Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Let's try this again...

A few weeks ago, I dashed a short post about men in feminist spaces, specifically men's authority in feminist spaces. I wasn't as clear as I would have liked, but a lot of times I figure out where I stand on certain things by writing about them. I still stand by most of what I said, though: I don't think men should be given positions of authority in the feminist blogosphere. Obviously, there is no formal leadership structure in the feminist blog world, but what it comes down to influence, and those with the most privilege have the most influence.

Grace's piece for Global Comment does a really good job breaking down the latest example of a man  privileged on pretty much every axis given a position of authority within the feminist blogosphere (and the aftermath after some disturbing information about his past became known):
A man of color with years of illegal drug use and the attempted murder of a woman on his record would quite possibly be in jail, and certainly not as feted as Schwyzer is by certain white feminists. It’s further doubtful that, say, a black man could have his status as feminist ally defended while blaming an ex for making him an “accidental rapist,” soft-pedaling his predatory behavior towards female students, or writing that cisgender men are aroused by ejaculating on women’s faces because it makes them feel their penises are “clean.” Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine even a man of color with no history of abusing women attaining the status Schwyzer has in feminist spaces, given that the male allies recognized and promoted in mainstream feminist outlets are overwhelmingly white.
I haven't said much about Hugo. There isn't much I can add -- aside outright condemnation -- that hasn't already been said and better than I ever could. Granted, his is an extreme example, but one positive that came from it was the questioning of men's roles in feminist spaces.

The truth? When men call themselves feminists, my suspicious are automatically raised. A lot of times "I'm a feminist" is shorthand for "I'm not an asshole." Not being an asshole should be the default and not something you get a cookie for. It's okay to ask, "Really, what have you done for women lately?"


  1. Full disclosure: before reading this post I never heard of this cat, I don't know whether he is misunderstood, or the devil, himself. What touches a chord with me is the neverending difficulty of being an advocate, to any degree, for a group of which you are not a part. I'm a white heterosexual male who wears a suit to work more days than not. It is a fact that these superficial characteristics afford me unearned respect among many people. It's also a fact that they create false presumptions, some of which make me very uncomfortable. I've participated in rallies and causes for civil rights, mostly for gays and african americans, but always mildly, always in the background. I never do so without the intense self-conscious knowledge that I can't completely speak for these folks, because I'm not one of them, and truthfully, I'm afraid of backlash, from the very people I came to support. Is this unfortunate, or is it as it should be? I honestly don't know. The only guage of whether somone is truly down with the cause, is to skip the high academic jargon, and talk specifics. Am I a feminist? Probably not. I am a child of a single mother who had frightening and/or degrading experiences with some men. I am married to a smart strong woman who's a lawyer and is regularly treated with condescension by certain men, solely because she's female. These aren't academic issues to me. They're personal. I mean as in, "I will fight you," personal. I agree that it is right to ask, "What have you really done for women?," to separate allies from posers. I think a second question might be, "Why is your heart in this?"

  2. I think this is the common thread among most allies: how can I participate, make a difference, and still acknowledge that I still represent the things I'm fighting against. Sometimes you can't and have to accept that it's best to step back.