The first time a woman told me she distrusted me because I’m a man, she tried to explain that it wasn’t personal, that she’s not been given many reasons to trust me (or any man for that matter). She said she’s especially skeptical of me because I called myself a feminist.
That last part really threw me for a loop. She didn’t even really know me! And I’m a good guy!
Fast-forward a few years and how can I blame her? Male “feminist” allies have a history of abusing women’s trust.
For fear of making the movement look bad, the male “allies” of the Occupy Wall Street movement stood silent when multiple women came forward after having been sexually assaulted by other “Occupiers.”
After being lauded and defended by many (including myself) as a model for how to be a better man, Hugo Schwyzer was exposed to be a racist, abusive liar (as if many women of Color hadn’t been saying so all along).
Charles Clymer has been exposed as abusive and self-serving as he attempts to brand himself a “feminist” hero of some kind.
And this is nothing new!
There are stories going back to every era of the feminist movement — stories of men talking the talk of feminism, gaining trust, and using that trust to hurt, abuse, and act in profoundly anti-feminist ways.
It’s easy to criticize the misogyny of the MRAs or the PUAs. But how often do we turn the lens around?
When considering how often people like me (cisgender men who call ourselves “pro-feminist” or “feminist”) act in anti-feminist ways, I finally understand the distrust. After all, if those of us who fashion ourselves “allies” are unwilling to expose abusers, why should we be trusted?
Our role needs to be to work with other male-identified people to uproot male supremacy and to transform what it means to be a man. And the place where we need to start is with other feminist/pro-feminist men.
Here are six simple (though often incredibly difficult) things we need to do starting right now.
1. Listen to Women, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming People
Sometimes I feel like a broken record in my writing, as I cannot say often enough how important it is for privileged people to listen. But I will say it again.
One of the foundations of effective ally work is listening to those who are impacted by oppression.
By starting with listening more and believing those impacted by oppression in what they’re telling us, we center the truths that we cannot every fully know.
And listening will go a long way in understanding what behaviors we need to expose and talk about with other men, particularly those behaviors so subtle and subconscious that we miss or ignore them.
2. Pay Attention to Intersectionality
In order to actually understand the harm done by male abusers, let alone male abusers who carry the feminist flag, we need to understand others and ourselves intersectionally.
If we’re going to call in other men, we need to recognize our positionality as informed by race, sexual identity, wealth, and other aspects of identity.
I once tweeted, “God, can he just go away forever!?” in response to something misogynistic Chris Brown had done. My friend Emiliano, a man I greatly admire and from whom I’ve learned a lot, tweeted something to the effect of “Jamie, I hear you, but please consider the implications of a White man calling for the disappearance of a Black man in the US.”
He was absolutely right. As a man striving to be an ally to women, I have a responsibility to call out male violence against women. But if I do so in ways that reinforce racism, I’m no intersectional ally.
Similarly, it’s a wholly different thing for me to call out a transgender person (regardless of how they identify) than it is for me to call out another cisgender man.
Does this mean that I cannot call in/out a transgender person? Absolutely not. After all, I know a few trans people who toe the MRA line.
I just need to consider my privilege and positionality in how I call someone to do better.
3. Start with Yourself
Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.