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.
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.
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.
Next 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.
New Republic – Women Get Interrupted More