I was recently introduced to the list 101 Everyday Ways for Men to be Allies to Women. This was prompted by my announcement to my younger sister (who is a very intelligent, feminist woman) that I had written a guest post for a “feminist blog”. I was quickly informed that my views were not original or special in any way. This is a perfect demonstration of why many progressive men are not as outspoken about their feminist views as they could be. On the one hand, if we mention our views we are ridiculed for being “whipped” or subservient to women. On the other hand we are marginalized by feminists for “stating the obvious” and for not being feminist enough. To be clear, we are not asking for recognition, however we are asking for affirmation that we are doing the right things. Instead a of reaction “thanks for noticing, now if you could get the rest of you male assholes on board”, maybe it would be more productive to have a reaction of “That’s great! Now, how about thinking about this issue/idea that you may not have thought about before?” It’s amazing to me that feminist women wonder why more men are not allying with women on this issue. What do you expect when we offer support and we are met with negativity and criticism for just being a man?
I don’t want this post to turn into an “angry man rant”; however here are some issues that I have with Michael Urbina’s list. Right off the bat, Urbina suggests: Recognize your privileges, especially your male privilege (and white privilege if applicable). O.K. I get recognizing your male privileges but what the hell does being white have to do with being a male feminist? The message I get from this is “Men, let’s unite and rally around women! Unless you are white, we don’t want you, you are TOO privileged”.
Number nine on the list is: Walk on the other side of the street when a woman is walking towards you at night. I must admit that I have done similar things in the past. For instance, I have significantly slowed down if I was walking behind a woman at night, or I have gotten on the phone so that she can hear my voice and be able to hear how close behind her I am. That’s all well and good but crossing the street just to make a woman feel more comfortable reeks of a guilty conscience. I do have a limit when it comes to how I act when it comes to displaying my social status as a person. While I am at it why don’t I cross the street when any black person or other minority is walking towards me because they might be afraid that I will perpetrate some sort of racial violence?
Next up is: Be Aware How You Flirt with Women. Don’t be a creep. O.K. Check. Here he refers to The Feminist Guide to Non-Creepy Flirting. A quick perusal of this article and I can say that I am board. Mostly. I have issue with some of the author’s statements. The first is not really a statement but a choice of image.
First off… women, if you don’t want to be called a “chick”, don’t call me a “dude”, seriously. You are a woman, I am a man. Pretty simple, right? Secondly, this graphic implies that women are above the rules of common courtesy. I understand that you are working or reading or facing away from me, but just because I am a man and I approach you to speak with you does not mean I am sexually attracted to you or “trying to pick you up”. Has it ever crossed your mind that I might have noticed the book you are reading and wanted to ask you question about it?
Another “rule” on this list is “Don’t take it personally if she gives you the cold shoulder”. Sorry, yeah I am going to take it personally. Man or woman, if you are rude I am going to take it personally. Example: You are riding on the subway and a man approaches you and says “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” Turning up your music and turning your back to him is rude, plain and simple. Maybe he just wanted to ask you the best stop to get off at if he needed to get to location X. If he is approaching just to hit on you then a simple and polite “Thank you, but I am not interested” goes a long way. If he persists, cold shoulder away!
Revisiting the 101 list, at number 96 we see: Respect women’s spaces for dialogues. I understand this and I can appreciate not wanting a male present or his perspective. This goes both ways though. A group of guys may want to talk about male issues that have very little to do with women. If I can respect your space, you can respect mine.
The important thing to remember here is that male/female interaction is a two way street. Respectful dialogue is key. There are those of us (men) who are trying very hard to fight cultural norms and not view women as sexual objects (despite how many of us were conditioned to do so). Cut us some slack and give us a chance to learn and improve ourselves. Not all of us are chauvinist pigs. The next guy you interact with might genuinely be interested in feminist culture or you as a person. Don’t treat him like a dog that’s trying to hump your leg; you might just miss out on a potential ally.