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15 February 2006 @ 12:31 pm
Men in Feminism?  
I’ve been asked for my pov on men in feminism. I can only respond with a personal perspective. Interaction and commentary from the community is invited and encouraged.

When we ask what feminism is grounded in, the first answer is, feminism is grounded in feminism. I know that sounds circular but let’s look at the alternative which is: feminism would be grounded in patriarchy because anything that isn’t feminism, is patriarchy. This is also why radical feminists question the ideologies of liberal feminism. Liberalism has central conceptual cardinals which are patriarchal. Having visited here, I turn and ask again, what is feminism grounded in? The answer is women’s experience.

I believe some of the most interesting differences (post-social in origin) between men and women are what men DO NOT SEE that women do see. Within feminism, this is understood as epistemological privilege. In other words, oppressed people are able to see differential outcomes that privileged people cannot and do not see. I think the things that men don’t see are truly remarkable.

There are more aspects of privilege that we often do not see. When you look at the work done, one of the things that women are invisibly charged with, is to do both the emotional work for men and to do the socially educate, guide and steer them. This is role related and is a universal tax placed upon women in relation to men. In a very real way, this often continues in feminism because of what feminism is. IF feminism is grounded in the material experiences of women – men have nothing to add, but still require educating, the traditional role. Feminisms rather mandates that men educate themselves and on of the primary roles for men in feminism is to educate other men. Feminism is a movement for women to obtain full access to socio-political rewards of society, and the only way we will ever do this will be to radically change society. It will be ours to unravel society down to the fundamental oppression which is gender. When we are finished a side product will be that men are liberated too. It must be remembered that the liberation of men is a side product of feminist pursuits. Feminism is not for the liberation of all people, but it will liberate all people because it is ours to eliminate the fundamental oppression. There is sort of a quandry or koan in all of this. As soon feminism is made about the liberation of all people, it becomes – NOT Feminism and cannot and will not accomplish it’s goals.

I am not an overall Daly fan because of her essentialism, but she has taught us many wonderful things. Men in feminist spaces generally divert the space. IF men say patriarchy hurts men too (PHMT), the proper feminist response is, “We’re really sorry. Go out there and change it.” What we don’t do is to enable patriarchy by making the traditional response, “Oh you poor baby.” You always have to look whether men are in feminism because the want to benefit women or themselves. Within feminism, we shouldn’t be hearing much from men. They should be out holding anti-rape seminars, repairing domestic violence clinics and working on their own issues, instead of making their issues – ours, yet another function of privilege.

I think there are other questions that I’ve always had. What happens when push comes to shove? (The only value in feminism for hypothetical is to illustrate). But suppose, suddenly feminist were in the verge of a major victory say of the magnitude of Roe. One has to remember that ROE didn’t cost men anything. What happens when a gain does cost men? Are they going to work against themselves? Did we not receive an answer to this in terms of the ERA? What I am positing is that relying on the support of men.

For all of these reasons, I question men being in feminism in any other capacity than I’ve described.

I have a married feminist friend and over the years, she has trained her husband (let’s not make that transparent) to the point that he is a pleasure to be around. I believe he does understand what feminists need from men and I believe that’s the proper question to ask.

There’s one more really unusual narrative. There was an ostensible man on a major feminist board and then a second, third and fouth. This individual had a masculine user name, but few took him to be male. Further more, the person over time showed clearly that they were woman-centered. I became friends with him. And we really, really curious at where this person was centered. “There is at least one good man”, I decided. But then other things began to really puzzle me. After really watching this person and how they approached the world and solved problems, I thought, “this person is not epistemologically male” and I watched other board members be absolutely astounded that this was a man even with the very male username. This person went through a period of avoiding me for months. When we did interact on MSN, there was ‘hint dropping and flight’. Finally it was shared, this person was changing class and would no longer be in class man but class woman. In a way, that was really disappointing. I have yet to find my one good man…….
fishyfem on February 16th, 2006 10:51 pm (UTC)
Re: illllllp [sic]
Hi Renee,

Your question is valid re: the distinction between feminism and humanism. Men in feminism would be working towards goals for *women*, respect for women, and humanity for women, rather than liberation for themselves.

I have read about the '80s--which is clearly not the same as living through them. I know about spaces--some in rather recent times--that have been removed from us. Not every space would be available for men to intrude upon. That is not what I'm saying, not at all.

I, too feel much, MUCH more comfortable in women-only spaces--but it is men who need to change to make me more comfortable. And sometimes I will still want to be in women-only spaces. Carrying the burden of patriarchy's sting doesn't go away easily.

Who do we lose credibility with? Can you see that loss of status of of being a women-identified as a SYMPTOM of male dominance rather than a reason to let men in?

Yes, that is indeed an excellent point. I will remind myself of that in the future, thanks!

I was planning to do a separate post on this, but as we are on the topic of the second wave: would you be interested in starting a post regarding what you would like the younger generation to know? Or just describing your experience of the second wave? I actually never quite caught onto what you were saying about the metaphorical bookshelf so if you want to go over that again that'd be great!