There is a short reading assignment for this post: Can Men Be Feminists?
To summarize the author’s points: (although I strongly recommend reading it for yourself. My understanding may differ from what you take away from it.)
- Our world is saturated with racist, sexist, classist, heterosexist, etc. beliefs.
- All of us have absorbed at least some of these assumptions.
- One cannot escape his or her privilege. It affects too many aspects of life.
Because of this, she argues, men can never be feminists. The privileges that automatically come with belonging to the dominant group interfere with the fight against those privileges.
There is no denying that being born with certain characteristics gives certain groups of people often massive social, economic and other advantages over those who aren’t male, white, wealthy, able-bodied, cis-gendered, or straight.
There have even been times when the men in my life honestly doesn’t see what to me is obviously sexist behaviour or expectations.
I could fill this post with examples. Each one would point to the same conclusion, though: privilege allows us to only see what we want to see. People without that privilege aren’t able to do that any more than they can turn off the rest of their senses.
There are things as a white person that I know I’ll never truly get. I can read about it, I can confront people who say racist things, but I will never know what it is like to be the target of racism.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t fight against both the privilege and the oppression, though. In certain ways it is easier to fight against something that you know is in everyone. Rather than having one enemy and seeing it in solely us-vs.-them terms there is we.
We have a serious problem. We harbor certain stereotypes or assumptions. We need to unlearn some stuff. We need a plan.
We also need to listen. It is easy to fall back into often-unconscious interpersonal patterns. I think this is one of the most dangerous parts of fighting to end prejudice when you yourself are not part of the oppressed group. If it is going to work well then the people who ordinarily are not listened to should be leading it and those who are used to being followed should become followers.
“The first shall be last and the last shall be first…”
What do you think?
- Is acting on or being given a privilege the same thing as being racist, sexist, classist, etc.?
- How can our privileges be used for good?
- Does who you are affect how you fight against injustice?
(Photo by Kurt Lowenstein.)