"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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Places for Men within Feminism

In the comments, Mona asks:
in the context of "bla bla bla" I'd like to hear your thoughts on this: http://dinahproject.com/articles_view_details.asp?id=117
do men have a place in every female struggle? Is it not just soft patriarchy?

Mona, I apologize. I have worked and reworked a post about what I think about the place of men in feminism, of female-only spaces and the like, but I must admit that the whole damn thing is just way too complex for me at the moment. I mean, I have done some thinking on it, and have some intuitions about it all (which basically boil down to 'people who self-identify should be the ones to decide who gets included'--but this has the problem of being self-referential, because there are self-identified feminists out there who I hesitate to include in my flavors of feminism, so it doesn't really get me very far). I realized the limits of my thinking on all of this when I came across a lot of angry, anti-trans vitriol in what can often be a fantastic space for women, Women's Space/The Margins:
The next thing that we’ll hear is that as women, before we ask a woman to perform for, or speak to us, we will need to submit a bio and an outline of her political views and activism to local transgender activists for their approval, otherwise we will be boycotted, attacked, harrassed, and lied about. I sued the Religious Right for this kind of behavior 13 years ago. And I won. This is colonizing behavior. It is cultural imperialism. The members of a community themselves, when we are talking about a marginalized, oppressed, people group, as lesbians are, as women are, have a right to autonomy, self-definition and the defining of our own in-group/out-group boundaries.

It's well and good to say that being who 'are lesbians' have a right to self-definition, but it begs the question: who 'are lesbians'. MTF trans women sometimes identify as lesbians. Do they have a right to self-definition? If so, then why don't some of the women in radical feminist circles consider them lesbians, much less women? If not, why not?

But I'll write more about it later, because, obviously, my thoughts are evolving on it all.

What counts as a women's only space? Who counts as women? What counts as a feminist space? Who counts as feminists? I'm only beginning to understand the situation, I think, and probably should frame anything I say about it in those terms--that I'm learning. Only within the past few years did I come to understand the usefulness/need for women's only spaces (heck, and men's only spaces, too). But I'll think some more on it, and perhaps get some help from my groupblog friends and commentors as well (hint, hint).
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