I’m a feminist!
*nearby girl rolls eyes* "No, you’re not – you’re a guy."
Yes, folks, this is exactly the problem that we tend to face by having this discussion. And it kinda puts me off all feminist thought at times when it happens – the idea that men automatically disagree with every note that feminism has ever played.
But I took the class. No, really – Introduction to Women’s Studies. I got it, I agree with (most of) it. I dabble in a bit of activist work – whatever comes my way, a few odd jobs here and there, but times have been hard for us all. I get it.
Don’t I? Surely the Y chromosome hasn’t tampered with that process.
But it does stem from two things. Sadly, one of them is in fact that pesky genetic makeup of mine – I’ve been allegedly born with the Golden Spoon of Patriarchy in my mouth. And that’s cool – I prefer to eat with a plastic one, so I don’t care. But it doesn’t help the dialogue if we’re always already having it with the presumption that I am an opponent in a debate that needs to be proven wrong.
The other is because I am constantly entertaining the open-minded possibility that just because Lazarus is being terribly marginalized doesn’t mean the Rich Man doesn’t have issues with both his riches and being called rich.
I would like to call this trying to see the big picture. Many feminists would tell me that this is really privilege in disguise.
I am anti-rape, anti-rape culture, anti-stereotyping, pro-sex, pro-sex ed., pro-gay. I am also pro-porn, believe that men are being sexualized in the media as well as being vilified by media watchdogs, consider ‘stud’ an insult, and would rather my girlfriend and I buy KFC on a nightly basis than any of us be stuck with kitchen duty. I have a lot of ideas that, if feminism itself were a living thing, would probably be considered anti-feminist to a fault. We’d fall out and have shouting matches in my backyard every so often. I’d probably get slapped. Maybe a steel-toed kick in a bad place.
Because I’m a guy – I’m expected to not get it. But I do, and it is because I do that I think the issue is not accepting things as givens by rote memorization because the books said something, but actively processing every instance of not only these but any injustice, on a case-by-case basis, and evaluating it as such.
Because the courts in Trinidad, and surely the rest of the world, see a lot of situations where the female is the victim and do nothing – and I get it – but when a man is considered unfit for custody of his child simply because he is dark-skinned and well-built and his child is a girl, we have a new issue that has to be rectified differently.
And I know that this is a personal experience that maybe only I and a few select young men on my island have, but it seems like women are fond of playing the patriarchy card when a man has a view that seems to deviate from their train of thought. Invoking privilege does not make a point wrong by default. And I can take being wrong – if there’s anything I can concede being, it’s ignorant. That is why I think, and engage in dialogue, and participate in activism of any kind: to learn, and know, and do something about that knowledge, including expand it.
And that expanding knowledge means a lot of things. Like just because I’m pro-choice doesn’t mean I’d prefer women to discard foetuses for (in my view) whimsical reasons like being able and unwilling to handle the responsibility. Like how art’s artistic merit should not rely on the negative portrayals of any one sort of character, or else we’d make utopian movies. Like viewing a girl as a potential rape victim on the basis of clothing and viewing a guy as a potential violator on the basis of skin colour are the same thought process – arbitrary, prejudicial, ignorant, offensive, biased, discriminatory, I read a dictionary from cover to cover at 12, so don’t tempt me to continue. And it’s okay to disagree with me on that. Sometimes I disagree with me, but that’s just as much about self-discovery, dialogue and continual learning as it is about feeling bad.
Because I said I was a feminist, and people are telling me I’m not.
Perhaps I went in circles. Perhaps people still see me as a griping privileged black man who knows nothing of the feminist struggle and is trying to undermine it. I swear I’m not. I am a feminist.
Once a woman gave a definition for feminism that she found online: a feminist is a woman who doesn’t want to be treated like crap.
Not only is that incomplete – a feminist is a person who wants no woman to be treated like crap – but it sets a valid precedent for all social justice. Do not treat people, or any living thing, or even the entire frickin’ biosphere like crap. No one deserves it.
Do I believe that men are being treated like crap sometimes?
I trust that does not revoke my feminist license.