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View Diary: How to be a Male Ally (59 comments)

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  •  It's probably easier just not to be an "ally". (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pico, Matthias, RamblinDave

    While my beliefs tend to be in line with many moderate feminists, I don't consider myself one, because I'm not a woman and I've never taken part in any specifically feminist political activism, so I don't share the experience.

    That being said, as an outsider looking in, I see a lot of "allies" (as they're called) being subjected to heavy scrutiny and criticism.  It's also clear around the internets that a lot of people have a very low opinion of "allies", and I just don't understand why someone would want to subject themselves to that.

    This shouldn't be read to question feminism as a cause.  It's clearly accomplished a lot and it pushes things in the right direction.  I just think that if someone wants to join a political cause, they can probably do better (both for themselves and for everyone else) if they pick a place where they're welcome and have something to contribute.

    •  I want to make sure (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pico, churchylafemme, CroneWit

      I am understanding what you are saying. People should not try to become allies of a particular cause, let's say feminism, when they do not share the experience or gender because they might be subject to critique? So as a white straight woman, I should not try to be an ally with gay men and women, or POC because they might critique some of my thinking or assumptions? That does not make sense to me because it seems like the logic is that my feelings as a white straight woman trying to be an ally to POC or LGBT communities is more important that whatever goals are set out. Are you saying as a man you do not want to ally yourself with feminism because I might say something that hurts your feelings? We should only break bread in a quest for change with people who are exactly like us?

      •  I rec'd the comment despite some (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        undercovercalico, CroneWit

        disagreement with it, but I took the first part of the comment to be astute (can you claim the label when you don't share the experience?)

        The stuff about "allies", though, gets the core of what the diarist is talking about.  One of the reason there's often hostility to "allies" is that "allies" sometimes aren't listening, and aren't being receptive to what people are saying.  It's not that people are intrinsically unwelcome, and I think lendrick's comment is off-base on that part.

        As for how to remedy that, I'm in agreement with you: there's no reason to avoid other movements because of the fear of being labeled an outsider.  That's what receptivity is all about, and (I hope) it's one of the reasons we consider ourselves progressives.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 03:53:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But I think the comment he made (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pico

          does in fact go to the core of why people do shy away, they want to be welcomed and they view critique as not being welcoming. Hey catch me on a bad day and I can get quite pouty with the notion that I am not being helpful in the way I think I am being. I am absolutely confident of one thing, when I try to present myself as an ally I will probably make a damn fool of myself, I will probably make a comment I think is "innocent" that is in fact offensive to the very people I wish to be providing support to.

          What I wonder is this: is that fear particular to men who do not want to join up with or support feminist causes/ideas that is very specific ( ie fear or annoyance with "female" anger) or it is something that goes beyond feminism to all progressive type movements? I don't know but it is an interesting dilemma. If the requirement to attract allies to always make "nice" to them and not to offer critique then I see what the comment is getting at but in reverse, perhaps energies should be pressed elsewhere except that in order to bring about change it has to be accepted within the mainstream. I do not have the answer.

          •  What is critique, exactly? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AaronInSanDiego
            So you've done this in the context of a diary in which you're telling us what your experiences, but there are no women's voices here: no stories, no sources, no quotes, no links.... Nothing for us to listen to except for your (male) voice.  Right?  
            "You should be either listening or quoting others" isn't critique.  If someone wants to critique what I have to say, by all means, do so.  I might learn something.  

            "Particular men" don't want to join up with the movement (I want to make a distinction between that and supporting feminist causes and ideas, which are generally very good) precisely because of this.  The causes and ideas brought me in; the community drove me back out.

            •  It's just a response to what the diarist wrote: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              undercovercalico

              He said, "We should be listening."  So I asked, okay, who are you listening to?  It's not a rebuke, it's a challenge.

              Some context, because there's been a lot of discussion over this since Hugo Schwyzer's high-profile meltdown.  Meghan Murphy at XOJane wrote a long and scathing piece about male feminism, , Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a comprehensive run-down at Salon, and a lot of other writers, including men like Noah Berlatsky at Slate, have also weighed in.  This topic is really big right now, and there are a lot of questions about the role of men in the feminist movement.  Most people agree that men should (and need to) take a productive role, but the contours of that role disagree.  

              Personally, I side with the diarist: I think it's a good idea for men to actively engage with feminism, but especially as listeners.  Amy McCarthy had a nice piece at PolicyMic that summed this up well:

              If you're a man, you're probably guilty of mansplaining. That doesn't mean that you're a bad person or a bad feminist, just privileged. That privilege isn't erasable and you shouldn't ignore it. You should check it at the door and listen when feminists talk. You don't have to agree with them. You don't have to think that their words are gospel, but you should respect them. [...]

              Feminists are not always right, but neither are you. Mansplaining is a scourge in academia, online activism, and the blogosphere that discourages women from participating in the dialogue. If you consider yourself a true feminist ally, stop doing it. Most importantly, back up women when they call it out.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 05:09:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So... (0+ / 0-)

                What does it accomplish to "engage as a listener"?  Who am I helping when I do that?  Aren't my efforts better focused somewhere that I can participate actively without causing a disruption?

                •  Who says those things are exclusive to each other? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  undercovercalico, churchylafemme

                  Being a better listener doesn't preclude you from being an active participant.  In the case of feminism, it's just a suggestion that you're really not a position of expertise over women, and that requires you to take cues instead of just asserting your ground.  If it's important for you to be able to assert your position over someone, then yeah, you need to find somewhere you're more comfortable.  But I think that's a problem.

                  Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                  by pico on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 05:51:46 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think you followed me. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        undercovercalico
        I am understanding what you are saying. People should not try to become allies of a particular cause, let's say feminism, when they do not share the experience or gender because they might be subject to critique?
        That's certainly an interesting way to reword what I said, so I'll try to clarify, but first I'll quote something from the comment I was replying to:
        So you've done this in the context of a diary in which you're telling us what your experiences, but there are no women's voices here: no stories, no sources, no quotes, no links.... Nothing for us to listen to except for your (male) voice.  Right?
        These aren't the words of someone who feels that OP is making a valid contribution to the discussion.  And quite possibly, as a male, he is not.  It seems to me that his time and energy would better be put toward the myrid of other perfectly legitimate liberal causes that could also use attention.  He wouldn't distract from useful feminist discourse by dragging the discussion off topic as its determined whether his contributions are legitimate in light of his maleness, and he might actually be able to make a useful contribution elsewhere.
        Are you saying as a man you do not want to ally yourself with feminism because I might say something that hurts your feelings?
        I'm going to toss this question back at you.  Why willfully subject yourself to that?  What's the point?  The parent comment wasn't criticizing what OP said, he was attacking the legitimacy of OP's statements, and in all honesty I don't see much point in participating in a group if you're constantly having to deal with that.
        We should only break bread in a quest for change with people who are exactly like us?
        You're reading a lot into what I said.  I just don't want to break bread with people who treat me as a doormat.  I don't see how that necessarily means that I don't care about women or LGBT issues.  It's just been made clear that white men aren't really welcome.  And just to reiterate, I support the cause.  I really do.  I'm just not interested in being a part of it.

        Since we're talking, let me ask you something.  How do you personally feel that white men can contribute to feminism as a movement?

        •  Thanks for the reply..... (0+ / 0-)

          Well, first you are assuming that the comment observing there was a lack of female voices came from a woman. It is possible a man said it. Simply observing that does not suppose the comment in the diary is not valid. It assumes including other voices might have added to it.

          Yes, I would be interested in being an ally to a group that might offer me critique. The only way to learn how your thinking is framed by various positions of power or privilege is to be open to constructive criticism. Would it be an enjoyable experience? No. I am human, I have an ego, I have feelings, I want to think of myself in the best possible way.

          Can you define what you mean by being treated like a doormat? Does somebody disagreeing with you relegate you to doormat status? Explain what that looks like from your perspective. I am interested.

          •  Sure. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            undercovercalico
            Well, first you are assuming that the comment observing there was a lack of female voices came from a woman.
            If you read the comment in question as closely as I did, you will discover that a man did say it.  Check the last sentence.  I just didn't think it was relevant.

            As far as being treated like a doormat, there are two things that come to mind offhand.

            First, what I said in my previous comment.   The statement I referenced is not critique.  It's calling the validity of the article into question because of the person who wrote it, as opposed to the content of the article.   That's not a critique of anything at all.

            Secondly, constant twisting of words, like I'm seeing here.  "I don't care to participate in a community that treats me poorly" becomes "I don't care about women, minorities, and LGBT people."

            I have no problem with criticism.  By all means, criticize what I'm saying.  That's what discussions are about.  My argument hinges on the assertion that questioning the validity of someone's argument just because of their race and gender doesn't constitute critique.  How do you respond to that?

            •  But I am not questioning the validity of (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              churchylafemme

              your argument because you are a man. You said you do not care to join up with movements that treat you like a doormat. How is me exploring that in essence treating you like a doormat? If I for example thought your concerns/ideas were not valid why would I even bother engaging? Nor did I imply that you did not care about a particular group, I did imply that I thought you did not want to say join up with active feminist groups  (or others ) for example because your did not want to be judged or critiqued. I think that is an important thing to explore because it might be at the heart of why sympathetic people hang back form active participation in many social justic movements. I think men can be feminists but I think they have to arrive at that piont on their own, I cannot force, or persuade.

              I am a white person, how valid would it be if I wrote about racism without including the voices of POC in my diary. I could certainly write about what I have observed as a white person, but I am not a POC and therefore cannot really imagine that experience. I cannot feel that experience and I cannot suffer direct damage as a result. I can empathize, or attempt to. So, that is where the critique of not including women's voices came from.

              I am still missing the doormat part.

              •  The root of the problem... (0+ / 0-)
                But I am not questioning the validity of your argument because you are a man. You said you do not care to join up with movements that treat you like a doormat. How is me exploring that in essence treating you like a doormat?  Nor did I imply that you did not care about a particular group, I did imply that I thought you did not want to say join up with active feminist groups  (or others ) for example because your did not want to be judged or critiqued.   I think that is an important thing to explore because it might be at the heart of why sympathetic people hang back form active participation in many social justic movements.
                You're hitting on the root of the problem here.  I'm about to unload on you, so I apologize in advance.  Just to avoid being a complete hypocrite, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: I am referring here to one segment of the community, not the community as a whole (nor you personally).  But it's not necessary for the entire community to be made up of bad apples in order to make it unpalatable to people who might otherwise be interested.

                I tried to take part, I really did.  I listened, I read, I empathized, I understood.  There isn't much about the plight of women, minorities, and the LGBT community that you could say to me that I would find at all surprising.  It just gets frustrating and tiresome having there be an entire segment of the community that feels that it's okay to make sweeping generalizations about white men (or straight men, or straight people, or white people, or cisgendered people, or whatever), and never be challenged on it.  I get sick and tired and frustrated of trying to argue in favor of feminist views and having tons of extra time to distance myself from all the hateful filth that comes out of the fringes.

                The first time I head the word "cis", it was between the words "die" and "scum".  That's the way most people hear it first, and in all honesty I have better things to do than waste my time trying to get people to actually consider a viewpoint when a hateful radical fringe is working so hard to push people away and making horrible first impressions, which are particularly hard to wipe clean.

                Criticizing the words of the radical fringe?  Say that what they're doing makes what you're trying to do vastly more difficult?  That's taboo.  An as a white man, that must mean that I don't empathize with them.

                I do, though.  I get why people are angry.  I'd be angry too in their position, and to the extent that I'm able to understand it from my own position of privilege, I am angry on their behalf.  I'm just tired of exposing myself to those people who think it's okay to spew their hate and filth and bile on anyone and everyone who happens to have the same skin color and equipment as the people who have mistreated them in the past.  I'm done.  I'm just not interested.  

                It's depressing.  Why do it?  What's my role?  What do I accomplish by subjecting myself to it?  Who have I benefited?  Not me.  Not anyone else, as far as I can tell.  I lack useful experience and my ideas aren't needed.  I have real expertise in other fields.  Does the fact that I agree with feminist ideas mean that I have a duty to participate in feminist activism over any other kind of activism?  Or would it be okay if I try to take a stand and fight the good fight on my own, with my pride intact?

                To your credit, you seem very nice.  You personally aren't treating me like a doormat, but then I never claimed that you were.  It's not the entire movement that's like this, but it doesn't need to be.  Just understand that you're speaking with a person who has already experienced the whole thing.  I'm not talking out of my ass.  While my negative experience hasn't changed my views on feminist ideas in any way, it's cemented my opinion that I'd be both more helpful and more satisfied elsewhere.

                •  Well..... (0+ / 0-)

                  there is plenty in various feminist groups I disagree with and I am not sure I agree with who gets chosen as a spokesperson and why.

                  I don't believe in beating a dead horse, you gave an explanation. It creates some interesting parallels that are piontless to expand on. Hopefully, you are putting that expertise in other areas to good use.

              •  Something I want to add, since I can't edit... (0+ / 0-)

                Someone said this to me in another comment thread here:

                If it's important for you to be able to assert your position over someone, then yeah, you need to find somewhere you're more comfortable.  But I think that's a problem.
                How am I supposed to take that?  Look closely at the above paragraph and consider the obvious implications.  What do you suppose that this person who knows me only from the few paragraphs that I've already typed thinks of me?  Do you see why I find this shit depressing?  Can't I have motives that are good?  Or does it all have to be about asserting my dominance or whatever other things men have apparently been socially conditioned to do?

                I'm just so damn tired of it.  And yes -- by the way -- it is hurtful, not that it's going to ruin my day.  But here I am being reminded of precisely why I no longer want to be around these people.

        •  Oh, hey... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          churchylafemme, undercovercalico
          These aren't the words of someone who feels that OP is making a valid contribution to the discussion.
          Nah, you don't get to put words into my mouth.  Sorry.  You seem to have a problem with this, and that may be why you feel like certain movements are "hostile" to you.  

          If I didn't think the OP was making valid points I wouldn't have bothered to respond.  I think the OP was making valid points that are somewhat complicated by the form he chose to make them in.  That's a far cry from "attacking [his] legitimacy"; it's asking about questions of privilege and how they relate to the discussion.

          If I can't ask those questions because you feel uncomfortable, well... that's on you.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 11:39:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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