I have been thinking a lot about “feminist men” (whether they self identify/are involved in writing about or organizing around gender issues) because of experiences in organizing, academia and elsewhere in my personal life, and also because of a recent Incite post about the disruptive role of abusive men in organizing projects . I also came across this post entitled, “Are You a Manarchist?”, which listed a bunch of familiar behaviors. I am also sick of ways others also enable this; I am recalling the time a white male organizer who surrounds himself with qwoc drunkenly grabbed me at a queer party and I was told to ”get over it”, as “everyone makes mistakes”.
Most recently, I criticized a male organizer for uncritically presenting an objectifying and shallow poem at a predominantly female youth conference. I got a long, back-patting sort of apology back. Apparently the female partner he wrote it about had called him out a bunch of times on the patriarchal dynamics in their relationship and he’s supposedly changed and grown so much since. I was baffled by why I was expected to congratulate him or something, because clearly he decided to present it anyway after all this processing. He admitted he had clung to a more hetero version of the poem bc of his insecurities about his queerness in south asian settings.
I’m sick of men who blithely continue doing what they’re doing and and then remind me that it’s a “process” for them to be less sexist. I’m tired of hearing about this arduous “process”, in other words, that I am impatient and should wait it out while he continuously shits on women. This is what I heard a lot from someone I have come out of some sort of abusive and manipulative relationship with; I realized that the guy pulled the same thing with other women and will probably go on doing so, all while surrounding himself with female activists and gender studies profs. I can’t say I have any sympathy to the idea that it’s this huge effort to see me as a full human being. His guilt and self-loathing were twisted into indicators of his lofty complexities that people like are too simple to comprehend, reasons to wallow in self-pity than to take responsibility and engage with others with decency and care. I’m tired of the expectation that I should coddle some guy’s compensatory sexism because his life is so hard as a queer and/or brown man. I feel like I’m running into the same excuses over and over again, including the expectation that I should function as a aid for men’s personal growth (particularly in this email exchange, along with with lip service to being mindful of caretaking dynamics). I will also mention the experience of having my gender analysis dismissed because Party B has read lots of feminist theory, always knows better than me about my own marginalization, and has somehow rationalized away the fact that he screams at me. And the experience of having a man in domestic violence policy work make a joke about how I should find a date to feel better about being punched.
A lot of the interpersonal traps that we’ve discussed wrt white defensiveness apply, but I guess I’ve been late to this party due to where I’ve been for the past few years.
this is what i had written:
“you know, i’ve noticed that in a lot of male poetry about love/sex, the body of the female person is abstracted and fragmented, not unlike mass advertising representations. when i was harassed and assaulted on the street this year, it was made clear to me that the other person saw me as body parts and not as a whole person with her own subjectivity. for this reason, i had a discomfort with the initial draft and left the room when it was presented. i felt there were some interesting differences with the other poem that was read at the time. i understand there’s a race angle being represented too – the feeling of racial alienation and intimacy with another poc. but at the same time, the other person seemed to be represented in the abstract as brown skin and t+a. fucking a brown woman isn’t inherently revolutionary.” I really didn’t learn much else about this person besides that they were brown and bangable to you.
* i’m also not sure how to use more open, non-binary, non-essentializing language here and i’m open to suggestions.