"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 21, 2006

Friendship Among the Feminist Men

Most of my friends are lefty-liberal-types, in varying degrees. As such, there also tend to be a lot of people in my circle of friends who are at least conscious of gender issues, sexism, racism, problems with heteronormativity and the like. I'm lucky in that I have people who are more knowlegable about most of this stuff than I am, and who are willing to work with me to learn. Probably also I serve that role for some of my other friends.

And yet, most of my friends wouldn't call themselves feminists. They shy away from the world for various reasons, but to some degree they also shy away from the concepts involved. And, frankly, this is more likely to be the case for my friends who are men. Some of them just aren't as interested in spotting and avoiding sexism as I am; some of them think they 'do enough'.

Furthermore, those among my women friends who would call themselves feminists aren't as interested in helping me learn about it--they are more interested in finding ways of fighting sexism and the like from within female-only spaces. There is a need for this, and I understand their decisions around helping men be better feminists--in many ways, they've got better things to do.

This presents a problem: If most of one's friends are either not feminists or not interested in bonding around feminism, how does a feminist man interact with other feminists? The world o' blogs offers up some chances for exchange of information, for solidarity and the like, but the reasons that keep, say, me from having lots of feminist (especially male feminist) friends are probably some of the same reasons that there aren't a lot of group blogs for men centered around feminism.

Or perhaps a good deal of this is only related to the particulars of my situation; perhaps other men who are feminists don't find these things to be the case. Perhaps there are ways of interacting with other feminists that I haven't figured out yet. But, if any of what my situation shows me applies to other feminist men, then I would hazard a guess that many feminist men are lonely for the company of other feminists, in general, and of other feminist men in particular.

There are, of course, lots of reasons why there aren't big gaggles of feminist men who are friends. I'll address just a few here, and ask anybody reading to add to the list in the comments.

First of all, there are fewer men who count themselves as feminists than I would want, first of all, so the pool of potential friends and allies is perhaps smaller than would lend itself to forming lots of friendships among feminist men. But there are other factors at work, I think. There is a severe lack of models for male bonding around things that aren't traditionally masculine, and this is a big part of the problem. If one is more interested in feminist theory than, say, hockey, one will probably have fewer male friends doing things they're interested in (i.e. feminist activism and theory). Which is not to say that feminist theory and hockey are mutually exclusive, of course; but it's likely that one's hockey friends and one's feminist theory friends aren't composed of very many of the same people, right? Or is this just a gross overgeneralization, simple sexist thinking?

I think another problem that feminist men have to face is the spectre of the Men's Rights Activists; when you meet a guy who tells you he has a feminist political stance, even other feminist men will likely first doubt that he's on the up-and-up; more likely, he's an MRA and not a feminist at all. So there's a sort of proving-ground effect that goes on; another wall built up around men.

These two facors alone account for a good deal of the dearth of male feminst buddies, I think. Other factors?

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