Feminism for Men; The Masses

masses040_lo.pdf

Dublin Core

Title

Feminism for Men; The Masses

Subject

Sex, Gender, Marriage, and the New Woman

Description

Floyd Dell’s Marketing of Feminism to Man

Floyd Dell’s “Feminism for Men” illustrates the complicated gender-based struggle of Bohemian women. Women of Bohemia, like Mabel Dodge, were forced to navigate a male-dominated world of artists and reformers. These men prided themselves on being progressive and feminist for the most part. However, because of their male privilege , the men of Bohemia still did not treat women equally. Dell’s article illustrates how male reformers could make even feminism about themselves. Dell depicts males as victims, and in doing so, he takes the blame off the men of Bohemia for the oppression of women, which they actively participated in. Rudnick describes how Greenwich Village was “the headquarters of radical feminism in prewar America” and how the women of Bohemia strove for “Communal nurseries, birth control, family planning, cooperative housing, professional child-rearing, and higher educational opportunities for women” (1792-3). Rudnick also writes how as a result of men’s continued underlying sexism, “many feminists felt a great deal of tension between their stated ideals and the tug of traditional loyalties and beliefs” (1794).

Dell presents the current status of women’s dependence as the source of gender issues. His presentation of economic dependence depicts the man as the victim and the woman as a sort of leech on his resources. Dell writes that if a man “doesn’t do what he wants to do, he is not free.” He argues that men cannot do what they want because “women as a sex are dependent on men for support.” Dell laments, “It is too much to ask of a man to be brave, when his bravery means taking the food out of the mouth of a woman who cannot get food except from him. The bravest things will not be done in the world until women do not have to look to men for support.” Here, Dell is suggesting that more would get done in the world if women were not using men’s resources. Though he is calling attention to the need for women to have economic independence, his presentation of this concept is misogynistic. By perpetuating misogyny, Dell illustrates the difficulties women of Bohemia faced. The women had to negotiate with men who claimed to support feminism but still had internalized sexism. Dell does not present how women could equally follow their passions more; he simply presents how men could be free.

In a way, Dodge faces this struggle in her relationship with John Reed. Reed wishes to have independence in his work and in his affairs with other women as he pleases. He becomes irritated when Dodge is too close to him and clings onto Reed. At the same time, Reed wants to have exclusive access to Dodge and does not wish her to pursue her goals as he pursues his own. Reed wants to not provide for Dodge and yet still control her. Dell perpetuates 20th century Bohemia’s male “have it all” mentality by centering his discussion about the importance of feminism around men instead of around women. Dell continues to complain about the “struggles” of the male as he says, “At present the ordinary man has the choice between being a slave and a scoundrel.” Dell is indirectly saying that women are either enslaving men or demonizing them for wanting “freedom” (as he describes it) and is then placing the blame on women for their own subordinate state.

Though Dell does illustrate knowledge of how Capitalism is the source of the persistence of gender roles, by continuing to place the blame for inequality on women, Dell’s piece is not in the least bit feminist in the contemporary sense. Dell writes, “Capitalism does not want free men. It wants men with wives and children who are dependent on them for support.” Dell even acknowledges men’s desire to retain power as he writes that men, “are afraid that they will cease to be sultans in little monogamic harems.” Dell’s piece makes it clear how difficult it was for women like Dodge to convey to their male counterparts that underlying sexism was just as detrimental to the female position as blatant sexism. Rudnick writes how the women of Bohemia “want something more than motherhood and a home,” but that “they are unsure of what it is or how to get it” (1799). Women’s struggle to find fulfillment is challenged by the desires of men to be in the company of liberated women who were impossibly at the same time wives, mothers, and home makers.

Rudnick, Lois. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds (Kindle Location 1789-1799). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Creator

Floyd Dell

Source

The Tamiment Library, NYU

Publisher

The Masses

Date

July 1914

Format

Magazine

Language

English

Type

Opinion Piece

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

Feminism is going to make it possible for the first time for men to be free.
At present the ordinary man has the choice between being a slave and a scoundrel. That’s about the way it stands.
For the ordinary man is prone to fall in love and marry and have children. Also the ordinary man frequently has a mother. He wants to see them all taken care of, since they are unable to take care of themselves. Only if he has them to think about, he is not free.
A free man is a man who is ready to throw up his job whenever he feels like it. Whether he is a bricklayer who wants to go out on a sympathetic strike, or a poet who wants to quit writing drivel for the magazines, if he doesn’t do what he wants to do, he is not free. . . .
And this will be true so long as women as a sex are dependent on men for support. It is too much to ask of a man to be brave, when his bravery means taking the food out of the mouth of a woman who cannot get food except from him. The bravest things will not be done in the world until women do not have to look to men for support.
The change is already under way. Irresistible economic forces are taking more and more women every year out of the economic shelter of the home into the great world, making them workers and earners along with men. And every conquest of theirs, from an education which will make them fit for the world of earning, to “equal pay for equal work,” is a setting free of men. The last achievement will be a social insurance for motherhood, which will enable them to have children without taking away a man’s freedom from him. Then a man will be able to tell his employer that “he and his job can go bark at one another,” without being a hero and a scoundrel at the same time.
Capitalism will not like that. Capitalism does not want free men. It wants men with wives and children who are dependent on them for support. Mothers’ pensions will be hard fought for before they are ever gained. And that is not the worst.
Men don’t want the freedom that women are thrusting upon them. They don’t want a chance to be brave. They want a chance to be generous. They want to give food and clothes and a little home with lace curtains to some woman.
Men want the sense of power more than they want the sense of freedom. They want the feeling that comes to them as providers for women more than they want the feeling that comes to them as free men. They want some one dependent on them more than they want a comrade. As long as they can be lords in a thirty-dollar flat, they are willing to be slaves in the great world outside. . . .
In short, they are afraid that they will cease to be sultans in little monogamic harems. But the world doesn’t want sultans. It wants men who can call their souls their own. And that is what feminism is going to do for men—give them back their souls, so that they can risk them fearlessly in the adventure of life. . . .
When you have got a woman in a box, and you pay rent on the box, her relationship to you insensibly changes character. It loses the fine excitement of democracy. It ceases to be companionship, for companionship is only possible in a democracy. It is no longer a sharing of life together—it is a breaking of life apart. Half a life—cooking, clothes, and children; half a life—business, politics, and baseball. It doesn’t make much difference which is the poorer half. Any half, when it comes to life, is very near to none at all.

Dell, Floyd. "Feminism for Men." The Masses. July 1914 19-20.

Original Format

Magazine