I’ve self-identified as a feminist since my late teens and have been very vocal about it, sometimes to my own detriment. Not that I’m some sort of knight in shining armor, I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way despite my best intentions and I can’t claim to be motivated entirely by altruism. While I am very much interested in equality and women’s issues in their own right, I’ve always been at least as interested in what Feminism could potentially do for men.
If you’re raising your eyebrow incredulously right now you’re not alone. I remember attending a eco-activist conference in my early 20’s. The organizers had set aside a couple hours one afternoon to talk about the intersections of ecology and feminism in a woman-only space and, since they didn’t want the women to feel left out of any of the other discussions, hadn’t scheduled anything for the men. They just didn’t know what to do with us.
When I suggested to the assembled guys that perhaps we should talk about gender issues too they were a bit confused. One person suggested that a bunch of guys talking about feminism would, at best, be inherently sexist mansplaining (though he didn’t use that term since it didn’t exist yet). Another suggested that maybe we could talk about how to be better allies and a third echoed the first by saying he thought our best course there was to let the women lead and tell us what to do. The whole group was genuinely flabbergasted when I suggested that we might talk about our own issues as men from a feminist perspective. Men are inherently privileged by Patriarchy after all, what could we possibly have to deconstruct?
The thing is, it’s not that simple. Continue reading