Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Male Feminists

I contributed the following post to a discussion on "Male Feminists" on rabble.ca:

Regarding males taking women's studies because they're "gay or trying to pick up girls":

As a guy who has taken many feminist courses at university, my smarmy, sarcastic, retort has always been "yeah, a course where we learn about all the evil stuff men have done and continue to do to women is a great place to 'pick up chicks'." ;)

In reality, the women's studies courses were the most personally challenging and intellectually exciting courses I took at university. The instructors weren't 'disinterested academics' - they had a strong personal interest and engagement in the topics that created an amazing environment of shared growth in understanding.

And, no, I never did get a date from any of those courses :)
(although there were many wonderful people, some who remain good friends these many years later).

As to whether men are "pro-feminist", "real feminist", "pro women" or whatever: I am a feminist, man. I am consciously working to eradicate sexism and patriarchy from myself and society. I try to reject social divisions based on sex or gender (and most other social divisions, too).

Am I free of male privilege? Am I free of sexist behavior? Do I consistently ignore sex and gender in my treatment of others? No - but is anyone else completely free of sexism in this patriarchal society? I'm trying, and making mistakes and learning. This is a daily struggle - made easier by conscious engagement (and mutual support) with those around me.

So, why do some feminist men feel more radically feminist than the women in their lives? Maybe because we have the privilege of being able to get away with it - safe while being vocal. When I proclaim my radical anti-patriarchy views, it doesn't threaten my job. It doesn't stop me from getting a date. It doesn't threaten my social ties.

Maybe there's an element of machismo in taking a 'hardcore' stance or seeking the status of 'biggest' feminist. Maybe we're fitting our expression of feminism into the traditional 'male protector' role. Maybe there's a sense of needing to 'prove ourselves' by taking an extreme position.

Whatever it might be, I try to temper my male impulses with continued dialogue. There's always more to learn and experience.


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