| EuroPRO-Fem Newsletter No4
March 99 Summary
Editorial ...... p.2
The political landscape has also changed. There are those who remember that conscientious objectors who were frequently sought by the police made up an important part of the first mens groups. Today, when relations between men and women are progressing towards greater equality, it is becoming customary to align oneself with "women and their struggles" . Similarly, Aids and the struggle for PACS (Civil solidarity pact) have brought together those who are hetero and those who love other men.
However, antisexism is faced with the same evils today as it was yesterday:
However, as in the past, it is the " divorced fathers ", who confuse conflict between a man and a woman with war against all women, who feature most prominently. Even today antisexist men are divided: into generations, into categories according to his/their sexuality.
This then was the sense of our Easter meeting: to discuss among ourselves, to get to know one another, beyond the limits of wars and struggles. From a perspective of peace, of tolerance, of struggle against all forms of violence: that to which women are subject, that which men impose on other men in order to make them conform with patterns of virile behaviour.
To realise in France a centre of progressive men who desire for themselves, their friends, their children a society which is not based on the domination of one gender by another; a society without racism, homophobia and violence.
Moreover, we are able to discuss and listen at the same time, without pretending to lay clam to THE truth either about men or, indeed, about women. We want to have fun debating and to be afraid no longer of tenderness among men and the pleasures of sharing.
Daniel Welzer Lang
PS: At the request of certain men and to encourage discussion, the meeting is not mixed. The first meeting will be conducted in French. Others will follow.
We are continuing to republish on CD-Rom "historic" texts which record mens reflections on the problematic aspects of the masculine. Along with many other things you will find in the next up-date of the networks CD-Rom (planned for July 99), the two issues of the Ardecom review published in 1980. In the meantime .here is the editorial from the first issue.
Association for the research and development of male contraception
After men had taken part in "mens groups", questioning the role of the regular guy, virile behaviour, they got together to talk of the most intimate matters imaginable, casting aside the usual rivalries. We talked about and reflected on our sexuality, paternity, the relations we have with children: those for whom we are the biological father, those with whom we live, those we would like to have, those we imagine and for some, the refusal to be a father.
Without abandoning the idea of a discussion group, we wanted to do more: why, if we do not want children, do we not assume total responsibility? Why accept the absence of male contraception apart from the conventional methods which detract from pleasure (condom, withdrawal)?
Thus, our long search began.
We realised that contrary to widespread opinion, there was nowhere in the world where a contraceptive method had been perfected. As for vasectomy, if it had ever interested us, we had rejected it as being too final.
It was at this point that we met a team of doctors, researchers, who were trying to perfect a male contraceptive pill. Some, in response to couples who were unable to use any form of female contraceptive, and others in a process linked to biological reproduction uniting the fight against sterility, artificial insemination and the existence of male contraception.
Some of us who did not want children decided to take part in these tests, not as cowboys but as aware users.
We agreed to take these products because they were known, had been used and on sale for a number of years.
Strict medical checks were established to ensure the safety and the efficacy of the treatment. We tried to control the maximum number of aspects such as blood pressure, sperm count, the type and the interpretation of examinations. We wanted to get to know our own bodies better, to understand how they function and we discovered just how ignorant we were.
We met other men who practised the same form of contraception but had arrived at it by a different route. We exchanged experiences ad regrouped. Other men, who rejected chemical contraception joined us and looked for new means of contraception in heat, the effect of copper....
Finally in October 1979 ARDECOM was set up "association of men and women interested in male contraception"; an association which enables those who are interested, and there are many of us, to get in touch, exchange ideas, meet up. We research all the available information on male contraception and distribute it.
We shall try to follow, to set up and to carry out trials of contraceptives (research projects have been drawn up) to get users together... We would also like vasectomy to be readily available and legal even if, albeit wrongly, it is not considered, to be a means of contraception.
A dynamic for the existence of male contraception is slowly being put in place. With each article that appears we receive numbers of letters, a promotional link has been established with Family Planning, groups have been created in many towns (Nantes, Lyons, Toulouse, Limoges).
We see ARDECOM as an expressive link which reflects the diversity of dialogue and experience, as an instrument enabling male contraception to exist, even if it does not solve all problems, as a place where paternity , love, life can be expressed.....
In 1945 Pincus perfected the first contraceptive pill based on synthetic progestative. This oral female contraceptive was only possible because American feminist movements commissioned and financed the research (especially the Family Planning Institute of Margaret Sanger).
CARAVAN OF QUEENS
Star - this is not the fourth issue - is a journal for all those who want to touch
You can order your copy:
"Star is essentially free - this means that you give what you can.....not a solution in itself - simply a salve - an oily, perfumed or medicinal substance according to Larousse. A piece of sticking plaster which makes it possible for all those who are broke to read what we have to say.
The following text was inspired by my own experiences and emotions, my anger and the feelings that it gives rise to, books and fanzines that I have read. The rest is simply a question of doubts, certainties and contradictions...
I could have grown up in "the house of men" but in my case I was above all put through it, rather like those dirty brats who were locked in the cellar with a dunces cap on their heads - making them bear the brunt of their familys and others misfortunes.. I was not born into "the house of women" because biologically I do not have a womans body and I have neither been brought up as nor lived as a woman.
I have a male body and sex and the aim of the game is for me to become a guy who laughs loudly, talks loudly and talks about women just as much as he loves cars.
But in spite of the turmoil, the sweat and the worries which this must have inflicted on me as a boy, I still prefer nail varnish to football if we are to remain with a classical binary image.
It is impossible to know what the main reasons are which today lead me to feel my self to be a queen, effeminate, rather than a man or gay.
It is impossible to know if it is because I have always been small and slight, either a dustbin or a spittoon, which leaves only the choice between scapegoat or slave as a mode of existence. I do not know if it is this or something else. I do not know if it is this together with other factors, in any case I have learnt to lower my eyes.
Possibly hearing oneself described as being of little importance, as a piece of shit, a moron, a fairy, a pussycat develops our sensitivities towards the problems of others. When one is young the others are the fat ones, the ugly mugs, the ginger- haired, the big ears, the wet-the-beds etc. and of course, the girls, whether they are ginger, fat, brats, tarts etc. or not...
I do not know whether it is this sensitivity which has "unconsciously" permitted me at a given moment to consider the world of girls games ( tea parties, dolls, elastic, hopscotch) to be more attractive than the noisy, violent world of boys.
I do not know whether the fact of having played with young female friends at an early age is connected with my effeminacy. I do not know. I question, suggest, suppose and regret nothing.
On the other hand, what I am sure of is that "the house of men" has regularly and for some considerable time made me pay up. My identity has been determined by insults, oaths and blows. It is what I am with my fears, anxieties and also my bursts of laughter, with the derision of contempt foremost and self derision which gives me the means to live.
PATRIARCHAL PARADISE TO PATRIARCHAL SHIT-HOLE
In a patriarchy the hetero norms serve to accentuate the separation of roles and tasks assigned according to a persons biological sex; they offer young boys that which is normally thought of as bestowing prestige and throw what is left at the girls.
In a patriarchy the hetero norms trample on women and bury those who are different, those who do not reduce love and individuals to a mere mechanical means of reproduction.
In a patriarchy hetero norms are the order of non-things, abscesses, and absence of life.
THE MENS CAVE
In the mens cave "if you are not a man, you are a girl, a weakling, effeminate"Never mind your sexual practices, never mind whether you are queer, bi or hetero. You must simply be a man, like papa, Serge Lama or a 3615- muscle-bound gay.
Never mind that you prefer the first two part-time on the football field and the latter part-time under the showers, in the changing rooms. The main thing is acts between men are virile or are considered as such by people in general.
Never mind that you fraternally slap each others backs under the shower , touch your balls or your arse . What you absolutely must not do is to appear to be a girl, a fuckee. You must act as if you did not like that sort of thing. And if in fact you do, then you must say so in a virile fashion and show that you are one of the boys just like the rest. A queer with balls. Even today despite the democretinisation of society, it is still better to wear studded boots rather than high heels. A question of gender..
It is of little importance that the guys take part in whos got the longest prick contests, segregated sexual erotic games where the merit of the winner is measured in centimetres and the shame of the loser in teasing humiliation. It is of little importance that Mr Big Mouth sometimes goes to pick up a transvestite by the docks, while his alibi girl friend stays at home. What you must not do is be identified with feminine criteria and be considered to be a girl by a group of male companions, this would be a weakness. It is less ridiculous to be a wanker than a sucker, a fucker rather than a fuckee.
Handsome Hercules method was to appear not to be but to appear to have at the same time.
Nevertheless, homosexual erotic games play a partial rôle in the upbringing of boys, as a means of pleasure, as a form of competition and establishment of hierarchy or in order to establish social codes.
These codes and the hierarchies which are imposed develop the desire to appear better or do better than others rather than the desire to be better for its own sake, an approach to oneself and the world which is always changing, questioning etc. To attempt to be better, to do better, to listen to oneself, to the differences which conflict, to contradictions and complementations in order to understand our environment, other people and other situations differently.
To be attentive to the other within oneself, in other words to listen to oneself in order not to be despised and not to despise others.
If we fail to do so, we shall continue to be confronted with sexual violence against men, gays, transsexuals and, of course, women, threats and acts of war against the female gender. The so-called "active" against the so-called "passive".
The gaytto (or gay community, a term used by trade gays to define their paying clientèle), largely dominated by men, contributes partially to its integration in the patriarchal business world etc. by getting rid of the crazy effeminate imagery which used to plague it. For a long time already and now almost systematically gays have been showing themselves off as muscle-bound, sporty, males and/or misogynous. In other words, normal..
The virility of the advertising images of gays brings to mind those of the statues, posters and other glorious monuments of stalinism, nazism and the boy scout movement (.. without erect members, of course!) an effigy of the glory of work, of nations and nationalisms.
Obviously they are not only images designed to make people use the phone, or earn money, they are also images designed to excite, where ecstasy, desire pleasure, orgasm only function when the male body is overvalued and where, as a result, contrary values are in bad taste. Images of tall straight men, broad-shouldered and proud. A vindication of the male and the normal, of his youth, of his body, of his strength, of his health which one finds a little everywhere today and the denial of that which is ugly, sick and the female gender which is associated with sensitivity, maternity, passivity, weakness, nervousness, hysteria...
Meanwhile, lesbians are right at the back and transsexuals are sweeping up the back yard. Look around and you will find them somewhere or other.
I was beaten up and raped one evening in autumn 1997 by three young Guys at St Germain-des-Fosses, Allier.
I could have had the build of a rugby player, walked with a masculine stride, been 100% queer and not have had to deal with this sort of homophobic violence.
I could have been small with pink hair, worn jewellery, been more effeminate in my appearance and demeanour, have been 100% heterosexual and been beaten up that evening.
Homophobic violence (blows, insults, rapes, murders..) directed against men attack those whose peculiarities are supposedly homosexual but which in reality are not necessarily so : their way of speaking, walking, dressing, their gestures, for example. It is not particularly concerned with those who are homosexual since these sort of differences cannot be detected with the naked eye. And even less so by night..
In a patriarchy homophobic violence is aimed at men who do not subscribe to the norms, the masculine and patriarchal codes, people whose virility, whose way of being and existing, of listening or not listening are other. Different.
It is aimed at men who are divorced from the domestic male image.
It is aimed at the female gender.
Women, bits of skirt, dogs and bitches and other animals.
I was beaten up and raped by three Guys, who at that moment in time, thought that I deserved to be punished and the sentence I had to pay for my insubmission, my abnormality consisted of punches, beating, kicking. It was both a punishment and a rite which is a part of our male constructions, both theirs and mine. Thus, they reminded me that the threat was ever present for non guys, the poofters and nancy boys and at the same time they proved that they were not and could never be what I was. They were, of course not queens. Perhaps they were queer .... will they be aware of this one day?
This sort of action is part of a cultural scrap heap where insults, jokes, initiation rites come together etc. ..
Physical, psychological or sexual acts of war, whether in times of peace or not.
A CARAVAN OF QUEENS FOR BIZARRE PEOPLE
It is doubtless because I am still subject to contempt that it always makes me a little bitter to hear that the queens house is part of the mens house and that accordingly I benefit from some of the privileges granted to guys by the patriarchal organisation. However, if my masculine side takes advantage of the general oppression of women, my feminine side pays the costs. At least it seems to me that this is the case and the way I am made.
However, given the idea of growing up in the cellar of the mens house, I prefer to imagine that it is rather a caravan, falling to pieces on the outside, but gleaming inside, set up at the bottom of the arid garden of the fortress.
My desire to describe, to define my caravan of queens, to fix a few landmarks, a few life buoys is not a new attempt to construct walls or little boxes to pigeon-hole the identities of individuals. On the contrary, it is moving towards the current direction of research and gay militancy which are taking place in the domains of deconstruction of gender (masculine and feminine) and the analysis and demands of which stem from, among other things, sexuality in order to understand the social domain differently. Because it is interested in different sexualities and socialities, lesbians, non-normative heteros, bisexuals, gays and also because it is interested in free genders, the queer idea poses questions. It is called on to destabilise hetero normality and patriarchy as Order, to develop critical powers, if we take pains to listen and understand one another. If we take pains to listen to and understand the words of women.
If we take pains to listen to and understand the words which have to date been the dialogue of the dominated.
It is along this road that I would like to see my caravan make its merry way.
Jeanjean, February 1998