I got a delightful surprise the other day when I was invited to guest blog for The Stroppery. I wanted to talk about how this man came to become active in feminism, and a very brief history of what led to it. Sadly, The Stroppery is no more, so I’ll just post it here. Thank you for the invite, B – it really is an honour.
Looking at my background, I ought to be one of the most offensive racist, misogynist monsters ever. My father (effectively my only male role model) was a womaniser who chatted up women at his wedding and who psychologically, emotionally and spiritually crippled my mother. (Oh but he abhorred physical violence against women). My household was full of virulent racism, homophobia, anti-semitism. These things were everywhere I looked – home, school, popular culture. Yet I always knew something wasn’t right.
As I grew, I got introduced to concepts like “white male privilege“, and with my growing awareness of the immense wrong and pain in the world (beyond my own) I came to realise just what privilege meant. It was only when I fell into the world of feminist blogging, initially through Boganette on the comment pages on Stuff, but then all of the other amazing men and women out there, that the whole thing just exploded in my mind.
I have to admit some trepidation to begin with. I felt that I didn’t really belong here. I felt kinda like a creep and weirdo all over again.
This was “their” territory and I just wanted to have a peek, to express my views which were for the most part consistent with this new (to me) community. I thought that I couldn’t just suddenly appear on the scene and expect to be welcomed (although I was). I was painfully aware that my language was extremely important, and that I needed to think carefully before making comments.
But I was amazed to find repeated comments from so many others that I thought had just been whirling around in my own mind for years. It was so liberating to find that there really was an entire community out there that thought and felt the same way. I was finally able to put terms to things I had known so well for so long:
- De-railing: How I had seen the same arguments come up time and again – now I have the words and references for it.
- Tone argument: Something I am all too familiar with while my soul is the battleground between rationality and emotion.
- Mansplaining – just love it.
- Arsehat – a new one on me!
There are two things above all others that I find interesting right now.
1: That I don’t have to agree with anyone else. My fundamental belief, the very core of me, is the same. And so long as I can express my views with integrity and respect for others (in particular being aware of the impact of my language), then everything is fine.
2: And this one is interesting. I feel guilty. I find I am developing (what I feel to be) close friendships with a bunch of women (who I haven’t met) and feel in some way this is cheating on my wife. She laughs – at how I seem to have these “girlfriends”. And she laughs because she knows that whatever kind of friendship I may form with anyone else, she is everything to me. She is my very heart and soul. But still I feel guilty.
I talk with friends and family – anyone who will listen and a few who won’t – about this new world I have found. They scoff and joke somewhat, but that doesn’t bother me. This foray into feminism isn’t the be all and end all of where I want to be. But it is a start. Reading the sort of comments being made across this forum, we all seem to share a passion for changing the world. Whether it is sexism, racism, ableism or any other ism you care to mention, it seems our passion is to create a world where people are treated as people – with care, dignity and respect. That doesn’t mean we can’t argue and fight and bitch and complain – it’s all about how we do it.
I guess like any newcomer, I am still trying to find my place. To find what it really is I want to tell the world. What I do know is that I want to be part of the movement of spreading awareness – of what is really happening, of how people are marginalised in thousands of ways – subtle and extreme. In particular I want to tell other men that our gender is responsible for the horrible sexism and rape culture that pervades society. That it is our duty to change it. That the fact we as individuals might not contribute to it (hah – but we do – we are usually just unaware of it), but it is still our job to change.
If there is a message to give to all men it is this: Take the time to listen to the ideas given in these forums. Take the tiny seed graciously given to you by some of the most amazing, smart and strong women (and men) you could ever hope to meet. See how it grows. And never – ever – be afraid to respectfully give your opinions. You don’t have to agree, just be respectful, and remember whose home you are in.
I am excited to be on this path. It is my path and mine alone. It may share the general area with others, but it will wind its way in and out. I .. we ..have to learn not to worry so much about being on the same path, just that we are heading in the same direction.