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Dec 23 2011

In defense of my male feminism

I’ve had listed for some time, as part of my profile on the right, the fact that I consider myself a feminist. I put it in shortly after joining Freethought Blogs and being assailed in very short order by the winged monkeys who have this absurd tendency of descending onto any pro-feminism post, shouting down the defenders of equality with absurd accusations of being misandrist. Merely by considering our patriarchy to be heavily weighted against women, who despite making up over half our population seem to get the short end of the stick more often than not, you are de facto anti-male, apparently. I added that descriptive out of spite for the denizens of the slimepit who consider women fighting for women’s rights to be evil, and men fighting for women’s rights to be “fauxminists” just looking to get laid.

And, frankly, I think I fit the descriptive of “feminist” well enough that I did not hesitate in adding it, though until that point I called myself pretty much exclusively an egalitarian. I despise the gender roles that harm both men and women in different ways, and I recognize that the ways in which women are disadvantaged significantly outweigh the disadvantages that men have, especially taken in concert with the advantages that male privilege confers. I want gender roles to simply evaporate, to disappear entirely, to be cast off like the vestigial organs that they are in light of the harm that they do to humans of all genders, and that simply won’t happen without taking out the cultural institutions that reinforce them with each generation.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a post by fellow FtB blogger Comrade PhysioProffe, excoriating a disturbing trend of taking the name of “feminism” under troubling pretenses, like the case of Hugo Schwyzer. My surprise came not from the fact that Schwyzer deserves more scrutiny — after all, he built a career of teaching women how to be feminists out of some expressed remorse for having attempted to murder an ex girlfriend, so he damn well deserves scrutiny as a result.

My surprise, rather, was borne out of the fact that Comrade caught me in the blast.

The arguments that were made by CPP and his commentariat gave me some pause. Primarily, his objection was that any man claiming the name “feminist” is making a big melodramatic display, and it’s up to women to decide on the merits of your actions whether or not you’re a feminist. Given that I’d had the name applied to me by women whose opinions I greatly respect, I figure I’m inured to accusations that I’m co-opting a “brand”, especially for my own benefit. But really, there’s an aspect to the whole argument that rubbed me the wrong way.

It’s not that there aren’t men who actually do co-opt the label to preemptively label themselves as “safe” so they can get through your defenses (and/or into your panties). I know there are. And I am grossly disturbed by the idea that someone would make a career out of telling women how to be better feminists with such skeletons in their closets. But, to be perfectly honest, it would be inconsistent of me to claim that someone can never change — that something that someone did in the past totally disqualifies someone from ever fighting for someone else’s rights. PhysioProffe even expressed as much. Where we differ is apparently not in that the fact that Schwyzer’s admitted attempted murder is disturbing but does not disqualify him from being interested in achieving gender parity. Where we differ is that nor does the fact that he is a male, nor that he calls himself a feminist, nor that he makes money doing so. If there is a purity test for who can fight in a movement and who cannot, it is only in who is doing damage to the movement as a whole.

These things I have mentioned might disqualify him from being a role model, a spokesperson, or a teacher of feminism. If he is genuinely interested in feminism, he is not a good person to choose. Any or all of the facts we already know about Schwyzer, including his involvement in the LA Slut Walk, his self-aggrandizement, his focus on convincing his students to embrace sexuality, and his apparently having used his female students for sex outright, could all effectively disqualify him as a feminist. He is in my estimation no feminist; he is rather a manipulator and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His actions are borderline sociopathic and damaging to the movement, and feminists have every right to deny he is one. But not because he is male. There is nothing about his actions that necessitate maleness, nor is there anything about maleness that necessitates actions like his.

I agree that the simple fact that he claims the mantle of feminist does not make him one, any more than my claiming it makes me one. Just because someone calls themselves something, doesn’t mean they are. It doesn’t mean they deserve the label. See the pushback against Sarah Pond’s NOT sign, and her eventual admission that she actually identifies as many of those things even though she was lying on the sign about them. The fact that she’s middle-class and was identifying herself as not part of the outgroups actually damaged the movement by reinforcing memetics that the movement was only made up of freaks and outsiders and needed legitimizing by the insiders. In the same way, if I were to fight for feminism while pointing out my maleness, that would be rather uncouth. It would be an attmept to say, “the feminist movement wasn’t legitimate until I, a man, came along, so now it’s not just whiny bitches.” Anyone actually acting that way should get slapped down. But they should not be slapped down preemptively just because they are of the appropriate gender to be able to say that, any more than Sarah Pond or any other middle-class person should be kicked out of the Occupy movement solely for their middle-class-ness.

The idea that there are purity tests in place to be able to join any movement is abhorrent — that one must be as untouched by privilege as possible to make an actual impact and to be allowed to continue in the fight. Rather, as with Sarah Pond, I lauded the fact that the middle class might get in on the fight, but was only upset that her way of doing so expressly sent the message that all the diminishing memes bandied about regarding the Occupy movement were true. People with privilege fighting to overturn that privilege are actually necessary in order to achieve social justice and any sort of parity. It really sucks that this is the case, but short of sheer numbers and/or armed revolution, you need some insiders to help tip the scales. The trick is in finding people who won’t try to tip them right back later, or who tend toward committing “own goals” by delegitimizing your movement.

Now, if you’d indulge me a few moments to talk about myself, why I call myself a feminist — why I dare defile the purity of the label with my filthy, filthy Y chromosome.

Mostly, I’m in it for the women.

By which I mean, I want women’s lot in life improved significantly, not that I’m a “Nice Guy®“. I find the myriad disadvantages that women face to be deplorable — in getting justice after being raped, advancing in their careers, being treated as nothing but baby factories forced to give birth, being mistreated or treated as outsiders in fields where men have no real advantage but are still the default gender, being subjected to the slut/virgin dichotomy and being shamed for being either, being treated as though they don’t understand or can’t do things just because they’re women. I want all those (and the innumerable other subtle ways that patriarchy disadvantages women consciously or subconsciously) to disappear, and I strongly suspect that eliminating gender roles will go the absolute farthest in achieving the gender parity I want to see. Especially since eliminating those gender roles will also as a side effect benefit men, by eliminating the damaging memes that hurt us all.

The other part of that philosophy — remember, I said I’m only mostly in it for the women — isn’t for women in specific, but for the gays, lesbians, transgendered folks and anyone else who doesn’t fit into one of the two neat, tidy, utterly stereotypical boxes of “boy” or “girl”. Advocacy for the non-cis-gendered is not expressly feminism, even though it is a goal of many feminists; but it flows from my egalitarianism much as my feminism does. The two philosophies dovetail together quite nicely, actually. They are intrinsically and extrinsically consistent.

One of the main reasons that I talk about feminist topics, and that I point to women who discuss these feminist topics, is because I have incorporated many feminist ideals into my philosophy because they fit together so naturally that they were probably components of that philosophy before I even realized it myself. I may not comprehend the all-permeating assault that women face in their daily lives as they are bombarded with damaging imagery and memetics derived any more than I do the bombardment that gays or blacks face. I am, admittedly, a privileged cis-gendered white male. I recognize that privilege. And I try to use it to undermine the privilege, understanding that there are many women, gays and blacks whose voices should not need my amplification, but that my amplification assists them even while it injures them. And I regret that injury.

This random and inconsistent attention paid to such topics on the blogosphere seems to happen less often between cohorts on this blogging network, I’ve noticed. Being on the same platform really helps even things out. I am most gratified, for instance, that Stephanie Zvan’s blog has gotten significantly more exposure than it was getting before — and that she’s parlayed that exposure into roughly 15-20% more traffic than I get regularly.

Before either of us had joined FtB, I had linked to an excellent post of Stephanie’s. In my linking post, I added some words of my own — evidently enough that people were more interested in what I had to say than what she had to say, even though it built on her words. My post got something like twice the hits that hers did, and generated only a small handful of clickthroughs. I told her privately how much that bothered me. Telling her so did nothing to fix the situation. Just by virtue of having added my say to the topic, I had talked over her. If blogging across multiple sites was any sort of meritocracy, that never would have happened, because her post was by any empirical metric the actual meat, and mine was but a dash of salt thrown on top. Sometimes, this game is definitely not a meritocracy — the most ludicrous or damaging or insipid memes will get the most hits, and the really important stuff, like the stuff Greta Christina or Ophelia Benson post, will get ignored, passed over because something else happened to attract more attention. It’s really a roll of the dice, sometimes. Some memes travel.

But I digress.

I talk about feminism, and I call myself a feminist, out of no attempt to “legitimize” the movement with a male presence — in fact, I hate that I have to disclaim that I’m making no attempt at this. I do it not to “show women how it’s done”, because I’m no expert in the subject. I’m a neophyte who happens to have a philosophy that I happen to think is worth expounding on, built from the great ideas planted in my head by many great women, and many great egalitarians of all genders. I talk about this stuff to counter the horrible memes that are spread by douchebags, misogynists, men’s rights activists, and the people who are so steeped in privilege that they don’t even realize that they’re spreading those horrible memes or that they’re horrible for whole classes of people. That I happen to use my privilege to leverage my say into the conversation should count for me, not against me.

If you have decided that one must be a woman to be a feminist, and will only call me a pro-feminist or an ally or mansplainer or simply refuse to accept me, fine. I’m not asking for your permission to let me fight alongside you, and I’m damn well not white-knighting for a “cookie” when I do. Frankly, I’d prefer as few shivs in the back as possible while I’m facing down the asshats that are intent on treating you — no, US — like shit. I can defend myself, though, at least adequately enough to stay in the fight for a while defending myself on both sides, even if I’d consider your reasoning to be more than flawed, given that one does not have to be black to be interested in ending racism or gay to end homophobia.

But, ultimately, it’s up to you to judge me and my actions. That’s why I write, and why I write in public, and why I do not apologize for doing it. So, judge away.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    raymoscow

    Mostly, I’m in it for the women.

    Let me be the first to quotemine you on that. ;^)

    Given that I’d had the name applied to me by women whose opinions I greatly respect, I figure I’m inured to accusations that I’m co-opting a “brand”, especially for my own benefit.

    Even so, I think we menfolk should be cautious about applying the title to ourselves, as we’re generally in the sidelines on feminist issues compared to women.

    However, you’ve explained your reasons for using it pretty well.

    Just because someone calls themselves something, doesn’t mean they are. It doesn’t mean they deserve the label.

    Yes, this is it exactly.

  2. 2
    Mara

    As someone who’s been hoping that more men would step into the ring and smack misogynists around, I thank you for calling yourself a feminist.

    I think that we should certainly be careful who our allies are, but we shouldn’t turn down an ally simply because you were unfortunate enough to be born a man. (Um, for the humor impaired, that was what is known as a “joke.”)

    I think the movement needs everyone to join in, not because women “need” men to legitimize things, but because that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? If all men become feminists, then we’ll have won, I would think.

  3. 3
    Jalyth

    As a white person with the privilege that yields, I have often had a conversation with my friends (of color) that starts with them bitching about how tired they are of explaining it to people. I respond: don’t worry it’s not your day to educate the ignorant. I’ll try. Cause sometimes ignorance is best countered by someone who looks or talks like the uneducated one.

    I think one of the best roles male feminists can assume is to speak to the people (usually men but not always) who won’t listen to us chicks. Please talk to them, they make me want to kick them in the shin. It’s almost, if you’ll forgive me, like being an accommodationist, but in a good way.

  4. 4
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I second what Mara said. I, personally, think male participation in feminism is vital. Because, while it is a movement about and for women, it’s an egalitarian movement with egalitarian goals. What benefits women largely benefits men as well (iow, PHMT). And, as there are quite a few men walking the earth whom I love dearly, this is something that appeals to me.

    I disagree entirely with the contention that men can’t be feminists or shouldn’t call themselves feminists. It feels to me like saying FTM transexual people can’t or shouldn’t be feminists. Which is absurd.

    And, let’s face it – there are a lot of sexist/misogynistic dudes out there who will only hear a man’s voice. If there are no men speaking up in favor of feminism and/or women’s issues, the sexist/misogynists assume silence is agreement with them. Which is why, among the advice to men on how to be allies, there’s always the suggestion that they speak up when someone makes a rape or DV joke. If you’re silent, they think you agree. If you argue back, you’ll likely get some shit, but that dude will know there’s at least one person willing to fight back. One person who’s voice he’s actually going to hear.

    That’s how to reach the not-batshit-crazy sexists/misogynists, IMO. Open the door to show them that men don’t have to be aggressive-angry-arrogant automatons that patriarchy would have them be, that they can have emotions, that they can pursue whatever interests they have, that violence against them isn’t a joke, etc. etc. etc. to dissipate the poisonous and dishonest tripe about feminists that is out in the culture. To show them we aren’t their enemy. That’s the one thing male feminists can contribute to the movement that women can’t do due to sexism. That’s my opinion.

  5. 5
    jamessweet

    As a man, I don’t feel entirely comfortable defending the position that a male can be a feminist. But at the same time, I think there are very serious problems with the alternative view — which you have done a good job of outlining here — and so I’m not going to adopt that view either.

    My solution has been that I always say, “I like to consider myself a feminist.” That way, I’m expressing due humility, I’m giving a nod of acknowledgment — though not one of agreement — to thos who argue that a man cannot ever be a feminist, but I’m still expressing that my support and my willingness to adopt the label.

    Whenever I mention this, nobody seems to respond though, so maybe it’s a dumb idea :)

  6. 6
    lizdamnit

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. The worst thing at this point, I think, is to be more divisive, to spend energy trying to decide who’s “allowed” to be feminist and who’s not. As Jalyth says, “talk to them”, keep talking. Men, women, everyone, but especially men. Although I personally don’t feel too much of a worry about being accommodationist, since I want as many “out” feminists as possible to shift the discourse with sheer weight of numbers :) But I’m pretty privileged to be able to think like this, and I can see where others would take issue.

    Even so, I think the benefits of more allies, even male feminists, are far greater, so wave the banner proudly, I say :)

  7. 7
    Jason Thibeault

    jamessweet@6: not a dumb idea at all. Probably the best way in my estimation to express solidarity with the movement without risking getting told off by someone who thinks being part of the movement requires being a woman.

    Jalyth@3: Hey hey now! I think it’d be more like being an accomodationist if I was trying to tell you how the misogynists weren’t such bad folks, and if we just tone down our feminism we might win them over. I see where you’re coming from, though — it’s a different tactic. But I’ve long advocated using a bunch of tactics at the same time without tossing people out for using the “wrong” ones. I usually liken it to being like playing a real-time sim — where you have all sorts of different units, and each counters another like paper-rock-scissors, and only by having a well-balanced army can you hope to win the overall war.

    Yes, I have a tendency to reduce real life scenarios to video game metaphors. I also told my sister that her first car would probably be crappy, because like in RPGs, you have to start out with crappy gear before you get experience and move up to the good stuff.

  8. 8
    Crommunist

    Goddamn… I write feminists posts too. WHERE ARE MY TROLLS?

    Once again sir, you cut right to the heart of things. Nearly sprained my neck nodding in agreement.

  9. 9
    julian

    And, let’s face it – there are a lot of sexist/misogynistic dudes out there who will only hear a man’s voice. If there are no men speaking up in favor of feminism and/or women’s issues, the sexist/misogynists assume silence is agreement with them.

    But do I have to call myself a feminist to do that?

    And I don’t know that announcing you’re a ‘male feminist’ is necessarily a good strategy if we’re sticking just to who’s voice gets heard. I identified as a feminist when asked and now that’s thrown back at me at almost every discussion.

    “Shut the fuck up! You’re a feminist. That means your opinion means shit!”

    or

    “There are women around. No one is gonna ride your dick for saying that.”

    Are two of the more common I’ve heard. I recognize my experiences likely aren’t everyone’s but this is a deeply misogynistic environment I’m in. If it’s counter productive here then how helpful a tactic is it really?

  10. 10
    DuWayne

    Even so, I think we menfolk should be cautious about applying the title to ourselves, as we’re generally in the sidelines on feminist issues compared to women.

    Bullfuckingshit. I am not on the sidelines on feminist issues compared to women, not even a little. Issues of feminism have a profound impact on my life, even the dangerous, destructive impact of patriarchy aside. And to be clear, the patriarchal culture being fought by feminists is killing men – giving us just as strong a direct interest in feminist issues as women.

    But moreso, I am a single mom, as well as being a single dad and there are important reasons I identify as such. I have crossed socially constructed gender lines most of my life, but it has become absolutely critical to do so since taking full and only custody of my two boys.

    That said, I will go to my earlier statement: these issues are critically important to men. Men who are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the approval of women need to get their heads out of their asses and get to it. If not for the interest of women, then in our own self interest. Fuck anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. We have important things to do – period. Sitting around = perpetuating patriarchal ideals that are killing us and which are going to kill our male children if we don’t fucking do something about it.

    I am not suggesting you go stomp on the feet of active female feminists, though if you are a truly active feminist you are going to butt heads with female feminists somewhere. There are several schools of thought in feminism, some directly contradicting others. Which is also another reason not to wait for approval – some feminists are going to object to what you are doing, regardless of what you do.

    So no, CPP is dead wrong and so are you. Get your thumbs out of your ass and get active – fuck what anyone else says about it. You aren’t coopting a goddamned thing, you’re acting in your own self-interest.

  11. 11
    Jason Thibeault

    julian: considering there are, as I said, feminist organizations who refuse to call “pro-feminist men” anything BUT feminists, there is enough division amongst feminists that I’m fine with saying I fall somewhere under the umbrella. If others want to call me one thing or another, as I said, I’m fine with that too. If you fit under its definition, owning the slur has some utility function, I’d think.

  12. 12
    julian

    DuWayne, I honestly don’t read anyone either here or at CPP’s post saying we men need to wait on the sidelines. In fact I’m certain they’ve expressed the opposite feeling. We men have been encouraged to support feminism and to slap down misogynistic and sexist attitudes when we see them.

    The only disagreement I’ve seen is over whether a man calling himself a feminist is suspicious in and of it self.

  13. 13
    julian

    The only disagreement I’ve seen is over whether a man calling himself a feminist is suspicious in and of it self

    That’s obviously oversimplifies things as there’s a lot that’s getting thrown out and the fear that this is only reinforcing the idea that only men deserve to be listened to is more than enough to give me pause but I do think that’s the main disagreement.

  14. 14
    DuWayne

    Julian –

    And I am saying fuck supporting feminism, just fucking do it. Slapping down misogyny is important, but a very tiny part of the battle. We need to figure out how to best change ourselves and our culture, so as to dramatically change our culture of patriarchy. Men are a very significant component of that culture and as such, cannot – should not rely on women to show us the way. They can speak to what is wrong, but not being men they can only do so much.

  15. 15
    julian

    Slapping down misogyny is important, but a very tiny part of the battle.

    No, that is the battle. At least for feminism. Putting a stop to the rampant misogyny and sexism in our world.

    We need to figure out how to best change ourselves and our culture, so as to dramatically change our culture of patriarchy.

    Very true which is why I really don’t understand your next line.

    Men are a very significant component of that culture and as such, cannot – should not rely on women to show us the way.

    If we are indeed the outside group and the main (although not the only) propagators of the culture that exploits this group how can we reasonably expect to act in a way that’s consistent with toppling that power structure without the input and lead of those at the bottom? They are, after all, the one’s being oppressed and it’s their insights that inform us on what it is they are experiencing and the ways in which we are taking advantage of them.

    If I misread you, I apologize but I don’t agree that we can move forward without women showing us the way. At least I know I can’t.

  16. 16
    Jason Thibeault

    I think there’s a communication failure between DuWayne and julian, but a minor one. “Smacking down the misogynists” appears to be confronting people engaging in outright misogynistic trolling, e.g. practically any troll on any blog post written by a woman anywhere ever.

    There are other systemic ways that the patriarchy harms women that don’t directly involve intentional or even subconscious misogyny. Many of them are the same ones that, as DuWayne says, affects men too. Feminists (for the most part — again, feminists are not monolithic) attack these systemic biases.

  17. 17
    DuWayne

    No, that is the battle. At least for feminism. Putting a stop to the rampant misogyny and sexism in our world.

    Slapping down misogyny is like taking painkillers to deal with the pain of an unset broken bone. It does nothing to deal with the root cause.

    If we are indeed the outside group and the main (although not the only) propagators of the culture that exploits this group how can we reasonably expect to act in a way that’s consistent with toppling that power structure without the input and lead of those at the bottom? They are, after all, the one’s being oppressed and it’s their insights that inform us on what it is they are experiencing and the ways in which we are taking advantage of them.

    Of course we need the input of women, but women can only do so much, provide so much input. In the end they aren’t men and can’t speak to the experience of men. For all the input they can provide, they can’t change us, we need to change ourselves. Unless you’re just talking about superficial changes that are ultimately meaningless, we need to step up and figure a great deal of this shit out for ourselves.

  18. 18
    julian

    To me ‘smacking down misogynistic and sexist attitudes’ is everything from countering a troll online to pointing out unfair and sexist hiring practices in your office. It’s a pretty wide net. Sorry for not being clear.

    In the end they aren’t men and can’t speak to the experience of men. For all the input they can provide, they can’t change us, we need to change ourselves.

    I’m not sure if that’s true or not (it was women that changed me) but that seems like this isn’t about feminism anymore but about us and improving ourselves. Which is a fine and an entirely admirable goal but not what any rights movement should be about. And it does seem kinda iffy to make feminism about us and fixing ourselves.

  19. 19
    DuWayne

    To me ‘smacking down misogynistic and sexist attitudes’ is everything from countering a troll online to pointing out unfair and sexist hiring practices in your office. It’s a pretty wide net. Sorry for not being clear.

    Still, you’re talking about painkillers for an unset broken bone. It’s all good to fight such bullshit, but does nothing to make any real changes.

    (it was women that changed me)

    You’re one person, not the whole of patriarchal culture.

    And it does seem kinda iffy to make feminism about us and fixing ourselves.

    What the hell is it to fix ourselves, by deconstructing patriarchy, if not feminism? Deconstructing patriarchy is the quintessential goal of feminism. That is a goal that men should share in and that men will have to functionally manage. It is good to know what women want and to understand what women are dealing with – critically important. But to fundamentally deconstruct patriarchal masculinity, men will need to take the lead – as we are the ones who need to change. I don’t mean “we” on an individual level, I mean “we” as is men in general.

    Feminism ultimately is about us, as we are the fundamental problem. All that feminism will ever be, if men don’t step up and do what we need to do to make the changes we need to make, is a perpetual war between some women and a few supporting men and the rest of our culture. That is not because women aren’t capable of thinking, being and doing. Nor is it because women need the menz to show them how to do it right. It is because men and masculine ideals are the problem and women can only go so far in showing us how to do it right, in terms of making the necessary changes.

  20. 20
    julian

    Still, you’re talking about painkillers for an unset broken bone. It’s all good to fight such bullshit, but does nothing to make any real changes.

    That is going to change things.

    Countering trolls will help create a more friendly atmosphere and signal clear and unambiguous support while at the same time showing passersby this sort of behavior is not tolerated. Removing sexist hiring practices ensures better representation, fairer distribution of wealth (so that it isn’t almost exclusively in the hands of men) and eroding the influence of a boy’s club atmosphere.

    There’s a million points in between those that’ll also further the cause of feminism. Countering sexist myths, countering sexist pseudoscience, countering sexist assumptions (all women want children/to be married/to be wildly and passionately pursued). And then there’s legal and business efforts to.

    You’re one person, not the whole of patriarchal culture.

    I know, but how can you be so confident women can’t convince us?

    But to fundamentally deconstruct patriarchal masculinity, men will need to take the lead – as we are the ones who need to change.

    The goal is to put an end to misogyny and sexism. How are we to know if what we’re doing is patronizing or counter productive or, yes, losing one stereotype only to reinforce another? How are we supposed to know we aren’t stumbling around in the dark except for the input of women.

    The patriarchal structure that we’ve been born into needs to go, yes. And yes we’ll all need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out how we’re doing wrong. (For example, despite all claims to the contrary we seem to be predisposed to assume the husband’s job is always more time consuming than the wife’s. This is even in liberal and progressive couples.)

    But I still don’t find your assertion that this is something we need to take the initiative on convincing. For starters I don’t buy your assertion that women need us to dismantle sexism (they had success before men starting coming into their movement, if I understand my history right). The only thing we can really take charge of is our own personal feelings and thoughts.

    And I still find defining feminism through the experiences of men, however benign intentions may be, very unsettling.

    It is because men and masculine ideals are the problem and women can only go so far in showing us how to do it right, in terms of making the necessary changes.

    And that’s entirely on the individual level.

  21. 21
    DuWayne

    I haven’t the time to respond to the whole of your comment right now. I will write a post to my own blog when I have the time.

    And that’s entirely on the individual level.

    Bullshit. If that’s what you think, you are worse than unproductive, you are counterproductive. We cannot pretend that making these changes on an individual level will ever be adequate.

  22. 22
    DrugMonkey

    Did you notice the way this became all about you, a man, and your hurt feelings? I mean, I find the good Comrade to be the clearest writer I’ve read on blogs, hard to see how you could fall into exactly the pattern of behavior he was really addressing…

  23. 23
    Stephanie Zvan

    Really? “All about” his feelings? Nothing in there about…oh, anybody else?

  24. 24
    becca

    @drugmonkey- maybe because CPP was trying to make it all about HIS expertise at judging male feminists?
    Geeze. He’s perfectly clear as a writer. He likes being a dick and getting cookies from feminists. That’s that.

  25. 25
    julian

    If that’s what you think, you are worse than unproductive, you are counterproductive.

    I think I’m done with the exchange. I’m in the minority, not making my points coherent and very much chasing my tail at this point. Taking my own advice.

  26. 26
    Jason Thibeault

    DrugMonkey: evidently the fault then is mine, for being unclear. Could you perhaps point me to what suggested my feelings were hurt in my original post, so I can clarify?

  27. 27
    Jason Thibeault

    DuWayne, I don’t think that was particularly charitable of you toward julian, given that your differences with one another are not really that large. While I agree that affecting society as a whole is important, society is also made up of tons of individuals. There’s plenty of room for both your approaches in this fight, because there are plenty of individuals who need countering at the individual level, making up a larger battlefield that affects society as a whole.

  28. 28
    audiolight

    The other part of that philosophy — remember, I said I’m only mostly in it for the women — isn’t for women in specific, but for the gays, lesbians, transgendered folks and anyone else who doesn’t fit into one of the two neat, tidy, utterly stereotypical boxes of “boy” or “girl”.

    This is a messy sentence; gender identity ≠ sexual orientation. Gays, lesbians and transgendered people will all still identify themselves with a single gender identity, they just aren’t necessarily sexually attracted to the “opposite” sex of that gender identity.

  29. 29
    DuWayne

    I don’t honestly think I am being particularly uncharitable at all. If Julian were merely advocating for working on an individual level, I would cheer him on. For the most part, that is the best most of us can ultimately do. But he is also asserting that men should just sit back, listen and do as we’re told, instead of taking part in the larger process of social change.

    That pisses me off. A lot. And not, DM, because it’s all about me – though in part it actually is. The reason it pisses me off, is that men are necessarily a large part of the change that must happen. While I won’t speak to having the experience of being a woman, won’t claim to speak for women, I do have experience being a man. A lot of men I know have such experience. Some of us also know something or another about human behavior, culture and culture change.

    And ultimately, we all have a dog in this fight, some of us more than others. Patriarchal culture is repressing men and destroying men too. I have two boys who will have to grow up to be men in this culture. Even if by chance one of them doesn’t grow to be a man, they will still have to deal with patriarchal fucking bullshit. Meanwhile, I am my children’s father to be sure, but I am also their mother – as much mother as they have. And I am fucking tired of dealing with yet another destructive manifestation of patriarchal culture.

    I am not nearly as activist as I would like to be and have no problem accepting that most of us can only deal with one person at a time. I have absolutely no problem with people who are only able to focus on themselves and calling bullshit when they see it. But I have a real big problem with people trying to actively discourage people from taking a more intensive, proactive role in fostering necessary culture change. Culture change needs people who are calling bullshit when they see it, but it also needs people who are doing rather more than that and does not fucking need people telling other people it isn’t appropriate for them to do and be more.

  30. 30
    Jason Thibeault

    I’ll cop to it being a messy sentence, audiolight@28. However, I know enough people who would NOT identify with a single neat and tidy gender identity, much less one that fits into the “boy” or “girl” category, that I’d not change the meaning of that messy sentence.

    DuWayne @29: I won’t pretend to defend julian’s philosophy, because I’m not him, and he’s suggested he’s not expressing it very well at the moment. I also don’t think he’s suggesting in any way that society shouldn’t change, or that individuals shouldn’t work to change other individuals at that level. If I’m reading you both right, this is where you’re really at odds:

    But I still don’t find your assertion that this is something we need to take the initiative on convincing. For starters I don’t buy your assertion that women need us to dismantle sexism (they had success before men starting coming into their movement, if I understand my history right). The only thing we can really take charge of is our own personal feelings and thoughts.

    And I still find defining feminism through the experiences of men, however benign intentions may be, very unsettling.

    I would disagree with this as well, but in a soft way. If a man wants to dismantle the patriarchy, wonderful. He should take cues from the women who have more experience in the fight, but some women think that if a man joins in the fight, it spoils the victory for them. Not all of them. Enough actively want men’s assistance that any man — julian or Comrade or DrugMonkey, not to mention me — telling feminists how to fight the fight are rather suspicious.

    And really, there’s room enough in the fight, I’d think, for both approaches, since feminism doesn’t appear to be a monolith movement and there doesn’t appear to be “one right way” as practiced by “one right movement”. While the lone wolves fight their fights without any help from anyone who isn’t 100% woman by birth, those who aren’t interested in purity tests can work on other fronts at the same time. The one group doesn’t hinder the other by fighting the fight, except where the one group backbites the other.

  31. 31
    Greg Laden

    I am a feminist and I will not yield my position as a feminist nor will I ever avoid the label or relinquish it. If anyone has any trouble understanding that, they can take it up with their Rabbi.

    But the truth is, it hardly ever comes up. I don’t spend very much time with anyone who is not a feminist. (At least not on purpose.)

  32. 32
    TK

    I disagreed strongly with CPP’s post and many of the reasons appear here.

    Privilege appears in many forms and having it doesn’t disqualify you from the discussion.

    And when people take issue with what I’m saying IRL or on the internet and shoot, “What are you, a feminist?” I’ll happily answer to the affirmative.

    It’s not about me wanting the label, I could care less. I don’t like the way the label has been pigeonholed into this tiny little space by some on both sides when its definition is adequate to encompass a hell of a lot more people.

    Feminism doesn’t give you a cookie and it shouldn’t, it’s just part of being progressive.

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