About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (sort of a bad wordplay on Orwell and machismo) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear language'), the umbrella of several of my literary projects in Dutch. This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why I am a feminist ally

This is a response to a tumblr entry on how male allies to feminism can be a burden, too, but you can also read it as a stand-alone post.

Ah, that Question

Most male allies to feminism will get the Question once in a while: why? Feminism is for women, isn't it? It's a weird question, really. Do you ask someone who supports socialist policies whether they are working class enough? Do you ask an environmentalist whether they are a tree?

Most of the time, it doesn't come packaged as the Question, but an offhand remark on how peculiar it is to dedicate time and resources to support feminism as a man. Some think it's a devious plot to get into women's pants (which betrays more about their own thinking than about mine), others think it's some sort of misled cry for attention, and for MRAs, it's nothing less than cutting off my own nuts. That's all rubbish, of course.

Outsourcing emotion

Now, the tumblr post to which I'm responding touches upon the fact that some well-intentioned men will try to 'outsource' their emotional confusion about patriarchy and sexism and turn to women to make sense of it all for them. I agree that can be taxing.

Some men really do this, and some women do it too: dropping a bomb of personal history tangentially related to the discussion and leave it to the others to make sense of it. I am also not anyone's therapist, so I agree with the sentiment that allies and feminists alike are better allies and feminists if they can start to figure out their own emotional issues, too.

At the core

The tumblr entry further states that male allies should find something in feminism for themselves to fight for. Something that they, themselves experience as shitty situations in the context of patriarchy that affect them, and use that as an emotional core to get inspired. In other words, men needn't squire for feminist knights, trying to get a grasp on situations that don't directly affect them.

I don't agree with that. I also don't see how that would be linked to some who try to lean on feminism as an emotional support group. The ill effects of patriarchy on my life are minor because I - externally - fit the template of the white, straight, able-bodied male in the prime of his life (privilege with a tasty side-dish of privilege!). I'll get the occasional stupid remark about appreciating art and poetry or talking frankly about experiencing emotion, but that's it.

A strange animal called empathy

The reason why I support any emancipatory movement is really simple: it's because I'm deeply convinced everyone is deserving of a fair chance in life. Empathy with people who suffer under oppression is not an emotion that confuses me or that I need personal guidance for. Of course, I'm only speaking for myself here, but I truly don't see why having empathy would confound someone.

In addition, if it's genuine empathy, it's not that hard to deduce the right course of action from it in who and what you choose to support. The reason why I focus more on feminism than, say, socialism is because I feel my contributions can be stronger in the former field. I don't need to fight for a personal victory against patriarchy, or something that will benefit me as an individual - turning my privilege into a useful tool to convince other men of the necessity of feminism is more than good enough. And yes, that often means taking a backseat to women's voices. I don't mind that at all.