as your life stretched beyond
the wooden shacks
and cotton fields
and the sandy school room floors of south carolina

and you were alive
at last
in a city
away from the
comforting stench of down south
and in the big city
with its
musty underarm
and gasoline breath

and you took all ten years of your schoolin'
and applied for a job as a factory worker
on the assembly line
and you assembled parts
and the parts assembled you into
the permanence of minimum wages
and time clocks
and bosses who thought a black woman
was supposed to like work
hell, y'all had been conditioned to be oxes
they figured

and when you wasn't producing like an ox
their tucked-in pot bellies would ask:
why you moving so slow cathy?
and on the inside you licked your tongue
at them the way you used to do
when my mother and my aunt birdie yelled at you
and your heart tightened around your waist
and you ate what your feet could produce
for eight hours a day
40 hours a week
one 15 minute break a day
if you was doing your job

and you needed something else
to keep your tears from spitting out
thoughts and words that would send you
back down south
in a fit of fear
and you met him
and he was fine
that man
and you liked him
and he liked you
and like became love
to you
and like became lust
for him
and he and you
exploded into anthony
my cousin anthony
one april day in 1966
and now you had a shield
to hold against the world
you had a world to shield you against
the heartaches of him
the foot aches of work
and the headaches
of city life

and you raised anthony
the best way you knew how
just like my mother raised me
and anthony grew and i grew
with our frustrated imaginations
to resent each other
to hate you, our mothers
to despise our very existences
in that tiny
cramped three-room apartment
two mothers and two sons
in a three-room apartment
held together
by welfare
food stamps
and the roaches
who always found their way
into our food
no matter how thick
the layers of aluminum foil

and that thirsty, tingling sensation
would often reappear
crawling between your toes
up your legs
across your thighs
teasing your crotch
but it couldn't get any further
that's nasty,
you thought,
some man between my legs
so you stuffed your womb
with the world of anthony
because your spirit
was tired of being probed
by social workers, mailmen, and would-be husbands
for having an illegitimate son

and in spite of reality
burning down every hope we had
we managed to spread out
to a better part of the ghetto
and we even had separate apartments now
but you and my mother
always was in the same building because
my mother was the mean one
who scoffed at the world
with her angry eyes
and you was the nice one
who wanted to be like my mother
but you couldn't
so you followed my mother
because at least you'd be safe
from yourself

and when we finally moved out of the ghetto
around white folks
you felt good
we was movin' up
and flying like birds released from their mother's grip for the first time
and we was happy to be around
white folks
and didn't mind being called niggas
because at least we was good niggas

and me and anthony
knocked off the weight of
that restless city
that dirty city
and we left:
me to college
anthony to the navy
leaving you and my mother
grazing in the pastures of mid-life

and my mother was happy to be free of a man-child
but you was sad
because anthony had been your reason to live
your reason to work
your reason to exist
and now his departure meant your death
and you were dying
a slow death
dancing with mid-life and dying a muted death
the years of working were gone
the years of sharing were gone
the years of being were gone
and the woman inside of your crouching body
died one may day in 1988 when grandma lottie was buried
and as we wiped the tears from our eyes
no one noticed you sinking through the church pew
through the floor
into the earth to join grandma lottie

and even though anthony was there at the funeral
he left again
back to the navy
back to japan
to some strange place
that was not him
because he hated himself
and he hated you
for being him
and he nailed shut
the door
on your life

and no one noticed you drowning in your pain
until you began having conversations with yourself
and tellin' everyone how you was hearing things
and seeing movies on your living room wall
how you was the star in those movies

and even my mother
with her superstitious ways
could not believe
that you were a victim of roots and magic spells

and my mother and aunt birdie did it;
they tricked you with a meal and had you straight-jacketed
and they didn't tell me
but i found out and i found you
and i leaped inside your body
and begged you to wake up
i swam inside your dried up tears
and turned back the currents
to your childhood
to your adolescence
to your early adulthood
to anthony
to anthony's father
to my mother and aunt birdie and grandma lottie
and i cried between the lines of your history

and you told me you were not crazy
and i said i know
and you told me you could not understand
why my mother and aunt birdie had put you there
and i said i know
and you told me how they drugged you
how they called you by a number
how they monitored your phone calls
and i knew that you had become a prisoner of your worst fears
of your own death

and i looked at you and i didn't see you
instead i saw an old black woman
inside your 45-year-old body
and i wanted to rush to you and shake your youth
out of that impostor

but it was you...

and now i understand those sounds you heard
and those movies you saw on your walls
you are not crazy
it took me a long time
but i understand
anthony knows what you've been through
but he doesn't know you
i know you
my mother and aunt birdie know what you've been through
but they don't know you
i know you

i carry you with me every day
i see you when i see that black woman
lying on the ground with a mcdonald's cup in her hand
at 34th street
i see you and i say
"here cathy,
this is all i got"
and i drop a tear into your cup
and curse myself and my mother and aunt birdie
and anthony and anthony's father
and i kiss you with a prayer
because now i understand
why black bodies sag the way they do
and why black hearts don't birth emotions anymore

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Feminism's challenge: Articulating alternatives to unsustainable hierarchies

by Robert Jensen

“What is the most important challenge facing women in the 21st century, and why?”

That one isn’t easy for anyone to answer, especially in 300 words or less. But that was the assignment from editors of the University of Texas’ web site for faculty members contributing to the “Many Voices of Feminism” collection, which is online at

It is an especially tricky question for a man to try to answer. Rather than pretending to speak for women or for feminism, I wanted to explain why I embraced feminism as a method for analyzing hierarchy that could be useful in all social movements. Although men often treat feminism as a threat, in the 20 years I have been involved in feminist projects I have come to recognize it as a gift to men who want to understand and critique not only gender but other oppressive systems. For me, feminism is a crucial part of the struggle for social justice and sustainability.

Below are the 306 words that I came up with, not to answer the question but to hint at the compelling reasons we all should commit to feminism and the other progressive social movements that are necessary if there is to be a hope for a decent future, or any future at all.


Given the disastrous consequences of the human assault on the ecosystem that makes our lives possible, the most important 21st-century challenge for women is the same as for men: Can we change the way we organize ourselves socially, politically, and economically in time to reverse this ecological collapse? Can we learn to live in sustainable balance with the non-human world so that we might make it to the end of the 21st century with our humanity intact?

In facing these social, political, and economic challenges, I believe women have a crucial contribution to make through feminism. My own intellectual and political development is rooted in the feminism I learned from women, both in the classroom and community. Much of my work has addressed men’s use and abuse of women and their sexuality in the sexual-exploitation industries: prostitution, stripping, and pornography. But from those women I also learned that feminism was not merely a concern for “women’s issues” but also a way of understanding power and critiquing the domination/subordination dynamic that is central to so much of modern life. The roots of that dynamic are in patriarchy, the system of male dominance that arose only a few thousand years ago but that has been so destructive to people and the earth. Patriarchy is incompatible with justice and sustainability.

The challenge for feminism is to articulate an alternative to the illegitimate hierarchies that structure our lives: men over women, white over non-white, rich over poor, First World over Third. That isn’t “women’s work” but “feminism’s work,” which we all should undertake, in conjunction with the many other intellectual and political movements concerned with real justice. If we can change the way we treat each other, those new non-hierarchical social arrangements may help us solve the fundamental problem of the destruction inherent in human domination over the non-human world.

Author's Bio: Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book, All My Bones Shake: Radical Politics in the Prophetic Voice, will be published in 2009 by Soft Skull Press. He also is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen's articles can be found online at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free to be…feminist

by Andil Gosine

One of the best-kept secrets about feminism is this: women’s liberation is good for men. We have heard a great deal about how much greater equality between men and women improves the lives of women, but we have heard not so much about what this means for men—leaving us with the wrong impression that if women gain, men lose.

Feminism sets out to liberate men, as it does women. It’s a mistake to think that feminism is about turning power over to women—to “give the girls a chance to steer the ship,” as some have put it. Some may see it that way, but to me the core objective of feminism has always been about the liberation of women from the imaginary meanings attached to their bodies, in a similar way that anti-racism is about seeking freedom from the attachments put to skin, hair and bones. Feminism intervened to say, for example, that just because women had wombs did not mean that all women had to be, could only be mothers, just because they had body parts and body shapes that most men found sexually appealing did not mean the entirety of their experience was reducible to their sexualities. Like anti-racists, feminists pointed out the truth: that bodies alone bore no relationship to intelligence, creativity or skill.

I learned this lesson early on from the examples of Caribbean women in my life: grandmothers who often did things that might sometimes seem ungrandmotherly (like chop cane, climb coconut trees, have a drink with the boys), Aunts who kissed off rules about when and even if they should get married, teachers both at temple and at school who shared their unique views of the world, cousins who have gave as good as they got, in the yard, girl friends who expressed their womanliness in all kinds of ways, and my mother—who chose to be a mother in the manner that she wanted to be a mother.

In the process of freeing themselves, these women also demonstrated to me that I could also be free to be: that just as they could unshackle themselves from the social expectations put upon them just because they happened to be in women’s bodies, that I too could be any kind of man I wanted to be.

Feminism is not just about freeing women from their bodies, it’s also about liberating men from theirs as well—to free men from the burdens of masculinities, from the limited range of behaviors and activities that are supposed to be available to them. In my life, that has meant imagination of a world with more choices and less pressure.

When I compare the men of my father’s generation to those of his children’s, it’s not difficult to see how feminism has benefited men. Even with the advantages patriarchal culture has afforded to them, the older men suffer the pressures of living up to certain expectations of being a man, whether that means being the main breadwinner, living up to a certain sexual or physical virility or showing no signs of vulnerability—stresses that, research has shown, weaken men’s health and well-being, and ultimately shortens their lives.

Younger men, even while they still certainly many burdens of masculinity, have already benefited from feminist challenges to a patriarchy that has also been harmful to men—more anticipate being in relationships where earning income is not expected to be their responsibility alone, where it’s possible to express emotions, including vulnerability and fear, where it’s okay to lean on others for support, and where there is a broader imagination of ways in which they are free to be. The suggestion is often made that women’s liberation is behind absentee parenting by young Caribbean men, their falling behind girls at school and high unemployment rates, but these are largely consequences of global economic conditions and failures of the state to adequately understand and respond to state crises. Advanced capitalism, not women’s gains, are to blame.

Feminism: it’s a good thing, for men.

(Trinidad born and raised, Andil Gosine teaches Sociology at York University in Toronto.)

re-posted from the Stabroek News:

original URL: