"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

Friday, August 10, 2007

Some Good News for Men Who Would Be Allies

Jaclyn, who is guest-posting over at Feministe!, has a post up that is perhaps of special interest to those who visit Feminist Allies. Keeping in mind the comlexities involved, I think Jaclyn is making some room for ally work in feminism by pro-feminist and feminist men. At the very least, she gives this feminist man some hope, and a better understanding of how some feminist women may feel about working with men in feminist movement. Jaclyn says:
Which brings me at last to the issue at hand: What do we gain and lose from working with feminist men? Can men be feminists, or can they only be feminist allies (as some have suggested)? Should they have a particular role in the feminist movement (i.e. educating other men), or should they be welcome to contribute however they are most motivated and useful (and who decides where they’re most useful)? If we want to accept the work of men in the movement, how do we all (people of all genders) deal with the natural, necessary suspicions that arise? Are you more or less suspicious of feminist men than you used to be?

As for me, given my definition of feminism, I think men can be feminists, but some of them aren’t there yet, and really are just “allies.” And I’ll admit that knowing CG (really, just knowing he exists, and therefore other guys like him might exist) makes me ever-so-slightly more generous with men who identify as feminists or express interest in feminism, though I am definitely always watching and waiting for unexamined privilege to seep out. That watchfulness and suspicion isn’t a bad thing. But I do think, if we’re going to dismantle the systems of gender oppression, we’re going to need all the help we can get, as long as it’s genuinely helpful.

So as much as I agree it’s on men to deal with the suspicion and everything else that comes along with ally work, and I’m not advocating we tone anything down to make a kinder, gentler feminism so that the Mens won’t feel so Uncomfortable, I do think it’s in our best interest to figure out which men are worth working with, and how to work with them.

I also think that there is plenty of room in this feminist movement for women who disagree, vehemently, with some of what Jaclyn has to say. In the comments, Janis points out:
So AFAIC, if men can be feminist, if want WANT to be feminist, they’re going to do it with no acknowledgement from me. None. I will nto engage them. If they really are, they shouldn’t need me to kiss their asses and tell them how wonderful they are. No engagement on my end, at all. IF that keeps them from being feminist, then so goddamned be it. They shouldn’t need to have their asses kissed to acknowledge that 2+2=4, either.

What I like about what Janis has to say here is that she points out the other side of the issue--and I like the fact that there are feminists like Jaclyn and that there are feminists like Janis; feminist men always need to keep a few things in mind simultaneously:
1. Doing the basic work of feminism doesn't earn men a cookie. (Which is a toned-down version of something akin to what Janis is saying.)
2. Doing the basic work of feminism isn't easy, and as feminist men we have to take the valued opinions of people like Jaclyn to heart, to keep our hearts alive while struggling.
3. Back to something like what Janis is saying, we ought not expect reactions like Jaclyn's, to look to women who have similar views to motivate us--we must be prepared to do feminist work even in the face of never getting such encouragement. We must work to encourage each other to fill in gaps, as well.

Update: The discussion at Feministe! has been (IMHO) derailed quite a bit by sailorman. Please take care when commenting over there.
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