"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

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Wee Bit about Kyle Payne

Renegade Evolution has a great roundup about Kyle Payne, if you have been under a rock and haven't heard about this jerk. I think everything that can be said has been said, but I will say this: It's good to remember that there are sometimes good reasons why feminist women and trans feminists are suspicious of feminist men. It sucks that there is a tendency for people to lump feminist men together, as we are of course as different from each other as feminist women are different from each other, but one can understand this tendency when somebody like Payne pops up.

Of course, lots and lots of feminists don't lump us together like that, and also recognize that, while the potential wolf-in-sheep's-clothing problem is always going to be there, men contribute a lot to feminism.


Erik said...

Hi Jeff,

With love for you and your work, I want to say that this post seems a little sketchy to me. You acknowledge that there are good reasons for feminist women to be suspicious of feminist males, but the thrust of your point here seems to be:

1) It's bad to lump us together
2) Men contribute a lot to feminism

Which to me feels like you're deflecting the conversation to male concerns:

1) Poor us, we get lumped together
2) Look at the good we're doing!

Honestly, while I am disgusted by what Payne did, I'm glad about the press. Because this stuff happens all the time, and is not reported on enough. Feminist men are a huge threat to women. The fact that we can "talk the talk" doesn't make us safe, and I'm always glad when this point gets emphasized.

Women should mistrust feminist men. We're dangerous. That, to me, seems like the end of the story. Your post really feels like it's coming from a male perspective, not a feminist perspective.

Or am I being overly simplistic?

jeff said...

I do think you're being overly simplistic, but my post certainly is as well. However, you left out, in your numbered framing of my post, the first thing I said, which was supposed to frame the other things:
"It's good to remember that there are sometimes good reasons why feminist women and trans feminists are suspicious of feminist men."

This is hardly as strong as your position, that feminist men are dangerous, end of story--but then, I simply don't see how that can be the end of the story. If that's the end of the story, then that's all feminist men have to work with, and it will be psychologically impossible (imho) for men to finds ways of interacting in the world while upholding feminist values.

I understand that this feels like What About the Menz. But that's one reason that I started this forum--because, even if the problems with being a feminist man (and the problems sociopaths like Payne leave us all to deal with are myriad) ought not be a priority for non-male feminists--they have better things to do, mostly--they are still something we, as feminist men, do have to deal with. To not acknowledge that at all (and this is one reason i disagree with the 'end of story' part of your comment) is to do everybody a disservice.

But it's much more complex than either my post or your comment allow, so I doubt that you and I disagree much in substance...

Thank you for pointing out that my post could (easily?) be read this way. In the future I will stress my first point more, and also go into detail a bit more.

geo said...

I think that it is a big mistake to imply that we Feminist men Do a Lot. We do Talk a Lot. We Blog - we speak out in some venues.

A few of us are trying to get men together to Talk about Doing More - and that Alone is a challenge.

Getting Us Men -to see that we have issues and might want to talk amongst ourselves alone is a difficult task. Moving beyond the talk and into action is harder still.


jeff said...

Hey Geo--

I always appreciate your comments, and I'm glad you're still reading, even though posting has dwindled to a trickle.

I think that it *is* important to keep in mind that men (and people of all genders) ought to take care to not be all talk no action. But I also think that talk/action is a false dichotomy. There are good reasons why, for instance, feminist women blog--while it may not be completely clear exactly what doing so does in the world, at least some people think that women feminist bloggers are 'taking action' in part by blogging. I think it can be the same for men, though we may have to watch ourselves more as far as getting some shit done outside of blogging, because of male privilege.

I also agree that getting men to Do More can be a challenge. The fact that this blog didn't survive as a groupblog is a small testament to that. But that doesn't mean that there aren't feminist men out there Doing.

Now, I don't think that "Feminist Men Aren't All Bad" is the proper response to shitbags like Payne--but I do think it's something *I* have to keep in mind in order to have the will to live in a misogynistic culture and (sometimes) fight back against that.

hysperia said...

Hi there. You can perhaps imagine how tired many feminists are of hearing men, and pro-feminist men, make the Kyle Payne deal into something that effects pro-feminist men and their creds with feminists. This is NOT the most important part of the story; not even the SECOND most important part of the story. And if some women feel even less trusting of men in general than they did before they heard about Kyle Payne, surely that's a better response than being victimized by men.

And ya know what, I'm real happy with men who are allies to feminists, but I can't see that "men" contribute a lot to feminism. NO THEY DON'T. NOT EVEN YOU. You can't even be much bothered to think about what you're saying here.

jeff said...

Thanks for your words hysperia. There's very little in your comment I disagree with.

When you say "And if some women feel even less trusting of men in general than they did before they heard about Kyle Payne, surely that's a better response than being victimized by men," for instance, I want to reiterate that this is sort of what I meant when I said "...but one can understand this tendency [to group male feminists together] when somebody like Payne pops up".

I agree that male feminists' feelings are not the first, second, third, fourth or fiftieth most important part of the story--but I do think that pro-feminist men need to call out men like Payne *and* also deal with the ways that men like Payne do affect us. I don't think we need to do that in feminist women's spaces, which is why I posted about it here rather than commenting about it elsewhere, etc.

I do disagree with you regarding men's contribution to feminism. I'm not going to try to change your mind about that, because I respect your position and also because I think there is lots of room under the various feminist tents for our differing opinions--I don't have to 'do' feminism in your spaces, for instance. I'm with bell hooks on this matter, but that doesn't mean I think *you* or *everybody* ought to be.

As far as not thinking about what I'm saying here--I did think about what I'm saying. I think we can disagree about it without imagining that either of us is completely ignorant about it all.

Thanks again for your words.

Anonymous said...

The duty of feminist men in regard to this is to say, quite bluntly, that abusive hypocrites like Payne do not live feminist lives. Frankly Payne reminds me more of the "Christian" ministers who campaign vigorously against the crimes they themselves commit -- the ones who speak loudest against child abuse are probably committing it.

In some sense, an honest feminist man is selfish in the issues he focuses on. A feminist man is likely focusing on the ways the patriarchy is abusing men -- because it's not like we can expect the women to take care of our problems for us! A male Rape Crisis Volunteer seems suspicious to me on its face -- unless he's counselling men who have been assaulted or raped, and doing so because he has had been on the receiving end of a sexual assault.

As for how much men have contributed to feminism, I say "Frederick Douglass. James Mott. Henry Browne Blackwell," and I leave it at that.