"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Role Models

I'm currently reading an anthology, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, and found an inspiring section written by Nico Dacumos, who writes about difficulties related to passing as it intersects gender and race (among other concepts)--in particular he writes about his various 'failures' to pass as masculine. But then he ends his piece with a bit of hope, recognizing how he is a role model for masculinity for his cousin:
I'm trying to find happiness in the spaces I inhabit. I'm trying to learn how to live my life free from fear and suspicion, to come at everyone with as much trust, patience , and love as I do my own family, the people I stick with despite all the ways they hurt me. I came to this realization recently while talking to my little cousin, a beautiful nineteen-year-old man of color who is trying to be a man in ways that the men in our family never taught him were possible. I know that he initially came to respect me because he saw my polyamorous lifestyle as playa-pimp, but now he comes to me because he values my advice and because I don't judge him. We talk about relationships and violence. He struggles: He's trying to learn to talk instead of throwing fists; he's trying to learn to cool down and walk away instead of slamming doors or being verbally abusive; he's trying to earn the love and respect of the woman whom he loves by giving respect. I am amazed and honored that he trusts me enough to struggle with me. I find my masculinity validated, in ways I know will never happen if I walk into a club or party or "community space' and hope for people who don't really know me to respect and value all the parts of me. In this way I also find myself doing activism and making radical change in the world in the ways I have always wanted. I find myself becoming the elder that I always hoped to find."

Nico is inspiring to me in various ways not only because he recognizes the positive ways he affects his cousin (it's difficult to see one's positive influences sometimes, when one also feels like one is constantly struggling), but also because he understands and appreciates the complexities involved in class, race, gender and the like, complexities that are sometimes discovered and understood 'on the ground' way before the theorists (gender theorists, feminist theorists, among others) start to get it:
"The Combahee River Collective showed me that those of us in the most marginal margins have always already figured shit out and will need to wait about twenty years for the mainstream and the theory heads to catch up."

Or maybe I just like him because of a common feeling centered around bell hooks:
"bell hooks taught me that I could love my urge to kill whitey and still love whitey at the same time."

Seems to me that Nico is a great role model for feminist men.
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