EXAMPLES OF FEMINIST ALLIES

AMBER LOVE 02-APR-2015 This week I was pretty annoyed at a post on The Mary Sue, a site I particularly enjoy reading when there’s a topic of interest to me. The title of the article “With Great Privilege Comes Great Responsibility: Being a Good Feminist Ally” set the tone immediately. Writer William Bradley thinks a bit much of himself, although I’ll add, often on sites like these the editor not the author will write the headline. This morning, I read a piece by Chuck Wendig that is a far better example of “good feminist ally” writing.

GIVE THIS MAN A COOKIE

In The Mary Sue post, Bradley goes on and on for thousands of words about how he finally recognizes his own privilege as a cishet white man. That’s great. Self awareness is important. And had this been his own tumblr, I might not have blinked an eye about it, but this is The Mary Sue and it comes off like a soapbox where this man is accepting his Woman of the Year award in spectacular Ron Swanson fashion. Mr. Bradley, go treat yo’ self.

Swanson-WomanoftheYear

No wait, that’s an insult to Ron Swanson, a man of few words. Bradley gives his speech in thousands of words about how great he is for doing things like not making a stink that his wife wanted to keep her own last name. Welcome to the 21st century, Mr. Bradley. Here’s your cookie. Save this gif and stare at it every time you think you need an applause for simply being decent.

imthebest

I appreciate that Bradley is man enough to read Jessica Valenti and Roxane Gay. Plenty of men do. Plenty of men don’t feel the need to mansplain that they aren’t afraid of the feminist/LGBTQ cooties to read content that matters to the first world. Bradley, however, wants more to know it so he got published by The Mary Sue to point out what a great feminist he is.

“Perhaps most important is my awareness that every word I write or speak aloud is amplified by a privilege I didn’t ask for and don’t deserve. I am a white heterosexual man, and in my culture that’s an identity that comes with a whole lot of power. We tend to write the laws. We’re found lecturing in classrooms and calling the shots in boardrooms. And when we speak, people tend to listen—whether what we’re saying is worth listening to or not. I would like to live in a world where this is not the case, but I don’t, and using my voice to talk about sexism and feminism is still an exercise of privilege that I didn’t actually earn through any work or talent on my part. I shouldn’t have this privilege—what right do I have to use it when there are so many women, smarter than me and with more first-hand experience with misogyny, who are left unheard?

Still, I don’t think silence is really an option. The fact that some men will listen to me and not Jessica Valenti or Roxane Gay is terrible, but I don’t see this reality changing until these men get the message from other men. It’s frustrating, but that is the conclusion I have come to. So I will talk to my students about rape culture. I will recommend that they read Amanda Marcotte and Janelle Asselin. I will talk to them about Anita Sarkeesian and “gamergate” and how toxic masculinity is bad for women and men alike.” ~ William Bradley

In one moment Bradley is pointing out his privilege and questioning his right to speak up and in the very next moment he’s trying to convince the reader that it’s not his place to sit the hell down, shut up, and let the non-males of the world have voices of their own.

EXAMPLE OF BETTER FEMINISM BY A MAN

This morning author Chuck Wendig posted at his blog, terribleminds, about his withdrawal from the Midwest Writers Workshop. He wrote about the journey it took through phone calls and reaching out to his LGBTQ peers to get their opinions on the MWW stance regarding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Rights Act. Wendig sought out the opinions privately from his friends and tried to convince MWW to institute clarification in their policy about discrimination. After much effort, he made the decision to pull out of the conference and lose a speaking fee.

“After some rather stressful conversations yesterday, I pulled out of the conference. That was not done easily or with a light heart. On a practical level, this costs me a speaking fee — meaning, I’m losing a paycheck. (And we writers tread water or drown sometimes based on a single paycheck.) It also wounds those participants who were coming to see me speak, some of whom are surely members of the Indiana LGBT community. At the basic level, I’ll probably lose fans and readers over this. Even friends.

Thing is, though, this sort of thing doesn’t have a playbook. Being an ally in this regard — or trying to be an ally, at least, however clumsily I make the attempt — does not mean taking the one shining golden path to Being The Good Person. Some people will applaud what I’m doing and others will condemn it. (I’ve seen both on social media. People calling me either hero or bully for making this decision. I reject both of those labels. I’m not a hero, and I may very well be getting this wrong. I also don’t believe this makes me a bully.)” ~ Chuck Wendig

The Wendig post does what the Bradley post doesn’t. It explains a given situation: a problem was identified, steps were taken to correct something outside of himself, consideration for a peer network shown, and ultimately making a decision. It isn’t a self-aggrandizing “look at what a great feminist I am” post because it doesn’t need to be. You know what it is by reading it. You know that here is a man who also recognizes his privilege and is willing to take action on behalf of others with less powerful voices. You see that it’s done without the pats on the back, cookies, gold stars and Woman of the Year award that the other post seeks.

EXPLAINING YOUR MANSPLAINING

I’m not trying to pick on William Bradley or the editors that thought his post was a good idea. I’m not trying to pit Bradley vs. Wendig in a cage match of who is the better writer because I think that’s evident. I prefer to use the real life examples which happen to be current (both from this week) and show how men who think they are on the same page don’t behave that way.

I’m well aware of my demographics that this blog, YouTube, and Facebook reach – no matter what I write or what kind of photos I post, my audience is 85-87% men ages 18-55. It is with that knowledge that I hope the men reading this recognize the differences in how they appear to the world around them, to the women around them, to the impressionable children around them – and opt for being better feminists who don’t need to self-aggrandize and take over space on feminist networks so that they can be lauded. You don’t need a pithy Spider-Man quote; you need to not be an asshole to other people on the planet.

mindy-rolemodelNext time you feel the need to pay a visit to a feminist or gender-neutral network, pause and think again. Perhaps your story would be better off on your own personal blog or Good Men Project where you don’t look like a typical male figure talking over women. It’s easily recognized these days that there are microaggressions and socially acceptable displays of dominance. Bradley was given that opportunity to take over a site that promised it would maintain its feminist integrity when they merged with a partner site. He was given the soapbox to butt his way in and talk about how wonderful he is. It was an acceptance speech, not a sociopolitical thesis. Perhaps, next time a man thinks that he needs to preach to the choir about how oppressed women are, he’ll pause and take his good intentions to a classroom of young boys who need to hear it and not a feminist network.

On Role Reboot, writer Soraya Chemaly encourages women to stand up for themselves and learn to point out when men are quelling non-male voices. Male readers, consider this another moment in time of me asking men to stop doing this. Stop looking for recognition about how great you are as a feminist or an ally. Stop interrupting the voices on feminist networks so that you can take over and feel good about yourself.

KanyeInterrupting

LINKS:

Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift

New Republic – Women Get Interrupted More

Bitch – Seven Studies that Prove Mansplaining Exists

 

2 comments on “The Tale of Two Male Feminists or Feminist “Allies””

  1. I’m an Indiana Author and have attended MWW.

    I totally disagree with you about Chuck’s decision. It was very much self-aggrandizing.
    He didn’t even give the conference 24 hours to respond to his concerns.
    The planning committee for MWW itself is incredibly divers. Several LBQT authors who are involved with MWW, those directly impacted by the Indiana RFRA, asked him not to pull out, to attend and support marginalized voices within the state.

    The twitter exchange that night was very interesting. And he said he knew pulling out would hurt the conference and he didn’t care.

    The real reason I think he picked MWW was because of its size. Sure he lost his (very small) paycheck, but the attendance was equally small. Around 250 people. He still plans to attend GenCon. While Gencon has made a VERY strong statement, that doesn’t mean the HOTELS, RESTAURANTS, AIRLINES, or even the VENDORS attending have done the same. If he really wanted to be an Ally, he would have picked the bigger venue to make a statement.

    As it stand, he’s gotten ton of press (100x more press than he would have received had he attended), so his mission is accomplished. He’s on record for being on “the right side of the law” and he really didn’t give up much to do it.

    • Hey, Gina! Thanks for that additional info. I honestly didn’t realize Chuck was going to GenCon. I still base my opinion on how and where the posts were written. I think the Bradley piece was misplaced on TMS website and comes off arrogant. Chuck is a whirlwind and does so much blogging that it’s easy to think he’s begging for attention; but as another person who owns a website and blogs, hey, don’t we all? I think his piece was better written though his style and vernacular are not for everyone. If Bradley’s piece had been on his own personal website, I may feel differently about him, but I honestly do see him as trying to shush female voices and take over their space. I completely 100% agree with you that Chuck should have waited but there’s a possibility that contracts, dates, etc. were making him make that decision so quickly. As we even see now, the legislation is in process of being amended so maybe (*hopefully*) the entire RFRA debacle will no longer be an issue for our LGBTQ community. That addresses Chuck’s post in particular and isn’t a factor in Bradley’s subject matter, which was himself.

      I know hotels and travel industries should consider themselves in the direct line of fire. Every single year, I hear about people boycotting Hyatt at Dragon*Con and San Diego Comic Con because someone on their board contributes to anti-LGBTQ organizations and lobbyists. It’s so important that consumers are aware of these things because it does impact how some people are willing to spend their money. It’s also why fans tried to get Adam Baldwin removed as a guest from a convention because he is the celebrity figurehead of GamerGate and those who stand up for women in gaming don’t want him honored in the same space. But there’s probably a bunch of pop culture unaware of that too. Thanks for helping spread the knowledge!

      Amber

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