“Feminism Is for Men Too!”

male feministI’m going to express an unpopular opinion. This is a reaction to social media memes that aim to make feminism feel safe and non-threatening to men by saying some variation of “feminism helps men too!”

To be honest, my feminism has nothing to do with men. If men want to begin a movement to dismantle toxic masculinity, I’d support that. But I am not doing this work and living this life for men. I’m doing it for me, for my liberation from this painful patriarchy, and for other women.

I am not trying to make feminism “safe” for men. My feminism is supposed to make them uncomfortable. It is about liberation from men’s oppression, so it had better make them uncomfortable! I am not down with this safe neo-liberal brand of feminism that focuses on centering men and making sure men are comfortable with what the little feminist women are up to.

I’m not trying to collect male allies.  Men can decide based on their own consciousness whether or not they would like to stop behaving in sexist, oppressive ways. But self-declared “male allies” are usually the ones who hurt me the most because they use that label to distract from their *actual behavior*, which is just as shitty. However, I can spot a man who is truly acting in solidarity with women from a mile away. It’s his actions, not his words, that make it obvious.

4 waysLike do we make the Black Lives Matter people say “Oh we’re fighting for white victims of police brutality too?” in order to legitimize them in white eyes? Do we make BDS activists explain how actually, their movement is equally pro-Israeli government as it is pro-Palestine? So that Israelis aren’t offended? No we do not.

The “we’re just like you!” and “our cause will also benefit [fill in privileged group of oppressors who is the reason the cause exists]” tactics in social justice movements are conservative trends that neutralize the radical message of equality and liberation and turn it into a superficial popularity contest that is no longer a threat to the status quo.

Cooptation.  That’s what it’s called.

My feminism isn’t simply “to be equal to men”.  I don’t like the society, the government, or the world that male supremacy has created. I’d rather men start their own movement “to be equal to women”.

“Falling on Your Sword”

I am greatly indebted to Renee of Womanist Musings for this amazing post.

She writes about how white women can engage in productive conversations with women of color while navigating between the two extremes of creating a hostile environment or being over-compensatingly eager to diss down other whites. (“Falling on your sword”)

As a white woman who wants to be a positive ally to WOC, I appreciate her inclusiveness and discussion. Go over and read her whole post, but I’ll give you a sneak-peek here:

That said, I would be dishonest if I did not publicly address my own discomfort. It makes me feel as though I am playing the role of mystical Negro. When you first start to critically engage in race it must seem so intimidating. This is something I personally can relate to because I am actively seeking to learn about different forms of oppression; however adoration without critical engagement helps no one. The compliments are wonderful and great for the self-esteem; however the awe factor sours quickly because no momentum is gained.

In the end this means that we are not really talking to each other. I know that I have continually said STFU and listen, but there is also a second stage.

SPACE

Have you ever found yourself in a situation resembling the following?

· You are a christian student and notice that there is an active atheist club on campus.

· You are white and see that there is a hip new bar in town catering to African-Americans.

· You were born in the U.S., but see a cool new social networking organization for young Vietnamese immigrants pop up in your area.

· You are a man and notice that there are now several vocal women’s safety organizations in your town.

· You are straight and you have become aware of a vibrant and edgy queer art scene in a neighborhood near you.

If you can identify with any of these scenarios, you are just one of many. Many people in society become aware of the interesting goings-on in marginalized or oppressed communities, and are naturally curious.

If your curiosity leads to a desire to find out more, you can turn into one of two people:

1. An awesome supporter and ally of a different community

or

2. A shitty co-opter who uses affiliation with a marginalized community to look “cool”.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE NUMBER TWO.

To be a supporter and ally:

Before attending a community’s event, try to find out if outsiders are even welcome.

Be prepared to learn, not to teach.

See how you can “bring something to the table” through promoting, donating, volunteering or working to end oppression experienced by the community.

Be thankful for the opportunity for an inside look at the community.

Keep your mouth shut- spend your time listening.

If members of an oppressed community decide to share information with you about how they experience discrimination, be supportive and affirm their feelings.

Make it clear that though you haven’t had the same experiences, you still value their perspectives.

Be open to experiencing things that will change the way you perceive larger society.

Be ready to work out differences.

To be a shitty co-opter:

Assume that outsiders are always wanted and welcome.

Tell members of the marginalized community what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

Steal ideas, style and strategies without offering anything in return.

Act like the community should be grateful simply for your presence.

Take up all the space by insisting on constantly being the center of attention.

Deny that members of marginalized communities experience discrimination or oppression, and tell them they are wrong to feel that way.

Pretend that you can fully understand all aspects of the situation of someone from an oppressed community.

Refuse to legitimately try to understand the perspective of the community in question.

Claim a the community’s identity as your own.

It’s about space. Co-opters actually hurt and further oppress the communities that they prey on by invading their space, whereas allies help them thrive. People who stand in a privileged position in society may learn to expect that they have a right to access any and all community space. They may also come to think that they know what’s best for communities that experience oppression. It is easy to feel this way when you are accustomed to society catering to your demographic’s needs, especially if you are white, male, christian, straight, or US-born, etc. Please be aware that people who do not share these characteristics with you have had very, very different experiences with our society. This is not a reason to distance yourself from marginalized or oppressed communities, but to instead practice being an effective ally.

© 3/31/08 idyllicmollusk