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Stephen Montagna, Published May 12 2012

Real war is against ignorance

In response to Michael Ross’ letter to the editor in the May 6 Forum:

It’s taken me a few days to reply because I spent the first few days under the presumption that Ross writes for the humorous newspaper The Onion. Apparently, this is not the case. Apparently, it is also not the case that this is a letter from the 1950s that was unearthed from a dusty archive and posted, belatedly, for April Fools’ Day.

Ross needs editing: “Men have ruled every civilization since the beginning of time and always will.” Here he clearly means “white men,” yet it’s conspicuous that he does not call that out.

Ross says “when good men rule, it’s ordinary men exercising leadership in their homes, local churches, local civil government, local business and commerce.” And how, exactly, does this “leadership” manifest itself? Were the good men in charge when America was a slave nation, built on the backs of free labor excised through vicious punishment and the oppression of people of color we brought to this country? How does one exercise leadership in the home? By celebrating the humanness of his partner, sharing in chores and upkeep of the home, expressing love and modeling cooperation for the children as a way of helping to instill good, humanist values? Somehow I don’t get that vibe from Ross’ letter.

Ross weaves the same old, tired yarn of traditional misogynist sexism that we have heard for generations; it is self-serving and self-contained. The “evidence” for jobs traditionally belonging to men is simply that men have always been in charge (what do ya know, white males happen to be the ones in charge, and that’s what I am! How convenient!) Absent is a sense of self-analysis, reflection or critique of one’s complicity in a system of privilege; absent is connecting the dots between jobs traditionally reserved for men and the opening words about civilizations being run by men.

No one is denying male and female, just adjusting how we have historically defined these identities – definitions that for millennia condoned the inhuman treatment of women and girls (and of any boys who didn’t fit a rigid, masculine mold) through violence, sexual assault and murder. It is not the elite who are the problem; it is a model of power and control that asserts the needs of one group (men, in this case white men) over everyone else, and sanctions violence against others on the grounds that this group’s right to be in charge and get their needs met at the expense of others is somehow dictated by an inherent law that is unquestionable and beyond reproach or criticism.

One more correction to Ross’ letter, the headline: The real war is against ignorance.

Montagna is with Men Stopping Rape Inc., of Madison, Wis.

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