What Should a 20-year-old Proto-Feminist Guy Be Reading?
In the midst of a vigorous discussion on my last post, reader Deatkin expressed his frustrations as to how he might engage in a positive manner in a discussion of feminist issues. In this case, it was not the hairy-legged man-hating feminazi Zuska who was intimidating; it was Comrade Physioprof.
Now, I’m perfectly willing to accept that the problem lies with me on this… In sum, I may simply be too immature (I’m 20 and a mere undergraduate) to think broadly and imaginatively enough on feminist issues in order for me to reach a conclusion that somebody such as [Comrade Physioprof] would find satisfactory… But instead of attributing comments that you perceive as off-base to some insidious, malignant strain of male paternalism, isn’t it more likely that the person is someone like me, genuinely troubled by all the ways in which women are inhibited and made uncomfortable by men in society, but uncertain as to what attitudes we could hold that women would appreciate? Isn’t it possible that people like me are actually afraid that self-described male champions of feminism such as yourself will ridicule our attempts to communicate solidarity with feminism and embarrass us in front of the women we are trying to support? That’s definitely the case for me.I feel that most men (in my age group, at least) want to support women’s issues, and maybe it is our fault if we support them inappropriately, but it is definitely your fault if we persist in our ways because you mocked rather than enlightened us. I would appreciate, but am certainly not demanding, a comment, detailing some of the ways in which you explicitly and constructively promote feminism in general and women in academia in particular, and providing some sort of template from which a male such as myself could go about doing the same.
I will not go so far as to agree with Deatkin that it is CPP’s fault (or anyone else’s fault) if he “persists in his ways” because of mocking or anything else. If one is committed to social justice and equity, then one must proceed down that path no matter what obstacles, mocking included, one runs into. Getting your feelings hurt is not sufficient cause to stop educating yourself about how to be a better human being.
But I do think we can make the effort to lend a brother a hand now and then, no? Pass along some good advice, point them to sources of information. I’m not suggesting we baby them and spoon feed them every bit of information they need to have. Just sayin’, I didn’t come to my gloriously enlightened feminist state all on my own. I had teachers. I took classes. I had books. I had a biweekly reading group of fab feminist babes who pushed me to think.
So, Deatkin, here are Zuska’s Guidelines For Dudely Proto-Feminist Development:
- Get thee to a bookstore. Or online to Amazon, and purchase for thyself a copy of Allan Johnson’s The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. You may also wish to read his Privilege Power and Difference. Mr. Johnson explains to d00ds how being a feminist man does not make your balls shrivel and penis drop off. He explains how patriarchy is actually bad for men, too. I think it’s good for men to hear another man talking about these issues.
- Taketh thee an introductory women’s studies course. And while in said course, try to listen more than speak. When speaking, try to ask questions to clarify points and learn more, rather than to pontificate and explain things to the ladies. If you behave in this manner, you may find that the ladies will occasionally ask you for your perspective. Even if they don’t, you will learn a hell of a lot just by listening and reading. I’m not just talking pie in the sky theory, either. You may learn, for example, as one young man I know did, about the existence of the clitoris and its central role in the female orgasm. Women’s studies classes are life-changers, I’m tellin’ ya.
- Read thou freely and often amongst the feminist blogs. You will want to read the women-and-science blogs, of course, if you are a scientist (see here and here for a comprehensive list of links) but you will also want to read others. Bitch, PhD is a good one. Feministe (and anything on their fabulous blogroll), Shakesville, and, let us not forget, Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog. Read Echidne’s Feminism Series.
This should give you a good start. Try to remember that it’s more or less a lifelong process, this un-learning of the prejudices and stereotypes we breathe in daily, that our brains have bathed in since birth. It’s a little like gardening. You work the soil, you put in the best-looking plants you can get your hands on, but it’s all going to go to hell if you don’t water and weed regularly. It’s so very easy to fall back into old stereotypes; gender schemas aren’t obvious unless you are on the lookout for them. (And check out these tutorials on gender schemas.)
Readers, I ask you: what other resources would you recommend to a 20-year-old proto-feminist d00d? What have you read that was helpful in developing your own feminist viewpoints? Dudes, how did your own feminist journey begin? Leave your stories in the comments, please!