I have been reading through The Takeback and really liking a lot of what I read. In response to Iris Llevar’s post, Editing Out Violent Masculinity, Jim made a comment that I think is worth discussing, both because of his resistance to the word “feminism”–which I don’t really agree with, but which is a lot more nuanced than much of the resistance to the term I have heard from other men–and because of what he says about framing men’s confrontation with our own privilege. I am quoting the comment in full, but it’s also worth going to read Llevar’s post.
As a guy, I try to appreciate it when someone points out my “male blindness,” even if it’s sometimes hard to hear. Although I used to identify as a feminist, I’ve started to feel like there’s some problems with that label. I think a lot of issues, like domestic violence, are both women’s and men’s issues, and “feminism” kind of makes it seem like it’s about the women alone. Part of the reason it’s hard to hear about “male blindness,” as a man is because it can force one to accept that a) they have been living a privileged life, b) they may no longer be able to enjoy those privileges guilt-free, and c) they have to figure out a new way to be. That all can be tough. I don’t want to equate that effort with the struggle of women in abusive relationships in any way, but I think that there needs to be a way to frame and reinforce the journey from misogynist to better male. If a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she’s a hero. If a guy stops being abusive, it’s good, but there’s no neat cultural narrative to describe that and normalize that. This is a problem I think, and it’s a problem among men, and there’s a part of this that’s an issue among men only. I just feel like the term “feminist” has a lot of baggage associated with it, and while I admire and respect many feminist thinkers, I don’t know if that label really captures the collaboration between men and women on making work and love the way I want it to be.