Male Feminists’ job description, includes calling out other males, actively boycotting sexist behaviour (the use of sexist words, etc.), calling out institutional sexism, standing up for womxn who are being victimised by sexism in front of them provided those womxn actually want their help, and of course, to maintain intersectionality in their feminist activism at all times.
It’s very possible that I’ve left some stuff out given the complex nature of intersectional feminism, but the point I’m trying to make about the job description is not what’s on the list but rather what’s not on the list. This article aims to look deeply into that:
- It is not a male feminist’s place to call out womxn for internalised sexism, and in cases where such a call out is appropriate, it should be handled very carefully.
What people, especially males, forget, is that sexism is not an abstract concept that needs to be addressed for womxn. Womxn are in a relationship with patriarchy and patriarchy has abused them since the beginning of society. Patriarchy has told them to cover up, womxn are told not to indulge in sex, they’re told that other womxn are their competition, they’re told that they’re incapable of doing things themselves, and so much more. So it’s not surprising that so many womxn tell other womxn they were “asking for it” because of their revealing clothes, it’s not surprising when it’s womxn who label other womxn “sluts” for sleeping around, it’s not surprising when womxn put each other down, and it’s not surprising when womxn believe that they and other womxn cannot do certain things. But you could say the same thing about men right? That they’re also told all these things and thus internalise them? No.
When a man internalises what patriarchy tells him about who he is and who a womxn is in relation to him, he is choosing to accept it because it benefits him. When a womxn internalises what patriarchy tells her, she is choosing to accept it not only because it has been so forcefully imposed on her but because to not accept it would be to accept a life of constant fighting and conflict and to acknowledge the violent reality that she is required to live in.
By no means am I saying that womxn are blameless in patriarchy, I am simply saying that a man does not have the right to reject something that benefits him and then call out a womxn for not rejecting that same thing and accepting the violence that exists for her, just because of her gender. A womxn, however, whose victimisation is being perpetuated because of another womxn’s internalised sexism, does have that right.
So, dear male feminists, if there is a womxn who should be called out for her sexism, let another womxn deal with it and support her if she asks for it. Not only are womxn perfectly capable of doing so themselves but the idea that only you are capable of identifying that sexism and expressing it is actually just another lie that patriarchy has told you and makes you just, if not more, as guilty of sexism as the womxn you have a problem with.
- Male feminists are not entitled to education from their female feminist friends but are also obligated to listen up when womxn decide to educate them and call them out.
I’ve often had my male friends engage with me on different dynamics of feminism, who have, at times, ignored my wishes not to have the conversation, or gotten upset with me for getting angry with them for doing something I considered sexist or not their place. The response I often get is, “come on, you know me, you know that’s not what I meant”. As if male privilege doesn’t get them enough, they also want the benefit of the doubt in their activism because they consider themselves feminists.
When men feel entitled to education from womxn on their feminism, they feel entitled to asking womxn to relive their abuse, to analyse their victimisation, to automatically excuse the male they’re talking to for his role in that abuse and victimisation, to maintain objectivity and to proceed to inform him of her conclusions. So basically this male ‘feminist’ is asking a womxn to prioritise his education over her feelings and putting his needs first, you know, kind of like, the whole structure of patriarchy.
However, this does not absolve men of their responsibility to listen to womxn who call out or correct their feminism. As we’ve already established, womxn are capable of internalising patriarchy and are also capable of forgetting what feminism is supposed to do for men too, so obviously not every womxn’s feminism is perfect either. But seeing as feminism is a movement for womxn, their voices get priority.
So dear male feminists,
Change your feminism at the drop of a word from any womxn? No. Listen to every drop of a word from any womxn and consider what they’re saying? Yes. Feminism is supposed to uplift and liberate those who have been oppressed, so if your feminism is making a womxn feel uncomfortable or attacked then it’s not feminism.
In other words, dear male feminists,
Do not doubt how big and powerful patriarchy is, its ability to intercept feminism and make feminism one of its tools must be recognized. The oppression of womxn is not your playground, it’s our playground that we’ve had to fight to survive in, so if you want to play, learn the rules we make, and obey them.
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