"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, June 13, 2007

Allies Listen

Over at Woman of Color Blog, brownfemipower has an absolutely fantastic post up--it's a terribly comprehensive response to how some men of color who are fighting for equality don't understand (and/or don't care about) the ways in which they harm some women of color along the way. You really should go read the whole thing, but for our purposes, I want to comment on a couple of specific passages:

And yet it is something I rarely hear men of color activists talk about–and when they do, more times than not, it’s in a very specific sense–women as hyper victims of European colonization, or women as loyal supporters of national liberation. Specifically, women have been brutalized beyond all sense of the word by white people, and therefore that brutalization stands as proof of the ultimate evil of white people. OR, we are all comrades in the fight–we are all working together for the common goal of “liberation”–liberation that happens to require women reinforce a certain gender role that many women may not want to reinforce.


We know the little boy that was raped by priests until he killed himself with alcohol or drugs. We know the little boy that had his penis cut off because he whistled at a white woman. We know his father who had his own genitals ripped off and shoved in his mouth right before he was set on fire. We know how your (not work safe)painful history is appropriated (just like ours) by people that would do you harm and revel in it[...]And why don’t you all position yourselves as the sexualized victim of white men? Is it because you do not want to be defined by your violation? Is it because you don’t want to use the pain of your brother to make a political point? Is it because you don’t want to be a victim, like a woman? Why do you think we want to be defined by ours? Why do you think it’s ok to make a political point with our pain? And why don’t you want to be like a woman? Is there something wrong with women?

I think that, as men who strive for social justice, we all have to take special care to check our male privilege, to have others around us who will help us to check it, and to not subjugate anybody's goals for justice beneath our own. I bring this in to Feminist Allies primarily because of the power of brownfemipower's words, but also because I want to draw attention to the somewhat ad hoc lines that I (and others) sometimes draw around feminism, as if struggles against patriarchy and struggles against racism were two totally different things. They aren't, of course, and as feminist men, we also need to be men who are anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-heterosexist and the like.

And we can certainly learn some of what it means to be/become all of these things by continuing to listen and interact with women who have such powerful things to say.
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