What Men Dare Do! "O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!"

28Oct/107

Don’t Mess Up Other Feminists’ Stuff

#2 Don't Mess Up Other Feminists' Stuff

Okay, so you're a feminist, or at least you think that's where you're going.

You might be thinking that now's the time to jump in!  Go to a feminist discussion, a book group, see some speakers, read some books, comments on some feminist blogs!

It's good to be eager, but as a beginning feminist, it's best to be a passive consumer of feminism when you're first going into feminist safe spaces.

Now that might be a new phrase for you, "safe space."  What is it?  Well, it's one of those things that men generally don't have to worry about -- a place where everyone who is present feels safe and comfortable expressing themselves about whatever topic they might want: feminism, queer theory, racial issues, etc., etc.  The mainstream man can always talk about just about whatever he wants.  (On the other hand, the queer man, the feminist man, the man of color, they can't, but remember, we're talking about "majority men" right now).

Sometimes, when a male feminist newly becomes interested in feminism, they want to join a group, maybe on a college campus, maybe a local book club, or just start commenting on blogs and forums, and begin discussing feminist issues!  It's great to be eager, but remember, you're going into someone else's established safe space, knowing a lot less than they do.  People aren't interested, generally, in spending a lot of time going off topic of whatever it was they wanted to talk about to educate you about what feminism is.  If you really feel a need to go to a group like that and can't hold yourself: be a passive consumer.  Listen.

Before you go out and participate, try to make sure you've done as much educating of yourself as reasonably possible.  Be familiar with Feminism 101, read some FAQs, learn a bit of jargon, and then when you have at least a basic vocabulary of self-expression, along with the wisdom to know that it's not all about you in these types of groups, then go to a group and talk about issues.

But always remember, most women have years if not decades of experience acknowledging, discussing and experiencing first-hand a real-world system and a philosophy of ideas that we've only just been introduced to.  That's not to say men can't make substantial contributions to feminism (indeed, we do), but I doubt a female feminist ever came out of a feminist group having met a man and thought, "That guy was too humble and timid."  It isn't feminists' responsibility to tolerate us coming in and messing up their stuff; we need to self-educate ourselves as best as we can before we participate in the movement.

Share