Monday, November 16, 2009


I suppose that being asked to write the token “I am man feminist!” post was inevitable. So here’s some stuff to think about from a white, middle-class feminist bro.

The first thing I want to get off my chest is that I hate the praise men get for being feminist: “I wish we had more guys like you.” While being feminist is pretty awesome, there is no reason that a guy should be praised solely for his gender. Feminism is bigger than a held belief. It is about scrutinizing privilege, questioning one’s role in the patriarchy, and working to defeat oppression in all spheres of life. The empty praise men get implies that they are fine where they are. No, they are never fine, none of us are. Beliefs in practice should be commended, beliefs should not.

So how does one constantly scrutinize privilege, etc? The way I do it is through reading. I am a theory-holic and I devour analyses of male privilege. That's not fun if you’re not into theory. So, here are two resources about male privilege. Both are oriented to the radical activist community, but the lessons gleaned from them can apply to all men:

1. Are You A Manarchist?: This is a list of questions helps one think about male privilege. The non-activist stuff starts at #17. The lesson to take away is that “ALL MEN need to work on issues of patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.”

2. Dan the Dude Blog: A Do’s and Don’ts for Dudely Organizers. It’s a bit like the source above, but it has cute stick figures. I love the section on Intellectual Elitism and Tokenizing. A must read.

Talking to people is another great way to practice your feminism. Any conversation can have feminist consequences. Explicitly having conversations to address problems in social relationships or in a group is a good way to learn about ways to become more feminist.

In short, critical reflection is good for you.

But, what does a feminist man look like?

AlterNet has a great article about the difficulties with feminist masculinity. Many feminist men know what they are not. The problem is that they have no concrete idea of what they are.

“This became painfully clear over the course of the weekend as speakers and students grappled to find what one presenter referred to as a "feminist masculinity." Is there such a thing? Does it look like President Barack Obama -- or does his insistence on talking about sports and drinking beers reveal that he's just one of the guys? Does it look like KRS-1, the veteran rapper who recently said that hip-hop needs more women -- or is his statement too little, too late? Stephen Colbert, in some ways, is the closest thing we've got. He consistently lampoons misogynist punditry and policy, yet his "feminist masculinity" is only visible vis-à-vis its blowhard foil”.

The article makes the point that men “are stuck in stage one of gender consciousness” and cannot do sustainable feminist work until they “can own the ways in which they have a self-interest in resisting systems of oppression.” Until men know what they want out of feminism, they cannot truly begin to fight.

I want to end this post by addressing this point. Feminist masculinity is restrictive and unnecessary. There is no universal feminist masculinity or femininity. For that matter, there is no universal feminism. The reality is that there are complex and diverse feminisms that lead people to different conclusions about systems of oppression. An eco-feminist and a liberal feminist will have very different views on what feminism looks like.

What each man must do is craft his own space in the feminist continuum. Striving for a new model of masculinity is as mistaken as trying to stick with the current one.

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1 comment:

WendyM said...

Interesting post, Anton.

I'm guessing this post will provoke some interesting debate. (I was having a very similar conversation with friends last weekend....)

Way to get the conversation started!