Monday, July 30, 2007

Feminism and Me: My Role as a Man...

Kevin: aka Thin Black Duke, of Slant Truth had a guest post up at Thinking Girl's site that I thought was pretty interesting. The topic was 10 things that men can do to end men's violence against women, but it's also a good jumping point to discuss things that men can do to help end sexism and misogyny.

As a man, my role in feminism is something that I often think about it. It occurs to me that I don't think I've actually talked about that on here, which... well... is weird. You'd think it would come up.

One thing that I think feminist men should absolutely be doing is taking other men to task for the sexism that we exhibit. When we, as men, "get it" it's important that we work to help other men get it, too. This isn't always easy, but it's necessary. This sort of goes back to the question that cme asked me about here: It's not women's jobs to be a tourguide for men.

I think that's absolutely true, as I mentioned in response to that. I do, however, think that I, as a feminist man, do have an obligation in that area. I'm under no illusion that my voice will always find a willing ear or that I'll always get things right, but I absolutely believe it can make a difference, sometimes. I think that being vocal about supporting women's rights, and helping other men see that these are important issues is one of the most important things we, as feminist men, can do. I think of it as my responsibility as a man who supports an end to sexism to step up and help other men see what I see: a world where sexism is still all to common.

We also have an obligation to examine and challange our individual sexism and the roles we play in supporting sexist systems, and to work to understand how patriarchical systems benefit us- to see how male privilege benefits us, even when we don't mean for it to. It's not enough to fight against the systemic sexism that exists outside in the world around us if we don't also take the time to examine the ways that we exhibit sexism in our personal lives, as well. Even the most well intentioned among us are likely to harbor sexist beliefs sometimes, or unconciously benefit from privileges as a result of our sex. Part of being a feminist male, to me, is working to understand and be aware of the areas that I need to improve on, and to work on noticing instances of sexism that benefit me.

It's only after we've taken the steps to recognize how sexism and privilege play into our personal lives that I think we can really begin to help educate other men about our responsibility in ending sexism. This goes back to what I was talking about in the begining of this post- it's not enough to recognize sexism and say "Yeah, sexism sucks!" That's a start, but real action takes action. We have to be willing to move from recognizing sexism, to taking action against it, and that means being vocal, and it means being willing to address sexism when we see it, and it means working to educate other men about sexism.


Jaclyn said...

Thanks, Roy. While I'm not a man, this echoes exactly my feelings about ally work in general, whether it be as a white woman fighting racism, a cisgender woman fighting transphobia, etc. When you do this kind of work with men, it means I can focus my energies elsewhere.

I'm so glad we have you on our team. =)

sovawanea said...

I'm not sure I like viewing it so much as an obligation. I think it more like a challenge that you can choose to accept or not. The problem I have with viewing the education of the ignorant as an obligation is that it would be more than a full time job for most of us. It's the kind of thing that leads to tokenism on boards and committees and my living hell of a freshmen year where I was forced to spend 2/3 of a year living with a huge bigot by a policy that assumed I would make her into a better person through sheer force of will or failing that, exposure.

I think it's totally awesome when enlightened people of all stripes and creeds speak out against myths, misconceptions and bigotry. But to expect that to be a free public service that is on all the time is too much. To expect to ask someone into a position of leadership solely for them to represent a minority viewpoint is insulting.

So, I don't feel obliged any longer.

Nique said...

Well Roy, it's all well and good to blog about your responsibility to enlighten other men but what are you actually doing? Don't you have any examples of times you have called other men on their sexist bullshit?
You mention that we all, sometimes unconsciously harbour sexist thoughts but you don't mention what some of these thoughts might be. You say that as a man you benefit from sexism but don't say how. (It may seem obvious to you because you've realized it but what about the men who haven't?)
Give specific examples Roy. Show don't tell.

Jaclyn said...

Nique, these are good questions, and I hope Roy will answer them some more. But he already did link to one example of him calling someone on sexist attitudes (see the comments in the post he links to when he says "I absolutely believe it can make a difference, sometimes.").

Plus, blogging IS doing something. It's not doing everything, it's not heroic (hence the name of the blog), but it helps change attitudes over time, and helps those of us already part of the cause to work out stronger arguments and strategies and community.

Roy said...

Those are good questions Nique. Jaclyn is right- I linked to the conversation I had with geo as an example of helping someone get something that I did, but I'll make another post to try to be a little more specific.

Nique said...

But as you said in a previous entry, this blog is basically preaching to the choir.

Nique said...

Ok, I finally read all the comments in that link from this post (when I initially read this entry I clicked the link but didn't scroll all the way down).
So I guess this blog really has made a difference, at least for one man. Kudos to you Roy.

wussyderder said...

A lot of this post really fit with me. I can safely say that while I definitely held some feminist beliefs since I was a child, I didn't actually associate myself with feminism until this past year. Now I take it upon myself to improve my views on matters and try to spread the word.

Now, if you ask me, being a male feminist has its difficulties, but there are also advantages. All too often it seems female feminists are scorned and seen as the stereotypical man-hating, hairy lesbians. Male feminists, from my experience as one, often pique the curiosity of others and are often asked, "Why" as opposed to being immediately dismissed. This, I believe, is something male feminists need to take advantage of. Not to say everyone is going to ignore female feminists and provide male feminists with their attention, but from my experience this does happen at least some of the time.

jeff said...

Great post, Roy.

I'd like to point out that, while I agree with you when you say "It's only after we've taken the steps to recognize how sexism and privilege play into our personal lives that I think we can really begin to help educate other men about our responsibility in ending sexism," I would want to add that recognizing how sexism and privilege play into our personal lives tends to be an ongoing process, one that (unfortunately) is likely never to be completed; as such I'd amend your statement and say that we can't begin to help educate other men about our responsibility in ending sexism unless we are, at the same time, educating ourselves about the sexism in our own lives. A wee little point, I know, but it helps me to deal with everything better to keep an eye on the fact that trying to weed out sexism is a process, even in one's own life.

Cara said...

This definitely reflects how I feel as both a white ally against racism and a straight ally with the LGBTQ community. It's a process. And one of the biggest mistakes you can make is forgetting that you are, in fact, a part of the system of oppression, too. Getting cocky is the fastest way to go from being an ally to just being an asshole, again.