If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s like me, you probably were indoctrinated with the belief that feminist were “man haters”, “lesbians”, and “braless she-males”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Initially, my parents impacted me. My mother involved herself in politics that were anti-sexist and anti-racist. She never considered herself a feminist (which is indicator of patriarchy’s influence). My father seemed to challenge patriarchal norms. He consistently voiced a belief in equality between all sexes and races as well as other unequal facets of our society. I guess being in an interracial relationship my father had gotten used to discussing topics that were uncomfortable for others.
Feminism has grown in diversity. Additionally, it has incorporated the drive for equality in many other social injustices other than just gender. Just as the civil rights movement has evolved more than just a “black cause”. Both continue to try to establish social, political and economic equality between all races, sexes, sexual orientations, etc. Understand gender oppression is deeply intertwined with racism, classism, colonialism, ableism, the state, the destruction of the environment, and ultimately civilization itself. A lot of men I know don’t understand this. When I tell them I am a feminist, there is laughter, sneers, and frowns. I’m either a opportunist or a punk, don’t have enough “game” or soft, looking for an angle or my favorite “you know how I know you are gay….you say you are a feminist”. My response is always “How can a man not be a feminist?”. Let me ask the skeptics. Do you believe that people are entitled to basic human rights regardless of race, class or gender? If the answer is yes, then that is the fundamental principles of feminism. Why is the idea of a woman standing up for herself so radical? Why is the idea of a man supporting this so radical? While most men are willing to acknowledge unfair treatment of women and discrimination based on gender, many are reluctant to own up to their backward-ass gender politics, particularly in public. How many of us take other men to task over their misogyny or sexism in the absence of women? Are your actions tutoring young males to embrace sexist ideas and values? These seemingly little things and many more create a climate that maintains misogyny , inadvertently or not, supports and condones behaviors and thinking patterns that are a part of rape, sexual violence, and gender discrimination.
There are probably many closeted feminist men, who don’t know how or when to enter feminism. Here is my four step plan for you:
1. Confront in the absence- If you truly don’t support discrimination and misogyny then confront when there are no women in the room. Isiah Thomas and MSG should wish someone called them out sooner. Not only it is cost effective but it is right.
2. Educate yourself- Recognize the diversity in feminism. We do not all agree on every topic just like any other group. Oppression and degradation come in many forms. Be critical. Look at things like the media, advertisements, and programming with a more critical eye. Read and discuss issues with the women in your lives.
3. Get Active- One of my defining moments in my transformation was dating a woman who was gang raped. The range of emotions that she went through on a daily basis was heart wrenching. One minute she wanted to be held, the next minute she couldn’t be in the same room with me. The relationship was deteriorating until I went to a rape crisis center and understood that a man’s body part is a weapon if not used correctly and responsibly.
4. Show your support- In the time it took you to read this article, two women were sexually assaulted. If a woman tells you she was or felt abused, believe her. Don’t minimize it. The statistics are mind boggling. One in every four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Take a time out and pick four women you care about and choose one.
If you are still wondering why I am a feminist its OK. Im still wondering why you aren’t