Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Feminist men in struggle

Men have a vital role to play in feminism, but it is a role that regularly goes unfulfilled. In consequence, feminism suffers.

Feminism suffers without men because many men won't listen to women. If men won't listen to women, the only hope for advancing women's concerns is either to secede from men altogether, or to promote these concerns through feminist men. Most women aren't interested in abstaining from men, but they do want allies in their struggles.

Male culture desperately needs to change. At present, it is two-faced: it acts one way around women, another way around men, in the same way the racist acts one way around white friends and another around blacks. But women can't confront the face they do not see. This is the responsibility of feminist men -- men who care for and respect the women in their lives, and share in their concerns -- to confront a patriarchal culture with a different way of being men.

Feminist men can ally themselves with women by discussing their own struggles with patriarchy with women and with other men. This blog has been created out of the desire for revolutionary unionist men to honestly discuss the tactical project of taking on patriarchy, both in our personal and professional lives. It should demonstrate to women and to other unionist men the commitment that the men of the Industrial Workers of the World have in building a new society in the shell of the old -- one that assumes women as equal partners in achieving this goal.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Yay for allies! I think it takes bravery to be an ally. For me, sometimes it has made me nervous to try to become an ally to various groups I don't myself belong to. It's nervous-making for me because there is always the chance I'll be doing it wrong, or that people will have various different ideas about how I should be doing it. But as a woman I appreciate men caring about what our lives are like, being curious about what effects us, and trying to be respectful and helpful on a personal and societal scale.

On the topic of the two-faced-ness:

I'm not the first person to articulate this, but I suspect that men talking disrespectfully about women in front of other men has a lot to do with a "performance of gender" or "performance of masculinity" that does not necessarily reflect the real views of those men towards women. It does reflect what they think is ok to say about women, or even what they feel they must say in order to feel safe, powerful, respected, bonded, etc. with other men.

When I see men drop their guard in private they seem very relieved to be able to "be themselves." (As if this is something that can only be done behind other men's backs!) I suspect that for most men, this would be (closer to) their authentic self.

That private talk among men has real-life implications for women, certainly. It lets men justify mistreatment more easily, or even pushes men to do actual harm to women in front of other men.

But I also think the pressure to distance oneself from femininity is a way that misogyny hurts men's lives. Gay bashing is one of the ultimate expressions of this.

And the fear of being considered "woman like" is used in a systematic way to pressure men to obey the will of authority, at work, in the military, in the family, etc. Misogyny is used against men too.

These are only some of the ways in which men becoming allies to women's struggle results in making their advocacy for themselves more powerful as well.