Monday, October 13, 2014

On Daily Intel and whether male feminists exist

In response to an article from Kat Stoeffel on the Daily Intel.

As an all-oppressor-classes human [cis, white, hetero, male, suburban, American, Yankee, upper-middle class, abled, neurotypical, etc], I've struggled with being an ally for some years. To all men, like me, who are reading this: the first step is, indeed, radical acceptance that you need to be secondary in this conversation; that if your views on gender issues remain forever conflicted, benign, and invisible, that's okay, it probably means you're doing it right. This disclaimer has been brought to you in the name of solidarity.

However, within that fuzzy gap where an oppressor-class human can talk about a movement he cares about, but isn't officially a member of (biologically speaking, and according to Kat, even in terms of identification) -- I want to note: Kat's article is fine in condemning a certain class of social-climber feminist men who rise in the movement's ranks by exercising their own chauvinist impulses. Clymer and Schweizer? Sure. Boorish, self-important, and definitely not good for the movement. However, along with that valid point, this article has a willful divisiveness riding side-saddle, and I doubt it's doing the larger feminist movement many favors.

Why? Because, at least for me, this article triggers some nasty anxieties about whether there is EVER a path to reconciliation for me, and for others like me, who want to contribute quietly and productively to the fashioning of a better world for all people stuck in the gender matrix. I know you (Kat, and other feminists) are not responsible for my "feels," and this isn't intended as a take-down. It just might be worth having on-hand as a data point -- one of many -- as you configure your strategy going forward.

It's this anxiety, triggered by articles like this, that occasionally threatens my interest in being an ally. It communicates, whether intentionally or not, the sense that I'm a permanent target of exclusionary rhetoric. In fact, this kind of wagon-circling is the only thing that gives me hang-ups about supporting feminism. Reading MRA rants and hearing misogynistic remarks? That actually makes me feel more feminism-aligned. I have no desire for solidarity with men who express their masculinity through disrespect and aggression.

Lots of men, some of them perhaps excellent allies, may want to identify as feminists, because  the term refers to a complex of ideas and commitments, a belief in certain values and a broad historical movement (and it's not a biologically-determined identity, like "disabled" or "American Indian"). Exclusionary rhetoric (and also snarky, dog-whistle defensive mechanisms of any kind) just make it seem like I'm not welcome to hold those values, or to adopt any position of support whatsoever vis-a-vis feminism.

Does feminism prefer an eventual reconciliation and mutual acknowledgment between the sexes, as the term "gender equality" would suggest? Or does it favor a permanent state of culture war, which would at least give women a place to fight for their autonomy and identity, even if it never leads to any kind of long-term equilibrium? It is an honest question, and I don't mean to load the answers with pre-judgment.

POSTSCRIPT:

In the spirit of this particular type of ally-ship, I'd like to recognize the good work of Matthew Inman in actually, earnestly apologizing when he writes jokes that offend people. This may be the best possible way to act as an ally... know when it's time to defer to the community. This is especially true if you accept the increasing feminist principles that: 1) silence in the face of injustice is bad, and 2) speaking out clearly enough to derail the movement's focus is bad.

2 comments:

Sir Garreth said...

Jesse,

Great post! The dis-quiet, un-ease, etc. you note is something we (men and women) need to deal with here. One interesting connection is that I had my HS English students (9th graders) partake in a project called "20% Time." This year. Many teachers around the country have engaged kids in projects that borrow Google's (now mostly ended) practice of giving their R&D people 20% of their monthly time to work on whatever they were interested in.

So the connection to your post is that one of the projects one of my 9th grade girls did was to present the current state of feminism (Transactional and "White" Feminism mostly) in order to explain to her classmates (and the boys were mostly, for the whole year, reactionary to the concept of feminism or even reading about gender inequality) why she is a feminist.

The questions afterwards were interesting and she handled them with grace. I am going to point her to your blog post as well as the original article that inspired your post.

As always, I enjoy your writing and thinking. I might even use it as exemplary work for bloggers. Since I'm trying to get my students to see themselves as far more than mere consumers of the culture but as active participants in the creation of culture, I'm turning to blogs as a way for them to do that. Your blog has always been one I turn to for strong, fair, creative, critical analysis.

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