Ladies, hold on to your knickers. Things are going to get messy for what follows in a pudding-like consistency is an argument for feminism without women.
Listen. I recognize I’m a male – a white one at that – and anything I say will be a shameful parade of my possibly oppressive, certainly privileged status. I will never understand the plights, the struggles, or the difficulties that riddle women daily. Please understand, though, that I’m not speaking for you or your individual experiences that I can never know. I will not make a blanket statement as if I know you. Instead in this entire piece, I’m speaking for me and speaking to what white, privileged males like myself can do in a culture that has run amok with political correctedness and blatant hypocrisies, and that fosters invisible modes of dominance and false conceptions of normality that are fads on the order of a yo-yo.
Follow me for a second. Far too often has feminism been isolated to one gender, one lifestyle, one personal form of identification: a woman. It is dressed up as a battle about women for women by women. It concerns women’s rights, women’s issues, and women’s equality. Men are not part of this system; they have caused it. They created this mess of a patriarchy. They are the problem. They are the dicks in every sense of the word.
For the most part, this is undeniable. Historical paradigms of oppression can almost always be reduced down to a few rich, white men cat-fighting about anything and everything. Yet I diametrically oppose the thought of separation, whether it is in the processes that led to feminism or those that still fuel it. Such thinking has only led to the shambled together society we find ourselves in now.
More importantly, however, is that restricting feminism to females inadvertently supports the same injustices it is trying to quell. By denying men as some part of the solution, the construction of feminism is alienating one section of the population. In pursuit of equality, it cannot be unequal. Building a basic assumption of feminism does exactly this, and worse yet, it gives men a reason to decry it as poppycock, an issue that is not important to them because it is not about them. Once steadfast and widespread, men no longer question their gender or its dominance, and the inequality spins on and on and on.
But this is wrong. If men are the problem, they are also needed as some of the first steps in a long-form solution. If men have torn the world asunder, they need to be there for the repair. In fact, they, alongside the flurry of hollering and hooting women from all of gender classifications, sexual orientations and racial identifies, need to try to lead the whole damn thing.
This might be sexist for me to say, but to battle sexism, one must first be sexist. It seems silly and arrogant to suggest, but this is an old truth: to defeat the enemy, one must know them first.
Think about feminism’s various strides. Though the irrefutable persistence of women everywhere have propelled and focused the various movements both in mainstream and smaller, local clusters, it is a few men that have helped catalyze the change that millions of women dreamed of. If men are in charge, it often takes them to cause and want the shift in paradigms. Otherwise, the first gear never moves and the whole machine doesn’t run.
I know, I know: the sentence seems like yet another man taking yet another success from women. But it is not, at least not at the the most initial stages of a movement where it takes the prime-movers to ensure sustainable, lasting change.
While this may not ostensibly be the case any longer – women are found in high corporate positions, they can often choose how they are represented in media, they have sometimes empowered their bodies and sexuality – it does not deny the importance of the claim. Allyship is not enough. We all need to fight. We all need to strive for excellence. And by accepting men as possible forces to advocate and facilitate female issues, rather than isolate them as perpetuators, one does not deny the issues importance or trivialize the concerns. In fact, the opposite occurs. Only by working together through education and dialogue can all become better.
When I suggest feminism without women, I am not talking about fe-men-ism or anything like that; I am talking about feminism for the rest of us.
I’m not speaking about the white, educated perspective; that is hogwash that has since served its time. Instead I’m talking about a Polish immigrant house mom working two jobs to feed her twin boys. I am talking about a ninety-year old Nigerian who is trying to buy a gender-neutral toy for her grandchild. I am talking about the four year old who has been told she can’t play with the boys.
But I am also talking about the boys and men everywhere who have woman dear to their lives, who are trying to help carve a way for their force, success, and experiences, and who get out of the way when its needed.
So know that this is not a white, male talking about feminism as though he understands the various, nuanced waves of suffering by millions of people. He never can. He never will.
But he is here to listen and hopefully offer a statement for us all: we cannot allow complacency to sit in. We do not need just women. That is not enough. We need men, children, elders, people of colour, of any orientation, of all faith systems and anything in between, from saints to sinners, politicians to garbage men, me to you. Because more than any one person, we need each other to fight against the world we’ve created by first tearing it apart.
Graphic by Ben Barrett-Forrest / Multimedia Editor