I'll Do It

Recently, I wrote a post about one of the ways I think men are damaged by sexism and misogyny. I was surprised at the number of feminist women (I think they were all women, but I may be wrong about that) who assumed that I was somehow asking them to take responsibility for the healing of this damage, or that I had somehow implied that this damage was the fault of feminism. I read and reread my post to see if/where I might have even slightly intimated such a thing, and I honestly couldn't find it.

I understand feminist women's anger at the patriarchal system, and at men (and women) who participate in sexism and misogyny. I understand their fatigue and impatience in the seemingly glacial movement toward change (teaspoon by teaspoon), and I understand why they feel like they're the only ones doing anything about it.

I understand it because I've been there, with my own anger, and fatigue, and impatience, and loneliness, and feelings of futility.

At one point in my life, I lived on lesbian separatist land for three years -- land where men were literally not allowed to set foot on the property without the full advance consensus of every woman living there -- because I needed a complete respite from the rigors of life as a woman in patriarchal society (or as much of a respite as I could possibly get). I believe that this retreat into women-only space was also a very necessary part of my healing process as a survivor of severe abuse.

I don't want any woman whose level of exhaustion with (or simple personal choice not to engage in) the "education of men about feminism" to engage in that activity.

I fully agree that it's not any woman's responsibility to educate men (or even other women) about sexism and misogyny, just as it's not a person of color's responsibility to educate white people about racism.

But . . . I'll do it.

I'll do it, not because it's my responsibility, but because it's my choice.

I'll do it because I believe that no human being is "born" sexist, misogynist, racist, classist, or homophobic. They are born into societies that are sexist, misogynist, racist, classist, and homophobic, and they are systematically trained to accept these systems , even though these systems are not truly natural to them.

I'll do it because I know that I didn't spring full-blown from the brow of the Goddess Diana as a Paragon of Feminism one day. I spent years un-learning a lifetime of conditioning toward self-hatred, self-devaluation, and gender-role entrainment. I had to awaken from the stupor that allowed me to miss subtle (and even grossly overt) misogyny in language and interaction, advertising, and the culture in general.

I'll do it because I realize that I am still doing this -- still unlearning -- still awakening, and I need other people to help give me new eyes and ears to help me see and hear what I've missed because I was born into a culture so saturated with sexism and misogyny that the forest is obscured among the trees.

I'll do it because I know that seeing the problem in the forest is even more difficult when you're not one of the trees that is slated for the saw-mill -- because without the help of friends and associates who are people of color, I would probably not have begun to lift the few teaspoons that I have in examining my own racism and white privilege -- without the help of friends and associates who are transsexual, I would probably not have been able to begin to etch away at the boulder of transphobia that is in me.

I'll do it because it wasn't their responsibility to educate me -- but they did. They bothered with me -- they held me as capable of change -- and I have profound gratitude that they took their time and energy to do so, and that they continue to invest that time and energy to do so -- and if, one day, they choose to stop, and tell me that they are exhausted and need a break from hanging out with my privileged, slow-learning, white/cisgendered ass, I will respect that completely, and my gratitude will not be diminished.

I'll do it, not because I think it's the "right" thing to do, not because I think that men are incapable of getting educated without me, not because anyone "needs" me to do it, or because I think I'll get some "Really Good Person" award (in my head or from someone else) -- in fact, I'll do it even if other people think I'm being a "really bad person" for doing it.

I'll do it because it's the only thing that makes sense to me right now, from my current life perspective and understanding of how things work (or at least, how they have worked for me) -- and I'll do it as long as I think that it's a logical, rational avenue of action -- as long as I see benefit in it, and I don't think of it, or feel it, as a burden.

I'll do it because I want to.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:40 PM  


Christina said... March 10, 2008 at 5:20 AM  

IMO, you didn't say anything like that--that was all a knee-jerk reaction from people who have had this topic shoved on them as their responsibility and they resent it.

It's a shame, really, that they have allowed so much resentment to take hold. It plays so nicely into the anti-feminist "they all hate men" meme.

pidomon said... March 10, 2008 at 7:21 PM  

/give apology in advance if this comment makes no sense/

I'm a 46 year old single male.
I've always thought i was a pretty ok man and person.

But I also know that I am limited in my experiences as a person, a son, a man, a significant other etc.

I am glad you do it

You among many others (commenter number one among them) have done so much to widen my perspectives on so many things.

Not just how men treat women or women treat men.

What I read and try to learn is how people treat people.

And you provide that. Doesn't matter if it is Mr. Deity or a great post like your last 2.

Please know that you are instrumental in my continuing learning process I call my life.

RR said... March 10, 2008 at 8:11 PM  

I'm a woman & a feminist, a gay-rights inspired marriage boycotter who lives with a man and our two sons. I so appreciate the hopefulness and compassion of this post. As a mother, I feel it's my responsibility to raise my sons well and teach them about sexism, racism, homophobia, justice, and compassion. The other day my five-year-old was overwhelmed with sadness about destruction of the rainforests. "We have to take care of the earth," he sobbed. In his sadness, I also hope for the future. Keep doing it. I'm right there with you -- learning, listening, and speaking out.

mouthybitch said... March 10, 2008 at 11:00 PM  

Spreading the love and appreciation your direction. *pulls out four foot butter knife* Hold still.

Aphie said... March 11, 2008 at 2:34 PM  

Portly, I felt more comfortable commenting over here than back at Shakesville - just wanted to add my voice to those saying thankyou, for this and for your attitude generally.
I think the first time I really noticed you in more than passing over at Shakesville was when you very patiently took the time to explain some points in a post to JJohnson... who didn't get it, and didn't get it, and didn't get it... and then finally had the lightbulb ding, thanks to your hashing of the issues with him, when everyone else had written him off as a troll and he was really just clueless and confused.

I think it's very easy to lose sight of individual men's humanity, in seeking to help advance women's rights against the tide of patriarchy. I love that you've managed to keep hold of your compassion, and appreciate your patience, even not directed at me! It's inspirational, so thankyou.
*waves pompoms in your colours*

RR said... March 11, 2008 at 8:33 PM  

I thought of this post again after I read this article in feminist e news -- it talks about how educating Sudanese men about FGM leads to them not wanting it done to women in their life.


It's a difficult, disturbing topic, but the article made me hopeful. Thought you might be interested.

Alix said... March 12, 2008 at 11:06 PM  

Thank you for the post. Both this one and the original are very thoughtful and sensitive to all the different feelings flying around out there. I want to, too, and your words often make that a little easier. Thanks again.

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