Malcolm X is sort of one of my guiding heroes. He has been since I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in my teenage years. Stuff like that tends to affect you in those years.
He was really hardline about white people staying out of the fight for civil rights for people of color during his Black Muslim years. He told them that what they could do, if they wanted to help, is sit down and not get in the way.
He changed that stance after he left the Black Muslims after making his pilgrimage to Mecca. He still wasn’t sure how to effectively incorporate white people in the fight, but he said it was one of his biggest regrets that he had shut white people out.
I think about this a lot with regards to men in feminism.
I agree that the first thing an ally must do is listen. But I’m not sure what action is next after that. This isn’t a rebuttal, by the way. Just a pause. I’m genuinely lost here.
I feel like… like sometimes this part of the movement.. this part where we shout for only women’s voices to be heard… that sometimes it’s really damaging. I mean, that’s part of what has happened to Michfest (and I’m not going to argue about Michfest here, a google search about Michfest should inform you of the issues).
Some of the best voices for Feminism I know have been male. Some of the most damaging and violent, female. Some of the worst voices I know have been male, some of the best, female. It’s such a mixed bag.
I know we can all agree that shutting down female voices for male voices to speak up for women is nonsensical at best. I know we can all agree that Feminism is about empowering all humans.
I know that many of us agree that Feminism has done a poor job of representing, and creating a safe space for, women of color. I know that many of us agree that Feminism has done a poor job of representing, and creating a safe space for, trans women.
I know that this whole thing is nuanced and treacherous waters abound as far as the eye can see. If white cis women do such a generally poor job of making a movement that is inclusive and safe for women of color and trans women, mostly because their own experience is not that experience then why do we think that men are going to do such a bang up job of speaking up?
Let’s maybe internalize that, too. If you’re not feeling it when male voices speak up and over female voices in regards to Feminism? Then maybe that feeling you have is some of why women of color and trans women often feel disenfranchised by mainstream white, cis, Feminism. Even when it claims to be inclusive of them.
I don’t know a solution to all of this that leads me to where one of my personal heroes told me I need to go. If you think you do, speak up. Because, I tell you, when we’ve gotten to the point where protecting male voices speaking for Feminism is creating an atmosphere of violence for women speaking for Feminism? Things are going wrong.
This was written as a direct response to Parentwin’s excellent write up of the PolicyMic “#AllMenCan project.