The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Men and Feminism

An exchange over at Twisty's started bugging me the other day. To get the context, you should probably at least peruse the relevant posts over there, but the bottom line is:
how, exactly, is a guy claiming to be a feminist different from [a white guy] claiming to be a Chicana?
First of all, the illogic of that statement is pretty obvious. A white civil rights activist is not claiming to be black, and a male feminist is not claiming to be a woman. As I understand it, the reason we have something called feminism and something called women's lib is that feminism is about more than group identity. As the good Bitch, PhD put it:
If blending the personal and the political, or the private and the public, is intrinsically feminist (and I think that it is), then the fact that men need to do it too, that male academics also feel this stress about whether or not they belong, whether or not they’re smart enough, whether or not they really want to be doing this, demonstrates the usefulness of feminism within the academy (and by extension, the world outside the academy). This is the kumbaya moment: feminism frees everybody! That’s a little bit of a joke, but I actually do believe it. If the world is divided into binaries, then one set of people might get the shitty end of the stick, but the other set is still holding a stick with shit on it. Maybe we should find another stick to play with.
So why the hell is it so important for Twisty and many of her readers to insist that "dudes can support cause all they like as long as they stay fuck out of way"?

Beats me. I'll readily admit that I've always been personally ambivalent about claiming the descriptor "feminist." And frankly, it's for reasons in some ways congruent with what was said about claiming to be a Chicana. But it has more to do with how much psychic energy I put into the movement - it's not the core of how I want to change the world (which is, not surprisingly, a lot to do with the built and natural environments). But it does inform my relations with men and women alike, and it's crucial to how I'm trying to raise my daughter. My wife and I have even discussed how much harder it will be if our speculative second child ("Number Two") turns out to be a boy. It's easy to teach a girl to blame the patriarchy, and encouraging her to be fearless and sporty and handy are all subversive. Encouraging a boy to be those same things is practically conformist. So we need to be more thoughtful and subtle. Who would have thought that child-rearing was complicated?

Anyway, as I was pondering Twisty's conundrum, an article in the Pittsburgh City Paper shone a light. The director of our neighborhood reproductive health center and a sociologist from Drexel University got together to create a website for men who accompany women to abortion clinics. You should read the article, but the part of it that struck me is that it's a response to abortion clinics that are almost hostile to men - 75% of them don't allow men in the room while its happening or in the recovery room. Obviously, the vast majority of men who are coming along for an abortion are there for support (and for those who aren't - who may be forcing or pushing the woman into it - there are less exclusionary ways to protect the women), but these clinics are treating them as the enemy. And I can't help but tie it to Twisty's attitude. And, frankly, that's bullshit.

At the end of it all, Twisty comes through, citing approvingly a (male) sports writer who writes about the barriers faced by MLB's only female General Manager in a way that blames the patriarchy simply and elegantly. As she says, "say it, don't spray it." But I think that balance is easier to achieve without the bogus No Boys Allowed signs.


Post a Comment

<< Home