A couple of decades ago, when I was part of an activist’s listserv, I heard a compelling argument for keeping feminism by, for and about women, and using a different name, pro-feminist, for male allies. Because feminism’s effects — all those repercussions, all the outrage and the consequences and the benefits, alike — accrue to females only, feminism is a word for female activists. I don’t recall which radical woman staked the territory, but the fallout was dramatic.
Draw the hard line, and men, who will NOT be denied their entitlement, their access to naming, their right of defining, fight fiercely for this no-woman’s land. They will demand, badger, cajole; they will rally other women’s support — either in the group itself or among personal acquaintances; they will challenge the credentials of any woman who blocks their easy access to this simple word. Since the first battle I witnessed, I have understood that limiting ‘feminist’ to females is an excellent way to determine whether a man can be an ally — that is, can he assist without insistence on leading, on controlling, on having his way and on access to everything important? Remember, we are talking about the fight against female oppression — where the repercussions aren’t going to impact him directly, where the oppression is not his. In fact, feminism exists because he and others like him are privileged, are over-valued within the sex duality.
Men who can act credibly as allies are far more likely to accept limitations on their name access. Men who are asked nicely to cease, and yet push on, demand their presumed due, insist that they will have what they want against a woman’s expressed discomfort … honestly there are names for men who refuse to take No for an answer. The simple one is ‘bully.’ It’s not the only one.
[Read more: forestgreenfeminism]
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