Against Patriarchy: 20 Tools for Men to Further Feminist Revolution

ChrisCrassThis week’s post comes from Chris Crass, a longtime organizer working to build powerful working class-based, feminist, multiracial movements for collective liberation. Throughout the 1990s he was an organizer with Food Not Bombs. In the 2000s, he was an organizer with the Catalyst Project, which combines political education and organizing to develop and support anti-racist politics, leadership, and organization in White communities and builds dynamic multiracial alliances locally and nationally in the United States. He has written and spoken widely about anti-racist organizing, lessons from women of Color feminism, strategies to build visionary movements, and leadership for liberation. He is the author of Towards Collective Liberation: anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and movement building strategy published by PM Press.

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Men in Feminism

For all of us who are men who believe in social justice, who want healthy and beautiful lives for our loved ones, and who are working for positive change in the world, let us commit or re-commit to making feminism central in our lives, values, and actions.

Black feminist scholar bell hooks writes, “When women and men understand that working to eradicate patriarchal domination is a struggle rooted in the longing to make a world where everyone can live fully and freely, then we know our work to be a gesture of love.” She continues, “Let us draw upon that love to heighten our awareness, deepen our compassion, intensify our courage, and strengthen our commitment.” It is time for men in the millions to take courageous action in our society to further feminist revolution.

The everyday violence and oppression of sexism in our society is epidemic and not only must end, but can end. Sexism devastates our relationships, communities, social justice efforts, and our lives. While we did not choose to be men in a patriarchal society, we have the choice to be feminists and work against sexism.

Below is a list of tools and suggestions that have helped me over the years as I have struggled to understand what it means to be a man working for feminism (1).

Let us look to the leadership of women and gender oppressed people for guidance and work alongside them, let us bring more and more men into feminist efforts, let us embrace feminism as a healing and transformative force in our lives, and let us feel in our hearts that we can do this (2).

1. Develop an intersectional feminist analysis of patriarchy, capitalism, White supremacy, heterosexism, and the state. Study feminist analysis from writers such as Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldua, Suzanne Pharr, Angela Davis, Barbara Smith, and Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez. Learn about the historical development of patriarchy in books such as Maria Mies’ Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, and Andrea Smith’s Conquest.

Explore the impact of patriarchal violence on your life and what you can do to stop it in Paul Kivel’s Men’s Work. Read bell hooks’ essays about men and feminism in Feminism is for Everybody and The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love. Learn more about gender justice in Leslie Feinberg’s Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue. Reflect on your experience of gender using Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook as a guide.

2. Study social movements and organizing experiences led by women and gender oppressed people historically and today — from Ida B. Wells and Abby Kelley to Septima Clark and Ai-Jen Poo. Also learn about men in the movement who supported women’s leadership and feminist politics—from William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to Ricardo Flores Magon, Carl Braden, and David Gilbert.

Take stock of the resources around you that can support your learning. Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, and Labor Studies programs were won through the struggle of previous generations. Some of the most visionary and powerful feminists of our time teach; seek out opportunities for study at colleges. Look into political education and training programs led by social justice organizations with feminist politics. Look for events about women’s history and feminism at progressive bookstores, social justice conferences, and with community groups. Join or form a study group to read books from some of the authors already mentioned, and to learn more about feminist history.

3. Think about women, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people in your life who support your development as a feminist. These may be friends, people you’ve worked with, or family members. Reflect on what you have learned from them. Far too often patriarchy teaches men to ignore or devalue the wisdom of gender oppressed people and this both undermines their leadership in society and robs us of their leadership in our lives. Take time to thank people for what you’ve learned and look for opportunities to support them and strengthen your relationships.

4. Think about men in your life who can support your process of learning about sexism and developing as a feminist activist. This could include talking through questions and struggles you are having and/or reading one of the authors mentioned above together, as well as participating in organizing efforts that have feminist goals. While support for your development as a feminist will often come from women and genderqueer people, and it is important to show gratitude for that support, it is critical to build bonds of mutual support with other men as we work to grow individually and also to develop a culture of feminist activism amongst men.

5. Learn about current struggles in your community that further feminist goals and have a gender analysis. Look for opportunities to get involved and support these efforts. Your support can include donating money, volunteering to do office work, doing outreach for events, showing up with others to demonstrations and rallies, and recruiting other people in your life, particularly men, to get involved as well. It is important to support and respect the existing leadership of these struggles, rather then come in thinking you’re going to take over. Look for opportunities to build relationships with the people involved in these efforts. The more you show up and make useful contributions, the more you can also build trust and respect.

6. Develop a feminist analysis of all the social justice work you do, and work with others to help make that analysis more central in your efforts. Reach out for help and ask questions. Notice when you feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness and try to do so anyways.

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The Top 10 of 2013: Change From Within’s Year in Review

Happy New Year!

2013 was a transformative year for me and my writing.  My business and my blogging have changed and grown a lot in the last 12 months.  In a lot of ways, my writing here at Change From Within has taken a back seat to my writing for larger platforms, namely Everyday Feminism and The Good Men Project, which has been cool to see. As is my yearly tradition, it’s time to reflect on my writing of the past year and highlight those pieces that were most widely-read.

Over at Everyday Feminism, three of my pieces really stood out in terms of reception and hits:

‘That’s Racist Against White People’ A Discussion on Power and Privilege was by far my most popular piece of 2013 at EF with more than 80,000 hits.

Also worthy of mention from my Everyday Feminism writing in 2013 are Intent vs Impact: Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter and So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know.

At The Good Men Project, I had a few different pieces go bananas in 2013.

The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“, a piece I co-wrote with Alyssa Royse, Julie Gillis, and Joanna Schroeder, was by far my most-read contribution of 2013 with more than 1 million hits on numerous platforms.

My Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the ‘How to Get Laid’ Generation also was widely read, getting picked up by the Huffington Post.

Change From Within’s Top 10 Articles of 2013

Over here at Change From Within, the posts that were most read speak to the changes in my own work.  More and more, I have tried to highlight the writing and perspectives of the amazing people in my community, and that’s reflected in the most-read articles of the year.  4 of the top 10 articles of 2013 were composed by friends and mentors!

Without further ado, here are the top posts from Change From Within in 2013:

10. Shaking Off the “Harlem Shake” Meme – Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 4.35.47 PM

After “Racism, Appropriation, and the Harlem Shake” (coming in at #2 below), lots of readers were asking questions like, “So what are we supposed to do?  How do we actually resist cultural appropriation?”  In response, I wrote out a list of simple actions that we can all take to resist cultural appropriation around us.

9.  Standing Up to Racial and Religious Profiling

Kadra Abdi

After being racially and religiously profiled by the TSA in June of 2013, my dear friend Kadra Abdi wrote this powerful call to action with ways that we all can stand up to racial and religious profiling.  Her compelling story challenges us to think critically about our own judgments and how we can be part of the solution to this pressing problem.

8.  Rethinking Lisak & Miller: Checking the Math

After much criticism for my piece entitled “Preventing Sexual Violence – Rethinking Lisak & Miller,” I wrote a piece that tackled some of the math being used in criticizing my reconsideration of the groundbreaking Lisak & Miller research.  My friend Rida helped me run some mathematical scenarios that rethink the “predator theory” for who exactly we should be focusing on in our work to prevent sexual violence.

7.  Coming Out of the Woods: On Hugo Schwyzer and Accountability

In August, Hugo Schwyzer, a man who I have defended in the past, showed everyone who he truly is: a misogynistic, racist fraud.  In turn, I owed a lot of people apologies for my defense of this indefensible man.  Here is the public version of that apology.

6. 33+ Suggestions for Action After the Zimmerman Verdict

Justice for Trayvon MartinFor me, like many people, the “not-guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was devastating.  It wasn’t particularly surprising, but it was devastating emotionally and in its wider implications.  Thus, I was incredibly thankful when my friend and mentor Daniel Escalante emailed me with a list of suggestions for action that he (and others) put together. Now, a few months after the verdict, it is good for me to revisit these suggestions and recommit to action in 2014.  I encourage you to do the same.

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Guest Post: Undermining the Social Order? Yes Please!!

This week’s post comes from a powerful poet and teacher that I met while speaking on the “Harlem Shake as Blackface” panel at Hamline University.

Ryan Williams-Virden

Ryan Williams-Virden is an artist and educator from Northeast Minneapolis.  He began writing after graduating from Hamline University in 2005 when he  joined The Poetic Assassins and Sai Werd Ink as BUGS (Better Under Gods Supervision). As a member of Poetic Assassins, he toured the country performing, lecturing, and facilitating workshops on social justice issues at colleges, universities, high schools, and community organizations. Poetic Assassins won the VERVE Grant in 2009.  Also in 2009, Poetic Assassins won the Best Spoken Word Production and were nominated for Best Collective at the Minnesota Spoken Word Awards. In 2011 Poetic Assassins was featured at the legendary NuYorican Poets Cafe as well as won the Morrill Hall Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Grant from the University of Minnesota.

Ryan believes in the power of art and education. Since Poetic Assassins, Ryan completed his Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies culminating in his thesis “Keeping it Real: discourses on privilege in mainstream hip hop.”  He has dedicated his academic energies and career to understanding the intersections of race, class, and gender in order to effect change and help foster a different reality for his community.

He bases all of his work, academic and artistic, in his personal experience. Growing up in the densely immigrant working class neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis Ryan has intimately experienced  these systems of domination at work on a daily basis.

You can keep up with him and contact Ryan at www.ryanwilliamsvirden.com.

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Undermining the Social Order? Yes Please!!

Recently Lou Dobbs and an all-male conservative panel freaked out.

Normally this wouldn’t inspire me to dedicate any more time or effort than it took to laugh. Today, though, it did.

Lou and his panel were up in arms about the new Pew study that shows 4 out of 10 households have women as the primary moneymakers. They pontificated about the erosion of society and how this country’s families are being torn apart. Juan Williams even declared it was “devastating Minority families” worse.  Erik Erickson claimed the natural world and science support the dominance of males, and Doug Schoen ended the segment by claiming “bottom line it could undermine our social order.”

To that I say, Good!

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What Men Can Do to Stop Street Harassment

It’s that time of year again!

The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and most of us can’t wait to get a little sunshine on our skin.

People are breaking out the shorts, skirts, sundresses, tank tops, sandals, and bathing suits. We’re hitting the parks, beaches, running paths, streets, back yards – anywhere we can get a little bit of that Vitamin D.

And with this time of year comes an increase in street harassment.

My Name is Not "Baby" photo

It’s not as if there is not street harassment in the dead of winter. As my friend Heather recently said to me, “I can go out in a full-length down coat, hat, gloves, and boots, and I will have some f*ck think it’s okay to yell about my ass.”

But it tends to get more pronounced when it’s a bit warmer, and there’s a bit more skin showing on your average street. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not the fact that skin is showing that’s the problem. It’s the fact that most men can’t seem to help ourselves once the skin comes out, and we just HAVE to comment and stare.

So let me say it plainly to my male-identified people out there: Street harassment and leering are never okay. Never.

Nope. Not ever.

In case anyone’s unclear, let’s look to the phenomenal folks atStopStreetHarassment.org to define precisely what we’re talking about:

Catcalls, sexually explicit comments, sexist remarks, groping, leering, stalking, public masturbation, and assault. Most women (more than 80% worldwide) and LGBQT folks will face gender-based street harassment at some point in their life. Street harassment limits people’s mobility and access to public spaces. It is a form of gender violence and it’s a human rights violation. It needs to stop.

Yup. That’s right.

We’re talking about the “Hey baby!” Or the “Smile! I bet you have a pretty smile!” Or the “Damn, you’ve got a fine ass!” Or the licking your lips and staring as she walks by.

It’s all harassment. It’s all misogyny. And it all needs to stop.

And since men are the primary perpetrators of street harassment, men bear the responsibility for ending it. So with that in mind, here are a few things men can do to stop street harassment.

1. Don’t Leer or Harass!

It seems obvious, but it bears saying.

One of the single most important things men can do to stop street harassment is to refuse to participate.

That means that you should never be commenting on a woman’s (or any person’s) body or appearance unless you have a relationship with that woman and have anexplicit understanding that this is welcome (which means that you’ve talked about it and she’s consented to it).

But it doesn’t stop there.

Though I don’t recall ever hollering to a woman on the street, there are plenty of times in my life when I have used my eyes and body language to treat a woman as little more than an object.

And in the end, how is leering any different than cat calling? Both send the message that women’s bodies are public property.

Sometimes the most radical action we can take is refusal to participate in oppressive norms.

2. Listen in Solidarity

Stop.

Don’t say it.

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Patriarchy vs Love: Time for Men to RISE

This week’s post comes from a dear friend.

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

Dan Mahle is a program coordinator, facilitator, and community builder living in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in 2008. He has been involved in a variety of non-profit organizations since then, including several youth programs that he helped to launch. His personal mission is to support people in uniting across lines of difference to identify common values & goals, build culture & community resilience, and share powerful stories through creative expression. When he’s not working, he can be found running, hiking, writing music, and eating tasty bowls of cereal late at night.

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One Conversation: A Call to Men

One Billion RisingI had an incredible conversation with a complete stranger today. He was an older guy who happened to stop by the 1 Billion Rising local event that took place in downtown Seattle. As I was walking toward the small crowd of mostly women who were holding signs and dancing, he stopped me with a loud, “Hey, what is this ‘1 Billion Rising’ thing?”

When I told him that it was a global movement to end violence against women, launched by Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, his voice softened and his eyes darted away.

He started telling me about how violence had affected so many of the women in his life. He began tearing up as he shared that most of the women he loves have been victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. He recalled spending 15 years with his ex-wife who, despite endless medications, could not overcome the depression she felt ever since the day she was sexually assaulted. I could see the hurt and sadness in his face as he told me that he couldn’t find any way to help her. His mother, he said, had also been a survivor.

Suddenly staring firmly at me, he said, “Women shouldn’t be treated this way. They are the life-givers; we owe everything to them.” He was visibly shaken.

I looked back at him and asked, “So what can we, as men, do to begin to transform this culture of violence against women?”

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Guilty for Speaking Up – Blaming Survivors of Sexual Violence

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

As many of you undoubtedly know, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now-former head of the International Monetary Fund and a candidate for President of France, has been accused of raping a hotel housekeeper in New York City.

Cue the survivor blaming.

The letter of the law in the United States requires that someone accused of a crime must be considered innocent until proven guilty. If only the law required such a high standard for a survivor of sexual violence.

This morning when I was reading the New York Times, I came across an article about all of the attention given to the survivor of this allegedly horrific attack.  In situations like the one involving Strauss-Kahn, “the women suffer the collateral damage of our interest” in powerful men.  The article describes the way that we obsess over the women who are tied sexually to powerful men like Strauss-Kahn, whether that obsession regards a consensual relationship like in the recent scandal involving Arnold Swartzenegger or rape.

Almost immediately after the allegations of rape were made against this powerful man, the allegations of fraud and sexual impropriety against the survivor began to pile up.  The common narrative isn’t that a power-obsessed womanizer might have taken his lust one step too far, sexually assaulting a woman who he sees as beneath him.  The NY Post even victimizes the alleged rapist, calling him a “humiliated, 62-year-old suspect” who couldn’t get bail due to his being a flight risk (since if he gets back to France, he will never see a court room).

No. The narrative is that a low-income immigrant woman MUST be lodging fake allegations in hopes of getting rich.

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Spring is Sprung, but Men Needn’t Be!

How is it possible that any person could hate spring?  I love few things more than stepping out of the gloom of winter to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine with friends, tossing around a frisbee, having picnics, going for bike rides!  Spring makes me absurdly happy!

After reading a post by “Sista Toldja” over at The Beautiful Struggler entitled “Cruel Summer,” I remembered a conversation I had with a female friend a few years back.  We were getting ready to go to the park to enjoy the sun, and before we walked outside, she took a deep breath and said, “I hate this!”  I didn’t ask immediately what she hated so much, but I quickly realized what she was preparing for with her deep breath.  In the ten blocks or so that we walked to the park, nearly every man we passed stared, eyes down, some even being bold enough to lick and smack their lips.  One dude even grabbed at his crotch.  The part that amazed me is that we were walking together and very likely could have been a couple, and a few guys even felt entitled to “cat call,” commenting on her ass as we walked by!

She ignored them and asked me to do the same, and as we got to the park, we talked about it.  “It’s hard for me not to hate spring,” she said.  “It’s always worst in spring when the warm weather clothes first come out.  It’s like they’re starved puppies who are watching a meat truck unload its wares for the first time in months!”

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