The trouble with male allies

As I’ve said before, when it comes to men being feminist allies, “show, don’t tell.”

Now, more than ever before, feminists should be skeptical of men who claim the title of “feminist” or “feminist ally.” We’ve learned a number of things (one would hope) from the Hugo Schwyzer debacle — one of those things being that we should be skeptical of any man who claims to be an authority on feminism (particularly when these men have a history of abuse, but in general as well).

In an interview with activist and writer, John Stoltenberg, published here at Feminist Current this week, he responds to the question of where “pro-feminist men” fit into our movement with this:

“First of all I don’t think any man of conscience—whether self-identified as pro-feminist or not—can or should presume to speak in women’s place or ‘decide what feminism should be about.’ That’s just a baseline principle.”

You would think this would be fairly obvious. But it’s clear, based on the behaviour of many self-described “feminist allies” or “pro-feminist men,” that they are not respecting this foundational principle.

I, of course, see this often as men try to comment here on this site by authoritatively stating “AS A FEMINIST______,” demanding that we lend him more credibility in these discussions because he self-identifies as an ally. These men tend to be become quickly irate when you tell them that their opinion on feminism or what is wrong with feminist ideology isn’t of much concern. This behaviour, quite quickly, outs them as not an ally at all, despite their frustrated insistence.

This past week I’ve had some decidedly off-putting encounters with self-described “allies,” due specifically to discussions around Hugo Schwyzer. Some men joined in on efforts to harass and bully feminists online who they felt hadn’t responded correctly to the Schwyzer issue/incidents, criticizing them for having been duped by a manipulative sociopath. While certainly people, feminists too, should be held to account for their actions and many have admitted and apologized for their failure to condemn Schwyzer sooner, it is not men’s place to demand accountability from feminists. It is their place to demand accountability from other men.

A particularly frustrating example of this came from an interaction with a man who has been covering the various abuses and decidedly unfeminist behaviours of Schwzyer over the past year or so. I’m not angry he’s covering this, at all — in fact, as a man, what he is doing is trying to hold another man accountable for his actions. If he left it at that, it would be perfectly fine.

The problem, for me, comes when those efforts lean too closely towards righteousness and become authoritative or directive. I appreciate men doing the work of holding other men to account — I do not appreciate men telling feminists how they are failing at doing feminism.

I suggested, in response, that “perhaps as someone who self-describes as ‘ally’ it isn’t your job to decide what feminists are doing ‘wrong,'” but the comment was ignored. Which is fine. It’s Twitter. We can’t expect or demand people engage with us on a such an unproductive (in terms of having full, thoughtful discussions — I’m sorry but 140 characters simply doesn’t allow for it, for the most part) and at times overwhelming medium.

I know many men who truly are allies to the feminist movement. But they don’t refer to themselves as such. Simply, it’s obvious based on their behaviour, work, and their interactions with feminists and the movement. They don’t pat themselves on the backs for being allies, nor do they admonish feminists for “not doing enough” or simply because they don’t agree with their various ideologies.

In the midst of finger-pointing (of which, I have to say, there has been a lot of with regard to the Schwyzer issue), when it comes to male “allies,” (and, I would argue, feminists as well) the finger should be pointed squarely at the perpetrator. But also, for men in feminism, a great deal of the work involves looking at their own behaviours, as men, and the ways they roam the world, equipped with male privilege. My friend (and feminist ally) Reece said to me recently that what he’d realized in trying to be an ally was that, at the end of the day he could understand that “because of patriarchy, women have to live in almost constant fear of being raped, even in what may seem like a totally safe place — but I can’t say I understand what that feels like.” Part of being an ally is knowing that you will never fully understand what it’s like to be female, or brown, or poor in this world, if you are not (though you can still work against those oppressive systems).

My desire in writing this is not to “call out” any individual man in particular, but to remind men that the word “mansplaining” came in to being because it’s something women experience so often. Not because men can’t and shouldn’t have opinions or that they must be silent — but because men fall so easily into the role of “expert” — because they’ve learned they are the “experts” — and seem to expect cookies and back pats for doing the bare minimum in terms of being pro-feminist. I’ve fallen into this myself, being so caught off guard by a man actually saying something feministish that I am too easily willing to trust him.

While “show, don’t tell” should be the basic rule, my friend and sister, Elizabeth Pickett, came up with a set of more elaborate and specific guidelines for men who wish to ally with feminists. I think it is excellent and have published it on this site. Please do take a look.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • probably guess who

    Another superb article that I must thank you for writing. I had been that self identifying male feminist then ally for a long time, even argued and fell out with feminists over it, and for that I am truly sincerely sorry. I realised my errors and luckily have understood self identifying, even as ally, is hideously self centred and self entitled. It is also a huge show of male privilege imho.
    I don’t identify as anything except basic decent human, which would require believing in feminism and the equal rights of women anyway. I let my everyday actions and words do the talking. Don’t get me wrong, I still do and always will make mistakes. I am a flawed individual but hopefully I can always be enough to remove myself from the equation, be corrected and learn from it.
    There are some certain hypocrisies I have swen from certain groups regarding men who are considered allies, especially when it comes ti them criticising other feminists over issues such as trans* but this is probably not the right place to be discussing that.
    Again, thank you.

    • Sickened

      You clearly misunderstood this article. I really don’t think the point was to get men to give half-assed, insincere apologies to one particular feminist. I would be wary of anyone who claims to have realized the error of their ways, and even though I am a man who is not interested in being a part of feminism, I at least hope that the true feminists can see through your facade. Your self-righteous attitude sickens me.

      • pat

        I agree with your sentiment. I am curious (if you’ll indulge me:) what do you mean when you say you don’t want to be a part of feminism?

  • vouchsafer

    Fuck twitter. Twitter is capitalism too.

    Lizor was right a few posts ago when she said that the waters of internet.2.0 are hard to navigate. (sorry lizor for the misquote)
    the illusion is that it’s freedom of speech given that anyone can tweet. The reality that with only 140 characters all your getting is a cacophony of incompete thoughts taken out of context.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hate Twitter.

    • lizor

      “the illusion is that it’s freedom of speech given that anyone can tweet. The reality that with only 140 characters all your getting is a cacophony of incompete thoughts taken out of context.”

      Nicely put.

      Cloud theory – if I have it right – claims that a bulk of crappy thought equals a small measure of focussed, rigourous thought. I’ll just take Shakespeare (endemic misogyny notwithstanding) over and infinite number of monkeys at typewriters, thanks.

      • vouchsafer

        lol : )

  • Kaitlin

    Meghan, I normally respect your writing quite a bit but don’t you find it a little hypocritical to write an article like this when you publicly supported Hugo in the past, even though his history as a violent and abusive man was well known in feminist circles? The only thing that came to light in the latest “debacle” was that he’d been lying all along about being a changed man, which many believed to be true anyway given his continued history of abuse, dismissive behavior, intimidation of women of color, and general privileged attitude. You chose to support him and now write an article like this when it’s not popular for prominent feminists to defend him anymore, and it seems disingenuous.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Publicly supported him how? And no, I don’t at all find it “hypocritical” to write a post that’s skeptical of self-described male allies and critical of abusive men who self-describe as allies.

      I produced critical work around Hugo since the moment I encountered him and never published anything in defense of him.

      I interviewed him once, believing he was no longer sleeping with students. Which is not the same as “defending” him. I also continued to produce work that was critical of him after that.

      What would you like? For people who bought his story of redemption, to whatever extent and however temporarily to say nothing?

      Blame the perpetrator for his actions. Not those he manipulated. If you’ve ever known a sociopath or been in an abusive relationship surely you know how cunning and manipulative they can be. Honestly, the behaviour I’ve witnessed from people online, both when Clarisse’s interview came out last year and again now, wherein the primary goal seems to be to attack and accuse and bully feminists for either buying his story, not being sufficiently critical, or not being critical in the right way, to be unproductive and sexist.

      Have you contacted Pasedena college? The Atlantic? The Good Men Project? Any of those who actually paid him and published his writing? The individuals who published work defending him? Any of those who continued to defend him even after this all this new information came to light a few weeks ago? The ones who told me to “have some compassion” or said to me angrily: “way to kick a dog when he’s down”? The ones who published/produced exactly NOTHING critical of Hugo and are now spending their days harassing other women on Twitter for not saying enough? Or not saying something when they chose to listen? Or are you just going to join in creating and perpetuating a mythology around all these feminist bloggers who were (supposedly) actively defending him?

      Next time a woman doesn’t out her rapist or believes her partner when he claims not to be an abuser I’m going to send her an email and ask her why she was complicit in her own abuse and the abuse of others, cool?

      • lizor

        “What would you like? For people who bought his story of redemption, to whatever extent and however temporarily to say nothing?”

        Um, yeah. That would really accomplish a lot.

        Honestly Kaitlin, to hold feminists to some ridiculous standard where any person who mistakenly reads a situation and then see their error must be condemned to silence is kind of hateful.

  • I didn’t fight you all when I was attacked here and called a douche bag (self hate much?). I just left. Your logic is extreme, provocative, and has made you extremely popular. Congratulations.

    However, what are you doing to, beyond a demagogic symbolic rally cry, to challenge patriarchy? Is calling me a douche bag using the the masters tools to destroy the masters house? or is it just another polarizing misstep that cuts resistances of common goal off from each other?

    You and DGR can “keep it real” while the land base goes to shit, as I’m not REALLY interested in our phenomenal expressions of man and woman. It’s simple: Patriarchy, capitalism, ecocide= not one frog left standing.

    Red Legged Frog Lover,

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Kogen,

      I’m completely confused. In my recollection you were never attacked here or called a douchebag? This is the only interaction I can find between you and I on the site and it seems perfectly friendly….?

      Feel free to point me towards these attacks if I am missing something….

        • Meghan Murphy

          Ooooh I see. Yeah we lost that whole thread when the site was hacked 🙁 Sorry — I had no memory of this thread (there are a lot of comments/threads on this site…)

          In any case, the comment you reference:(“They don’t call themselves feminists. I call them feminist when I talk about them. If my male friends called themselves feminists I would think they were douchebags and definitely not feminist. Actual feminist men don’t go around identifying as feminist — it’s about showing not telling, as far as I’m concerned — though I’m ok with them calling themselves ‘allies’ or whatever…”) doesn’t attack you are call you a douchebag. It wasn’t specific to anything you said but more generally to say that, yes, I am skeptical of men who identify as feminist. To me, it is presumptuous and tells me that these men don’t know much about feminism (as I get at in this post). And I was talking about the allies I identified as feminist, not you. As I recall (now, vaguely), I think there was some miscommunication in that thread.

          In any case, I don’t really understand how you felt “eviscerated” by this comment, nor do I really understand what you find so off-putting about this post?

        • Me

          Man, you have to stop expecting a ridiculous level of validation from women and find a solid center for yourself as a man of conscience or whatever. Not dissing you, just saying. A friendly pat on the back if you will.

          I think I remember your comments. Didn’t you say you bowed out? For myself, I thought that was excessive. Nobody called you to leave or anything. But I thought you gave everyone reason to believe you were okay bowing out.

          “However, on this gutting, my feelings are more than hurt, I feel undermined, dis empowered, othered, and born to lose.”

          That anyone can make you feel this strongly in just a couple of comments is worrying.

          “Although I was not called directly an invader, a douchebag, and unable to contribute ANYTHING to feminism, it’s implied directly in a passive aggressive sting.”

          As far as I remember, there was no obvious passive aggression. You just stepped on some toes and got called out, why is that so huge? So far as I know, women live with that their whole lives. Men constantly expect to be taken super seriously whenever they say anything and then act as if they’ve been wronged if their feelings and needs aren’t immediately catered to. That’s actually an aggressive posture towards women on the part of us men, and it’s something a lot of women simply shut up and disappear in the face of. Be super glad that feminists don’t. And be enough of a person to know you’re doing a good thing when you do simply because.

    • Henke

      Seriosly, you consider yourself aligned with life on this planet (I presume in how you express yourself) and you for some strange reason trashtalk DGR ?!
      That makes absolutley no sense at all.
      DGR is the only orgnaisation out there that seems to be serious to attack power head on and really go to the core in what is murdering this planet.
      Industrial civilisation is incompatible with life as we know it and they are, one of the few, that dares to say this out loud.

  • lizor

    “our phenomenal expressions of man and woman” ? What exactly are you talking about?

    What exactly is the source of this incoherent hissy fit, Kogen? Did you somehow think that people write here out of a desire for popularity? And where do you get off condemning DGR and this feminist blog? Because, as you say in your other post, live in a zen centre? Seriously?? Frog species are decreasing and the bloggers here have failed you by not reversing that. Just who do you think you are with this arrogant entitled nonsense? While you practice your detachment and fetishize frogs to feed your sanctimonious ego, more aboriginal children are sold off to rapists.

    If someone called you a douchebag, and Meghan has not been able to locate any evidence of that on this blog, you sure are demonstrating why that person might have done so.

    • I mean that while we hash out who’s a feminist and who’s not, how are we meeting our mission? When DGR is falling apart and hashing out who’s a woman and who’s not a woman, where is our focus? This is exactly the cross-resistance blow back that undermines and dismantles a movement. You’re watching it right now.

      And you can find the reference you’re looking for through the link I responded with.

      And by phenomenal expression, I mean that bag of skin you sit in.

      And if you don’t see the connection between this and the red legged frog, well, you’re a part of the problem- merely hacking blindly at branches which will grow back before you get done pruning the tree of greed, hate, and delusion. I’m interested in the roots, which seem well manifested in patriarchy, capitalism, and ecocide.

      And I don’t give a shit about who I am, and neither should you, but thanks for doing your homework before you put me on trial.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Hmm…. Well, in a movement, one needs allies. One wants to work with those who share one’s goals. So in that regard, knowing who shares one’s goals in terms of the feminist movement is important, no? In any case, the foundation for feminism lies in the fact that we exist within a system that is hierarchical — men are dominant, women are subordinate. So, as a man, why do you think you are necessarily in a place to decide how the feminist movement should move forward and what goals are most important?

        “And I don’t give a shit about who I am, and neither should you, but thanks for doing your homework before you put me on trial.”

        You are a man. And that matters.

        • That’s enough for, me. You win.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Win what? What is it that’s offended you so deeply? I haven’t called you a name or insulted you. I said you being male matters. Does this make you angry? Because then I feel like you don’t get feminism…

      • Me

        “I mean that while we hash out who’s a feminist and who’s not, how are we meeting our mission? When DGR is falling apart and hashing out who’s a woman and who’s not a woman, where is our focus? This is exactly the cross-resistance blow back that undermines and dismantles a movement. You’re watching it right now.”

        You seriously have the nerve to call women out for defending their basic living and breathing space as women and their organizing space as women, for therefore supposedly failing to live up to this resistance ideal of yours? That is complete bullshit. Nobody and nothing is stopping you from resistance or support work, except your male privilege of expecting women to do your work for you.

        The women of DGR should be an inspiration. Why don’t you do more to help them have a safe space where they can organize effectively, instead of making bullshit crybaby arguments about it? Do you realize how fucking stupid it is to point fingers at DGR women or women here and say “you think your gender expression is revolutionary and helps the frogs, but it doesn’t!” Do you think you’re the only one who cries for the frogs or tries to help them?

        “And I don’t give a shit about who I am”

        Then see a therapist and surround yourself with supportive friends, but don’t pretend it’s the job of resistance women to nurse whatever that hurt is.

        • lizor

          “You seriously have the nerve to call women out for defending their basic living and breathing space as women and their organizing space as women, for therefore supposedly failing to live up to this resistance ideal of yours? That is complete bullshit. Nobody and nothing is stopping you from resistance or support work, except your male privilege of expecting women to do your work for you.”


          Actually: “seconded” to the entire post. Thanks, Me. You are concise and clear as always.

        • Actually, I 100% support the cis-women of DGR who want their space. I 100% support anyone who wants space, no justification necessary. What I don’t support is how this issue exploded with enough blow back to cause Aric to leave the movement. This is exactly what Leirre Keith and Derrick Jensen warned against, cross-faction-in-house-fighting which enables a movement to dismantle itself from the inside. The DGR chapter in Austin, TX (My home chapter) collapsed due to similar circumstances (undisclosed to us) and the Bay Area Chapter is no where to be found. So, their issues are huge.

          As to seeing a therapist about no-self, well, I didn’t explain enough there as it seemed even more off topic then I already seemed, but since you suggested, I just wanted to say: With all my heart, I don’t exist. Is it a hand or a collection of five fingers?

          • Henke

            The whole issue regarding DGR and Aric is that Aric did not just leave because of the “transphobia” issues, that were not even an issue before DGR members were attacked at that conference.
            And out of that scenario a campaign, which to my understanding, was kicked off by EF! supporting manarchists, went to great length to make DGR look like some fascist, dictating, communist and what else they threw at them orgainsation.
            Im not much for conspiracies but it all looked a bit to well-staged. Like this was planned beforehand. Derrick had his private e-mails put online and stuff like that.
            There were people writing stuff like “derrick fucks with fishes” online and there was simply some of the worst bully behaviours I’ve seen since I, myself, was a target by bully people in school.
            These so called transexuals and their supporters bashed every enviromentalist with these comments. Ridiculing Derrick with these bestiality comments and so on was to me an attack on the whole enviromental resistane culture. No matter if you knew him or not, if you are into enviromentalism and wanna fight for salmons survival or polarbears or wolves or oursleves as a species; You were attacked by these people and among them some thought it was cool to make bestiality jokes around this.

            I simply could not belive what I was seeing and it made me so sad that people that has no real understanding, or simply don’t care, what DGR is about or work for had suddenly alot to say regarding enviromental issues and that derrick and others are engaged in bestiality because they are enviromentalists and it’fun to ridicule enviromentalists if you are a manarchist.

            People serious about these issues and that calls themselves radicals should have no hard time understanding that we all, as long as the dominant culture is standing and throws classes at us and most humans live by these classes, we all need breathers sometime.
            Spaces where we can be alone from everyone else. That does not mean we hate or look down on one another. Or that we are not allies in this war because I see it as a war. A war on our minds, our bodies and everyone elses minds and bodies too.

            I personally support any struggle that are serious about trying to stop industrial civ from murdering the planet (and us humans with it).
            But I don’t support bully behaviour no matter from what group it comes.

  • vouchsafer

    “I feel like that’s been demonstrated on a micro level here- dismissing would be allies with insults. Maybe a gentle reeducation was called for, but insults? There’s nothing to discuss when insults are flying. ”

    I agree with Kogen here. AND he actually gets that patriarchy equals capitalism equals ecocide. Why exactly are we chasing him away again? A little re-education perhaps . . ..

    (PS – Hey Kogen. I would like to acknowledge your good intentions and reciprocate them. It appears we have similar goals : )

    • Dana

      That doesn’t take much. There will always be some yes-man in the wings (and sometimes she’s female) to agree with a dude who takes umbrage at the way a woman expresses herself.


      And when you can find us an epidemic of men who are raping women gently, you might have an argument.

      And no, a woman disagreeing with a man is not rape. My point is, women are being gutted out there (sometimes literally), and you’re fussing about someone’s *tone*.

      And no one’s stopping Kogen from going out there and saving a frog himself.

    • annika

      I haven’t seen any insults here against him at all. We really need to get over this conditioning we have as women that makes us fall at men’s feet when they show us the slightest kindness or humanity. As evidenced here, any gratitude we show men is never good enough-they want to be coddled and told they’re the best allies ever and don’t wield their toxic privilege as badly as those other men. Feminism should not be about hand holding, and screw him for telling feminists what issues we should focus on.

  • sporenda

    “Feminism should not be about hand holding, and screw him for telling feminists what issues we should focus on.”

    Yes totally.
    Pissed off male throws tantrum because we don’t pay enough attention to him, don’t receive his opinion deferently enough.
    Pissed off male gets all difficult and sulky to get the attention he thinks he deserves.
    Todlers behave like that with their mother. Girls stop at around age 6, for boys it lasts a lifetime.

  • By saying you didn’t insult me is a passive aggressive stretch. Here’s how I see it:

    1) I say I’m a feminist, a comment follows.
    2) You say any guy who would call themselves a feminist is a douchebag
    3) I feel like you just called me a douchebag.

    That thread is gone and people here think I’m acting out irrationally. You don’t acknowledge that your comment followed my comment and that I might feel implicated and unwelcome. You can’t apologize for what you don’t feel you did, and people don’t have access to that thread to see for themselves, so here I am. You don’t see me getting torn apart here? And because I’m angry that you keep throwing straw men at me I don’t understand feminism? Because I don’t like being called names I’m immature? Because I don’t like being dismissed I’m entitled?

    You don’t own the feminist movement or the community discourse. Maybe I can’t be apart of your enclave here, just as some white civil rights activists could never be Black Panthers, and you can say they can’t be black panthers, but you can’t say they’re not activists. The movement is wider than you’re presenting here. The movement has to be inclusive if you want people to be empowered. What I see here is you having fun drawing lines. What you have won is the cesspool of a comment section.

    Dominant culture will never have to answer to factions who tear each other apart. All tactics and all parties should be respected, encouraged, and empowered. I’ll never be a feminist in your eyes, that seems clear. But is this your fulcrum? Is this what you have to offer?

    If your fulcrum is that men can’t be feminists, what is the result of the lever being pushed? Do you have more or less allies? Do we have more less juice to go out and do something?

    When you said “you’re a man and that matters”, I felt you trying to trigger me. This is your straw man. This is interesting. Watch the gang jump in.

    What hurts most is I love your blog. You’re good and you increase awareness in accessible way. But can you see how hated I might feel here? And when I spoke up about it more insults arrived. I expect more after this one.

    I have so many blind spots. I’m just a farmer monk. But I came here to be educated. Because I called myself a feminist I was made fun of, insulted, dismissed- who can learn in that enviroment?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Sigh. No one is trying to trigger you, Kogen. I suggest you try to stop making this all about you. It might help you feel less attacked.

      • You have no part in this?

        • Meghan Murphy

          In what?

          • Sorry that was Kogen accidentally replying in my account

    • Henke

      As a male myself I have no hard time understanding that there are women that don’t think its okey for men to call themselves feminists, here’s why I say this.
      First off there are a number of “paths” in feminism. Radical feminism, queer feminism, mainstream feminism (I don’t have any better word for it honestly), second wave, third wave and so on and so forth.
      As a male its not for me to say which of these are right and wrong.
      So with that in mind I rather call myself a pro-feminist or feminist ally and if anyone asks me which “branch” of feminism I like I would answer honestly and tell them that its radical feminism I personally relate too.
      Why is because its still the best critique on masculinity and patriarchy I’ve read as seen in our culture.
      I could relate to it also on a personal level in how I have behaved and how I built relations to others.

      And there are women that says that “men can be feminists” but there are also those that claims that “no, men can’t be feminists but rather allies.” Who are we, as males, to say that one of these statemens are right and the other is wrong ? It’s not for us to deicide who is right here and on a personal level I don’t see the problem with bearing the “title” ally or pro-feminist. It doesn’t change where I stand in this, it doesn’t change my view of the world nor will it affect who I am or my activist work.

      • I agree! My response here was that it’s nice to be called names. That’s all.

  • vouchsafer

    “There will always be some yes-man in the wings (and sometimes she’s female) to agree with a dude who takes umbrage at the way a woman expresses herself.”

    if you think that’s what this is about, then I feel sorry for you. I come to this site because I think that change needs to happen in society, and this site is one of the only places on the internet (or in real life, too, it seems lately) where a conversation about how to enact that change can actually be had and taken seriously.

    I see the inherent misogyny in society, and I fight every day in my own way to do something about it. But change can’t exist in a vaccum.

    Radical feminism is one of the only voices calling for change. because we’re such a small percentage of the population, we can’t enact change from within. That means we need to have conversations with others, bring them around to our way of thinking, not drive them out of here because they don’t understand every nuance.

    a movement that doesn’t seek to expand its numbers turns inwards. It withers and dies. Is that what you want radical feminism to be? the kind that curls up in the corner, comforable with it’s pain, licking it’s wounds and not getting anything done? well that’s not what I want.

    If a dude sits down at his computer and spends his time reading Meghan’s posts when he could just as easily be on a porn site, well then those, to me are the guys that we should be communicating our message to, because at least they’re willing to listen. Hopefully, after reading our comments, they’ll get a sense of what things are like for us and spread that message elsewhere.
    If a dude comes to this site and acts like a prick, I’ll be among the first to shut him down. But if a guy wants to learn, why turn him away?

    • Me

      I think the problem is how to make Kogen see that nobody’s stopping him from moving forward but himself. How would you have a constructive discussion with Kogen if he doesn’t want to? He’s blaming DGR women for defending themselves, as if they themselves might not be frustrated at having to wrangle with trans activists and gender or anything like that. I would imagine that as intelligent people they would have done their best to maintain focus on what’s really important, up until the point where the derailing was effectively hurting their work.

      The progression in what Kogen just wrote above is significant. He moves from not being acknowledged, to being angry, to having been slighted, to Meghan not *owning* the feminist movement, to others having fun at his expense, attacking his very dignity, to “you may have won here”, to wanting to be loved but feeling hated and rejected. Listen to the language, the projection, the impossible expectations. This is the internal workings of a disturbed male justifying his violence. This, to me, is enough to flag him as disruptive to feminist/DGR spaces/work, and possibly dangerous to have around. The first necessary point of conversation, to me, would by now be to go through all of this with him so that he understands it fully and commits to doing serious work on himself. Working together on anything else would come only much later.

      • vouchsafer

        For the record, Me, I wasn’t just talking about kogen.

        • Me

          Yes, I thought you made important points above! I wasn’t being at all sarcastic or purely rhetorical when I asked how would you have that discussion with him here?

      • I’m not sure what to say, my head is spinning here with Kogen this and Kogen that.

        Feminist or male ally, I think back to last month as me and my friend Claudia waited to be arrested. There was a calm as we wrote the Know Your Rights hotline on our hands with big black markers; Feminist or not, we didn’t feel so separate then. The gravity of big men in black armor suits with practical baseball bats brought together the IWW, Idle No More, Earth Sangha, some socialists, some anarchists, and our little contingent of robe wearing Ecosattvas from a Zen temple in the hills, aged 20-70. As we were rounded up, these titles fell away. Elbow to elbow, sweating on hot black pavement, wishing for sunscreen and water, it didn’t matter, and it sure didn’t matter to the fucking police department as to what faction they should place us with.

        I’m NOT mad at Meghan. I LOVE DGR. I love the Feminist Current and plug it all the time and still will. And I am critical by nature. I fight. Is it because I’m a man? Well you should have seen my mother chase my father out of the house with a knife.

        Someone here said I wanted some gentleness. Yes! Why? Because the bad guys don’t sleep and they’re not gentle.

        And as far as working on myself, I’m trying. Last week, farmers in China were steamrolled and bulldozed to death when they tried to occupy their own land. Mean while, I skip down to our beautiful fields with the best friends ever. White, with a college degree, opting for beautiful organic farming- entitled much?

        I’m so sorry for my lack of skill. Surprises me every time. And I am definitely flagged- I flagged myself by putting on these robes. I’m not a part of DGR anymore and I don’t go to events where I might be triggered. I am so angry inside. If you look in my eyes, you’ll see burning corn fields and exploding tanks. So, I don’t go out much. Hence my sensitivity.

        I’m sorry. I’ll try and listen more.

        Deep bow,

        • Henke

          May I ask why you quit DGR ? Was it because of all the heat and you felt unsecure due to this or what is that you though DGR was not for you ?
          I’m no member of DGR myself but I do support them and the book DGR – Strategy To Save The Planet. Is a beautiful book that should be read by anyone that is interested in fighing and win 🙂
          Mostly written by Aric and cudos to him for that. He’s a good writer and he should focus more on that instead of engaging in things he has not as much knowledge of.

      • lizor

        “The first necessary point of conversation, to me, would by now be to go through all of this with him so that he understands it fully and commits to doing serious work on himself. ”


        And when he’s so obviously unable to engage in the most superficial of self-reflection, why would one – particularly when we who are raised female have been indoctrinated into dropping whatever we are doing and rushing to patiently cater to the needs of whatever male is in our path? I think we are particularly susceptible to doing this when we believe that our assistance might yield results. So Kogen read a feminist blog and for that moment was not using porn. This does not in any way indicate that he does not indulge in porn. It’s no evidence one way or another.

        Expecting Kogen to enter the conversation as an adult, not a child that we’re collectively responsible for raising, does not equate “turning him away”.

        You ran down his predictable journey on this thread perfectly, Me and if anything what we can see is that this is a very emotionally undeveloped individual who feel more strongly about the welfare of amphibians than he does about the welfare of female human beings. This is a feminist blog, not a species conservation forum.

        • I don’t care more about frogs than humans, but how can we pick just one fight? The machine in the garden is driven by a white man and frogs and feminists will be mowed down together. It’s a challenge to keep patriarchy, capitalism, and ecocide together, but I think they’re one and the same. People want to fight capitalism, want to fight ecocide, but I think there’s just one tactical fulcrum, that’s patriarchy and whatever resources fuel it. So, how is it separate?

          • Henke

            I agree that they all are connected.
            But we must also understand that different people chooces different fights, which doesn’t mean we can’t help eachother out along the way.
            One must have in mind that not everyone are into for example enviromental work but that doesn’t mean that person does not care for the enviroment (even though most humans in our culture dont’ seem to care about anything but feeding their egos and sad lifestyles).

            I would say that any enviromental struggle has to be feminist at its core, as long as we are up to this enormous powerstructure-industrial civilisation-we really need to look at our options thru a feminist lens.
            I personally don’t think we can ever fully get on the right path unless we do this.

    • annika

      “Well that’s not want I want.”

      Stop right there. Feminism is not about what you want. Women aren’t here to educate you or to put your voice over women’s. It’s very telling, and not surprising, that you consider yourself a great feminist ally but the minute some other man’s feelings get hurt you tell us little ladies to calm down. We’he been told what to do long enough, we don’t owe anyone anything.

      • annika

        The above comment was in reply to vouchsafer btw.

        • vouchsafer

          Lol 🙂 you think I’m a dude? That’s funny. Nope. Just FYI, I’m a feminist, anti capitalist author and blogger. I’m also a mom of two toddlers who’s trying to start up a not for profit daycare to give other moms in need access to free daycare for things like attending educational courses.
          so ya, i guess you could say i call myself a feminist ally.

          • annika

            Sorry, thought you referred to yourself as a guy in a previous comment, but I must have confused you with someone else. But your comment above telling another woman “if that’s what you think I feel sorry for you” and you writing your feminist credentials like this is a pissimg contest reads as male. It’s okay, you’ve done what all heterosexual feminists ultimately do-take the side of men when other women get too mean.

          • vouchsafer


          • annika

            Look, you were the one who encouraged Kogen in his whinging and dismissed the legitimate points that Dana brought up. Your comment made it seem that other commenters were doing a disservice to feminism by not welcoming every man that comes along. Feminism isn’t a classroom, but if you want to waste time trying to teach men instead of having the focus 100% on women, then that’s your right (interesting that you didn’t answer Me’s comment about how to teach men). I’m going to take the advice of Mary Daly and not think of men at all.

            We’re done now.

  • sporenda

    “The progression in what Kogen just wrote above is significant. He moves from not being acknowledged, to being angry, to having been slighted, to Meghan not *owning* the feminist movement, to others having fun at his expense, attacking his very dignity, to “you may have won here”, to wanting to be loved but feeling hated and rejected. Listen to the language, the projection, the impossible expectations. This is the internal workings of a disturbed male justifying his violence. ”

    Yes and after the perfect number of mansplaining by Matt on the other thread about feminist allies, we have the perfect performance of “what about me/what about the menz” with this dude.
    Take heed number 2!

    You can tell a man is a false feminist ally when he comes on a feminist site to hijack the debate, to switch the focus from women to men, and constantly redirects the attention to men’s sufferings, their plight, the wrongs they endure, etc.
    All the while sucking up (and feeding off) female time and energy. And also being patriarchy’s little helpers: they disrupt feminist spaces, derail feminist debate and the time spent on soothing these crybabies is not spent on furthering women’s goals.

    • This began with me calling myself a feminist and Meghan following with men who call themselves feminists are douchebags. Why is this okay? Why am I a cry baby because I object? Is anyone going to address this? I’m not supposed to say peep if I’m called a douchebag? I can’t object that douchebag in of itself is term of gender hatred?

      And I pointed out that shit like this tears movements apart, like DGR is going through. For me, that’s coming from the whole “transphobia” alarm and the fact that my home chapter was disbanded with no word from leadership and there’s no Bay Area Chapter. I think this is relevant to all movements. And as I said above, the thin blue line doesn’t really give a shit about whose banner we march under, we’re all to be zip tied. This is the space disrupted. This is the feminist debate derailed in a big way.

      I didn’t come here to hijack anything, just cry out, not for me or men, but that we’re not getting anywhere!

      I have very possible expectations but seemingly impossible barriers, like this one, where, yeah, it makes it really hard to stick around when people generalize in hateful terms.

      • Meghan Murphy

        My reply to what I had thought was a question about the men I know in real life who I consider to be feminist (though the thread was on another post and is gone now, unfortunately) was this:

        “They don’t call themselves feminists. I call them feminist when I talk about them. If my male friends called themselves feminists I would think they were douchebags and definitely not feminist. Actual feminist men don’t go around identifying as feminist — it’s about showing not telling, as far as I’m concerned — though I’m ok with them calling themselves ‘allies’ or whatever…”

        I don’t understand why you’re so fixated on this. And I consider “douchebag” to be a relatively mild “insult.”

        Again, it was directed at no one in particular. You need to stop acting as though you’ve somehow been attacked or subjected to some kind of verbal abuse.

        • You need to stop acting like that comment didn’t follow my comment and that I wasn’t implicated. It was one thread. If you’re going to give a mild insult, don’t stutter.

          • Further, douchebag may come up mildly for you. Douchebags to me are people who might kick my ass, who don’t accept me as their “bro, and people I don’t associate with.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m not and you’re being ridiculous. The comment was not directed at you, no matter how personally you took it. Please let’s move on.

          • Okay! Thank you.

  • sporenda

    “This began with me calling myself a feminist and Meghan following with men who call themselves feminists are douchebags. Why is this okay? Why am I a cry baby because I object? Is anyone going to address this? I’m not supposed to say peep if I’m called a douchebag? I can’t object that douchebag in of itself is term of gender hatred?”

    Nobody called you a douchebag, it should have been clear to you that Meghan’s remark was general: some men–quite a few–who call themselves feminists have a hidden agenda.
    It’s incredibly ego-centered that you thought this general remark was about you.
    The world doesn’t revolve around you and your wounded feelings, you need to get a more objective perspective.

    “we are getting nowhere”
    Wo is “we”? Why are you speaking in the name of feminists?
    What gives you the authority to decide that feminists (Feminist Current?) are going nowhere?

    Rule of thumb for an ally: let feminists speak, never ever speak for them.

  • When I said we, I meant counter culture. When I said we’re not getting anywhere, I was referring to the continued success of dominant culture. Most of the change I’ve seen is symbolic at best. Great for building culture, not so great for actually dismantle.

    It wasn’t ego centered. If someone replies to this comment that women who identify as radical feminists are man haters, would you not feel implicated?

    • lizor

      “If someone replies to this comment that women who identify as radical feminists are man haters, would you not feel implicated?”

      Personally, I would feel bored.

    • Me

      You are projecting the half-assed attitude and the failure. Furthermore, in doing so you are combining aggression with an infantile wish to be taken care of. You have to understand, this is a commonplace, disturbing mixing up that is particular to us males. Read that again. There is nothing in it to be sympathetic about. It is right to treat this from you as a big red flag and to expect that you stop being defensive about your masculinity, and take full responsibility for it.

      Separately from that, I am not unsympathetic to despair at the odds we find ourselves at. I’m not unsympathetic to the hurt and grief of seeing the world destroyed. I’m not unsympathetic to wanting people, sometimes including your allies, to do more. I do not ridicule the need for validation or the need for support, or the value of kindness (but you haven’t been kind). I’m not unsympathetic to wanting to feel well, to wanting to feel and to be effective and useful. But you can’t mix those up with projection and a displacement of responsibility and fault, as you have. You *especially* can’t blame women just because they’re women and you’re a man, *as you have*! That is what we men easily do, and it follows the same pattern whether it comes from you, from Aldous at the start of the previous thread, another MRA, or myself.

      You absolutely have to own that a part of the reason why you’ve railed here, as you have, the way you have, is that most people here are women and feminists and that you are a man. You will have to take that seriously and work it out, over a long period of time, by adopting an active commitment to respecting women at every turn and taking their words seriously even when you don’t immediately understand why. Leaving, simmering and not learning doesn’t count. I would suggest that it is precisely because you have not done this that you fault the women of DGR for inaction and ineffectiveness, instead of seeing an active, outward and useful role for yourself. The converse then could also be true. The latter part is what you want for yourself, yes? You want the natural world to survive and thrive, of course, but in being specific to your life and your part in all of this, you want an active, outward role that feels satisfying and useful, something that helps you stay active and creative and able to have a long term view while coping with the fact that whatever you do in the face of all of this feels woefully inadequate, right? I’ve been through that.

      My answer then is to learn from radical feminism and feminists. Henke has written about the significance of radical feminism to him in his comments here. I have a similar experience. So start coming clear about your bullshit, your privilege and entitlement. All that’s been pointed out to you by others above and you’ve dismissed it as not what you want, very lightly and immaturely it would seem. In time coming clear allows you to integrate the parts of your humanity that masculinity has split apart and created violent antagonisms between. Those splits and antagonisms are the destructive forces males can tap into and unleash onto women, other men, the natural world, themselves, as violence and disrespect (a violation), but first of all on women. That divide and that violent core is reinforced and maintained by disrespecting women, so going the other way can integrate it. That is why you’re here at the same time looking for support *and* why you are angry at women for being women. It shows plain as day. Don’t deny it. Question is will you own it and sit down to work with it, or won’t you? The best place to start is by owning up to your bullshit and how you’ve transgressed, because that’s where it’s at. To do it is not to beat yourself down. If you do that, or if you think that’s what feminists are out to do to you, as you seem to, you’re still trapped and enacting the same masculinity. Own up to enough that it counts and makes a difference and really moves you towards honesty, but not so much it paralyzes you so you won’t return to the process. The point is to be honest and to not lie. It is to set yourself down on a map and start to learn to navigate. When you build respect for women, it first of all makes their lives a lot easier, and that’s the start, that’s how you navigate and make yourself useful. It is something to go by. You do it because it’s right and you know it. I’m sure if you just ask women what you can do and be honest about yourself they’ll tell you.

      As a final piece to this, I wanted to add a few words of encouragement. However, I cannot stress enough that you can’t meditate or think or quickly force your way out of this, or get enough validation to cure you. Facing up to your masculinity–doing serious work on yourself and taking that as a starting point of assuming responsibility is key. So do not take these as a replacement to hard, long-term and often unpleasant work, to owning up to your bullshit and entitlement, the same basics over and over again. It has to be mostly about giving up instead of getting. What you get is you get to give up your need to defend your masculinity. Asceticism and self-denial have nothing to do with the giving up that I’m talking about. Right now, I’m doing some this same work with myself reiterating what I also need to do. Quite possibly taking too much space 🙂

      Anyway, the first comes from Jane Caputi: “In that moment I was gripped by the idea that the apocalypse has already happened. It probably happened thousands of years ago…. And we’re living out the residue of that original apocalypse, which was probably first caused by that separation from the source, that denial of shared being. It’s also clear to me that those creation myths that we say are all in the past are really in the future. They’re telling us it’s still possible to get the wisdom from the serpent…. People sometimes ask me where I get my hope from, and I say that it comes from the understanding that the apocalypse isn’t in the future, like the Bible says, nor is creation in the past. Instead, it is our task to begin living out those creation myths.”

      The second is patched together from Andrea Dworkin’s Heartbreak, chapter The Women:

      “Some women were prostituted generation after generation and, as one woman, a third-generation prostitute, said, “I’ve done enough to raise a child and not make her a prostitute and not make her a fourth generation.”

      “There are women whose whole lives have been pornography and prostitution, and still they fight to live.”

      “I’m tired, very weary, and I cry for my sisters. Tears get them nothing, of course. One needs a generation of warriors who can’t be tired out or bought off. Each woman needs to take what she endures and turn it into action. With every tear, accompanying it, one needs a knife to rip a predator apart; with every wave of fatigue, one needs another platoon of strong, tough women coming up over the horizon to take more land, to make it safe for women. I’m willing to count the inches. The pimps and rapists need to be dispossessed, forced into a mangy exile; the women and children – the world’s true orphans – need to be empowered, cosseted with respect and dignity.”

      So take a hard look at yourself and how you’ve gone about this here, and then start supporting the women of DGR in their preferred way. Feminists and DGR organizers are not the cause of the terrible odds we’re up against. They are not the cause for despair. They are an inspiration. That feminists like Meghan have had the integrity, courage and will to support DGR when DGR women have come under attack, is nothing but praiseworthy. Here you actually see allies giving support. It’s beyond ridiculous then to fault these people who have given support for not turning their whole focus on your cause the way you’d like it, for not waving a magic wand and saving the world, quite literally.

      • Thank you for your time, compassion, and encouragement. I’m seeing a reflection here and it’s a bit sickening.

      • Henke

        Wow, Didn’t have the time to read this ’til now but this was an amazing post! Thank you me!

    • lizor


      I recognize that I have been sharp with you. I have found your posts to be predictable and solipsistic. However, I think there may be some likelihood that you are sincere in your desire to resist the force of patriarchal capitalism as you have identified.

      The thing is, “counter-culture” like many resistances gets appropriated with lightening speed and quickly reduced to, not only a hollow apparition of itself, but also a site where patriarchy replicates itself. That’s way we spend so much time unpacking so-called “sex-positive” feminism, to name one example.

      It’s easy to grab hold of superficial signals of resistance. Are arm-length tattoos rebellious or are they fashion?

      To resist hegemony requires rigorous self-scrutiny. We all have blind spots and unconscious cultural assumptions. We are all products of a toxic culture and the task of detoxifying ourselves at a fundamental level is extremely difficult. It’s a life-work. Many of the posters here have been engaged in that process for decades and have witnessed the successes and failures of various attempts at positive social change in various contexts. These people are worth listening to.

      When experienced feminists tell you that you need to look in the mirror, that you are taking up space and demanding attention and approval in inappropriate ways, as per thousands of other men who visit feminist web spaces, you should really consider what they are saying – that is if you are serious about positive change as you say you are.

      So far you seems to be largely deaf to what has been said here. This is a classic silencing tactic.

      Please. Think about it.

      • I am. I’m sorry. I’m working.

    • annika

      The last line about radical feminists-that’s a false equivalency. Aand to use your words, it’s getting us nowhere.

  • marv

    For men to describe themselves as feminists is like Caucasians referring to themselves as indigenist. If it I not our right as white people to identify as First Peoples why can men be self-appointed feminists. When we do so because some of these oppressed peoples grant us permission, we are facilitating more dissension among them.

  • sporenda

    “It wasn’t ego centered. If someone replies to this comment that women who identify as radical feminists are man haters, would you not feel implicated?”

    For one thing, I don’t care one bit about what “someone” thinks about radical feminists.
    Since most people are indoctrinated into thinking that radfems are manhaters anyway, that’s what they’ll think no matter what radfems say or do, so why bother?.
    And it does not disturb me one bit that some radfems may indeed be “manhaters”: usually they have very good personal reasons to feel that way.
    What surprises me is that more women do not dislike men, based on the abuse and violence they put up with from them.

    There is socially encouraged blindness at work here: if all women opened their eyes to the extent and severity of male abuse and decided to take proper steps to insure their protection, society would collapse.
    In fact, radfems are not so much “manhaters” as very leery and afraid of men, and this fear and distrut are justified by their past experiences and a lucid non deluded view of what takes place around them.

    What is worst about being a woman–as compared to being a slave in older days–is that on top of all the abuse, harassment, violence and sadism we have to live with, we are required to love our abusers.
    Women are supposed to forgive and love men always, even the rapists, the wifebeaters and the pimps.
    At least, slaves were not required to love and forgive the guys that whipped them or lynched them.

    • lizor

      Brilliant post Sporenda. Yes, all of this Stockholm syndrome is heart-breaking.

      “There is socially encouraged blindness at work here: if all women opened their eyes to the extent and severity of male abuse and decided to take proper steps to insure their protection, society would collapse.”

      Wouldn’t that be an incredible moment?

      On a more pedestrian and superficial note: I passed a salon the other day that was advertising a special on brazilian bikini waxing. I thought about all of the women who are raised to believe themselves to be some combination of aesthetic object, sexual servant/toy and breeding animal before they are anything else. Disarmed/psychologically groomed thusly, they go to work at a job where they will make c.35% less than their male counterpart and then they go spend this hard-earned money paying someone to tear the pubic hair our of their body. And probably wearing brutally crippling over-priced footwear all the while.

      This is but a sliver of conditioned behaviour that I would like to see the end of.

    • Okay, I’m going to try and say something critical with being an asshole.

      Do we have to compare slaves to women? It feels offensive to both parties. Does one have to be worse than another? How could we ever know?

      I’m thinking of John Stewart when he begged politicians to stop calling each other nazis, since there are one and only, horrible, nazis.

      And to your response on what I wrote, all I have is regret. It dawned on me (I am terribly slow-really! I was a vo-tech kid, strong back, weak mind) as soon as it was posted; Why would she give a fuck about what the oppressor gender says or thinks? If the CEO of Monsanto, or any Monsanto employee, wanted an apology for me saying that any Monsanto employee was a little bumpy in the pod, I’d never give it. I’d never care what they had to say unless they were ready to let me into the lab on some dark and stormy night. So, I’m sorry.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “There is socially encouraged blindness at work here: if all women opened their eyes to the extent and severity of male abuse and decided to take proper steps to insure their protection, society would collapse.”

      Sigh. I feel this is sadly true. Everything would fall apart (though, I imagine, in a good way…)

  • sporenda

    Thanks for your comments, Meghan and lizor.

    “Do we have to compare slaves to women? It feels offensive to both parties. Does one have to be worse than another? How could we ever know?”

    One can study and compare, carefully and without trying to turn this into a competition about who was most oppressed– but there are definitely similarities in the core definition of wifery and slavery: it’s all about the master class extracting free labour/free services,–sexual, reproductive and otherwise–in return for upkeep.

    Sorry for mentioning this, which is usually irrelevant on a feminist forum: I taught courses about US Southern slavery.
    Of course the condition of oppressed slaves has been studied and discussed extensively by historians, but the master class did not stir up as much interest until relatively recently: just like prostitutes have been studied extensively for a long time in pseudo-scientific studies, while johns totally escaped scrutiny until a few years ago.

    Even less studied than male plantation masters were female mistresses. Before reading the few books dealing with this topic, I thought they led a privileged life, spending their days embroidering, swinging in hamocs, trying new dresses– Scarlet O’Hara lifestyle.

    The reality was very different: besides being instrumental in the running of the plantation, they were married very young–14/15–had no property rights whatosever (whatever property they inherited from their family became their husband’s property when they married), schooling for girls was frowned upon, most received only the bare essentials, and quite a few were illiterate. They could not leave the estate alone and they were supposed to submit to their husband’s will in every way.

    In particular, they were supposed to live side by side with their husbands’ slave mistresses, and accept their numerous illegitimate children. And watch in silent disgust when their husbands had sex with their own mulatto daughters–incest and child abuse were widespread on Southern plantations.

    And of course, they started to have babies very young, right after they married and since they did not nurse them, they had nearly a new baby each year. Due to the bad hygiene, the heat, the fevers and contagious diseases frequent on plantations, many of these women died young, exhausted by numerous pregnancies at close intervals.
    Then the master remarried with a young girl and the same cycle repeated itself, plantation masters going through 3 or 4 different wives before they died.

    I read the diary of a plantation master where he writes about the death of his three wives following childbirth, his (shortlived) pain and mourning, his brief courting of a new fiancee, and subsequent remarriage to take care of his existing children and to breed new ones.
    Never at any time it even comes to his mind that he could have saved his wives’ lives by not inflicting constant pregnancies on them.

    It’s only my personal opinion, but I’d have preferred to be a male house slave–even a field slave–rather than to be a brooding mare dying young after ten or fifteen pregnancies.
    Of course, the fate of the female slaves was the worst of all.
    Sorry for this long historical digression.

    • lizor

      Please don’t apologize for this rich information, sporenda. I think the comparison is apt – property is property. Women’s non-personhood and status as chattel is an incontrovertible historical fact. To complain about the parallel is nit-picky and irrelevant. Kogen still does not get it and you are extremely generous to reply to this specious and potentially derailing complaint.

      Thank you again for providing me and everyone else here with some very compelling information and analysis. And thanks Kogen for demonstrating why, in no uncertain terms, we must be very cautious in trusting self-identified male feminist allies.

      • You must mistrust me because I think the suffering of slaves, and of women, is immeasurable, and that to compare one to another is a disservice? I think you don’t get something here.

    • annika

      I understand your intentions with this comment, but where you wrote about preffering to be a black male slave rather than a white plantation wife is a perfect example of why black feminists are reluctant to work with white feminists. You alleviated it a bit with your penultimate line, but I think it’s disingenuous to act as if plantation wives blamed their husbands for their behaviour rather than the slaves they abused. This of course doesn’t take away from your overall about male allies to feminism, I just think it’s important to point out even benign instances of white supremacy.

      • I was trying to say this. I was thinking of Sojourner Truth and thinking something had to be said for her who knew both worlds.

        Y’all, What’s coming up for me is that I don’t quite express myself well in written word. Truth is in real life I don’t talk so much, or don’t have the opportunity as I pursue other things. This inability is across the board- from e-mail, to blogs, to comment sections. I’m humbled, ridiculously sorry, and even more sorry to for the frantic and nebulous remarks and comments as I try and approach clarity. So, as a result, if there’s no objection, I’m going to fall back and listen, just read, and occasionally do what I did above, which is sort of a quaker thing to do, by just letting someone else say what I mean. The only thing I think might aggravate you about this is that I’m Kogen, and you’d probably prefer a 1,000 word distance between us.

        As far as being mistrusted, I’m accepting that. Being a white male is like being a big, dangerous truck on the highway; some are good, some will kill you if you’re on a bike, but you don’t trust any of them, it’s just not in your best interest. I don’t trust any of them, they scare me, too. And they all burn petrol, which for me is the subconscious patriarchy that lies secretly beyond my view.

    • Thank you, I’m a little sensitive to it, also, having partially grown up in New Orleans in a culture where some of my bosses referred to themselves as “High yellow creole” and bragged about the plantations their families owned.

  • sporenda

    “. And thanks Kogen for demonstrating why, in no uncertain terms, we must be very cautious in trusting self-identified male feminist allies.”

    I appreciate that Meghan gave some space to this hotly debated question of feminist allies, because it’s one of the biggest bone of contention in the feminist movement: for every pro, there is the con;
    and as I mentioned before, many times I witnessed damages done to feminist groups by so called allies that were so extensive that I concluded that the cons outweighed the pros.
    And the Sviatsky affair makes it particularly relevant.

    Even when these allies don’t have a deliberate hidden agenda, like the megalomaniac control freak who pulled the strings of Femen (up to a point), they tend to perpetuate within the movement a number of typical male behaviors that can be very disruptive: mansplaining, interrupting, seeking mothering and female attention, and generally divesting interest from female concerns to male concerns.

    Kogen is a good example of that: I don’t doubt that, in theory, he is well meaning and has a sympathetic view of feminism. But in practice, his only contribution to this topic has been endless talk about him, his views, the fact that he is misunderstood, not paid enough attention, that his feelings are hurt etc.

    Another rule of thumb: feminism is about women’s issues, not men’s.

  • sporenda

    “bit with your penultimate line, but I think it’s disingenuous to act as if plantation wives blamed their husbands for their behaviour rather than the slaves they abused.”

    What I was trying to explain is this: the white mistresses might appear privileged, but in fact everybody on a plantation was ruled by an all powerful master.
    The most obvious aspect of slavery, the most studied, has been the condition of the slaves. And it was an absolute denial of basic human rights–I should not have to state the obvious.
    But in this system, there were other denials of human rights that have been underlooked by historians, that’s was my point.

    And likewise, very little has been written about the plight of female slaves; most of what has been written about slavery seems to concern mostly male slaves.

    An interesting detail is that 9 East Coast states (Vermont for instance) granted the right to vote to freemen (freed male slaves) some in 1776, others before 1820.
    That is more than 100 years before it was granted to women.

    Sorry again about this digression.

    • annika

      I don’t know why you replied to my comment with a series of obnoxious question marks……I didn’t disagree with you, just suggested that some of the wording you used may be offensives to WOC feminists. I think you made good points, just in a way that could be read wrong.

  • Me

    Here’s a link to an article titled The Problem with “Privilege” by Andrea Smith that was recently posted and I thought was relevant:

    Would it be better if men just had their own movement(s) to stop battery, to stop men’s use of porn and prostituted women? If we don’t have a movement or movements of our own towards these goals, isn’t it then necessarily appropriative to try to go with the feminist movement? What about men’s auxiliaries as a working model?

    @Kogen, You wrote in reply to lizor:

    “You must mistrust me because I think the suffering of slaves, and of women, is immeasurable, and that to compare one to another is a disservice? I think you don’t get something here.”

    Do you claim that sporenda just did a disservice with her brilliant comment, as it would seem?

    How is it not incredibly self-absorbed to make this to be about how YOU are mistrusted? That is such a distortion! Isn’t what you just did in that comment in itself an astonishing way to devalue the lived realities and histories of women and slaves?!?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I read that article by Andrea Smith last week and thought it was excellent. Thanks for posting it here.

  • @Me,

    The comment was directed at Lizor when she said,

    “And thanks Kogen for demonstrating why, in no uncertain terms, we must be very cautious in trusting self-identified male feminist allies.”

    I was just trying to address that, while if you look at the thread, it may look like I was responding to Sporenda. To Sporenda, I said thanks.

    And I’m very interested in a men’s auxiliary, or a place where I can make mistakes without upsetting women. But the thing about XYonline or Male is I don’t entirely feel challenged or entirely trust that the view of patriarchy is as accurate as it is here.

    Granted, I’ve been getting my feelings hurt here everyday for about a week, mostly by feeling misread. However, good on ya and them, because maybe men don’t get their feelings hurt enough about these issues. As a result, in my personal life, I’ve felt more and more careful about what to say and how to listen.

    I like what Starhawk suggested in The 5th Sacred Thing: a 500 year ban on men in leadership. I don’t trust men, I don’t trust myself, so the best thing I can do is disarm. There’s a powerful subconscious at work for me that I can barely peek at through the cracks of patriarchy.

    • Can I also repeat that I’m in a little over my head? I can’t read the Feministcurrent without googling a few words, like penultimate. The level of language here is a bit beyond me and my commuter campus education. And I myself communicate in religious phrases like, “phenomenal expression,” which is something they say a lot around Zen temples. (we learn these fancy phrases by chanting every day- we may or probably don’t know what they mean.)

      • Henke

        Yes, language is really a barrier sometimes since where we come from and our ideals and values most often differs from person to person in how we express ourselves (not talking about attitudes now but words and phrases).
        And me, as a non-english person, I have to google and use dictionaries all the time online and I still don’t always get it 🙂

        The anarcho-primitivst writer John Zersan has done some interesting work on language and symbolism by the way.

        • annika

          Or maybe you can take the 2 seconds to realize that women are told to dumb ourselves down all the time, and quit complaining when women express themselves intelligently.

  • I dont think a man can be a feminist, while we can have some feminine energies in nurturing and being supportive , its just not a natural thing, thats why feminists are important, the path of self discovery and teaching us their part of this whole evolution beyond the assinine junk of the past. I really dont even think a gay man can be a feminist, they dont bleed every month and end up having mad hormonal craziness when the bleeding has stopped and the hot flashes of old age begin.
    I think men can help with the working findings, i think thats part of what its all about. 🙂 it may not be a pleasant ride to get women empowered and through the rough terrain ahead on the subject, but we all decided this abrahamic religion was a great idea and abolished the goddess iconography, we all paid for it. Any real man thats dated a damaged woman can attest to that.

    First and foremost were all human beings, this whole idea of sex being an issue is a divisive bunch of crap in the sense that women as humans are entitled to what men as humans have established for themselves. Authority , power , presence, independence, self determination and self voice. Having counseled women on twin flame energy, i will just admit , i will probably never be able to speak on what being enlightened as a woman means and that , i would at least like to understand so i could converse on technical spiritual levels about it . All i can do is generalities form there they go where they need to with it.

  • vouchsafer

    dear at vernon nielson

    “I really dont even think a gay man can be a feminist, they dont bleed every month and end up having mad hormonal craziness when the bleeding has stopped and the hot flashes of old age begin.”

    You are fixating on a bodily function that is of as little consequence to women as taking a shit. In doing so, you are othering us. that’s all I have to say

  • Sage

    Thank you for the article. I would like to share some of my experience as a man with feminist goals, for anyone who may want to read it. I’m figuring out how i can exist as a man in this society (by which i mean mainly U.S. white culture in a semi-progressive subculture where a lot of people are semi-aware of oppression).

    I don’t mean to “mansplain” or to privilege my experience as a male. I’m aware that there are standpoints that i’ll never know, but must trust that others are speaking the truth about it, and use them as my mirrors to understand a broader reality.

    I have a light pink T-shirt i bought some years ago from a feminist group called “Babes United for Social Transformation” back in the university days, and i sometimes wear it on the street. Some people comment on it and say “nice T-Shirt”. It says “feminism is NOT a dirty word”. I wear it because i believe it’s a useful message and can use my male status to poke a hole in the consciousness of other males who see a guy wearing such a thing… because to a lot of men around here, feminism IS a dirty word.

    I’m aware that i may get some positive attention on me from feminist women as well, and i’ll accept it, but it’s not my point and i feel awkward and i know it should not be like that. I shouldn’t get kudos for wearing a T-shirt that says that it’s okay to even mention that oppression of women exists. That’s how low we are, is it? Such that even saying that justice would be a good idea, is a transgression and i get kudos for saying it.

    Anyway, i do what i can figure out how to do, in daily life, to at least not make the things worse for women, to not add myself to the pile-on of dude-bro hostile culture — and to speak against some of the worst things i witness by other dudes. To fight the essentializing of “male” and “female” essences and behaviors that i hear so much from dude-bro people who talk with me as if it’s all assumed knowledge that women are going to be that way, and men this way… i so often find myself having to say “I don’t talk about women in that way. Women are people, and are different from each other. There are strong women and weak women, there are women who like that kind of partner, and women who like other kinds of people….” ad nauseum to weak-brained men who think it’s ok to generalize about “women” in ridiculous ways, and never bother to reality-check against actual women in their lives, apparently.

    I like the sentiment that it’s about what you *do*, not what you call yourself, if you’re intent is to be a male ally. But can the word be used? Can i say i am a male who is a feminist ally when i am able to be conscious enough? I used to say “I’m a feminist” and still i knew that i was not the same as a woman feminist, as i didn’t live my reality as a woman. I have big issues with the dominant masculinity, and it causes me discomfort all the time, but i know it’s not the same kind of trouble as worrying about physical safety walking home, or being the one who is not just misunderstood as a dude who for some reason doesn’t want to always talk about women as meat or prey, but rather the one who is silenced, not heard, and seen as the meat or the prey in question. Sorry to be so blunt but that’s the reality i perceive. I lose status and benefits for being such a “stick in the mud” who doesn’t want to share in the wholesale objectification of women. I lost a job recently working with a “tree guy” because i didn’t act like enough of a bro, wouldn’t give him a phone number of a women so he could try to get into her pants … and sometimes with women who seem to want the dude-bro to be a dude-bro because maybe it’s something they can understand, and have been conditioned to expect as much as dude-bro has been conditioned to be dude-bro.

    A woman friend told me she didn’t think a man can be a feminist, but only a feminist ally, and i saw the reasoning in that, and trusted her standpoint that this meant something important, so i changed to saying that if anyone asks. I think it’s good to use the word, though not as a label to gain social standing, but rather to lift the word up from being denigrated and stepped on. I would never wear the T-shirt that you used for the article leader (“This is what a feminist looks like”) but i am partial to the T-shirt that says “feminism is NOT a dirty word”).

    Still figuring out how i can exist in spaces like this, respectfully, and not “mainsplaining” or taking too much space by assumption that my voice is somehow more important, but yet to have a voice, a solid voice, and be a part of this conversation. Figuring out what jabs and insults are truly directed at me and whether any are more reactions that are understandable in the context of patriarchy but that i should not take too personally.

    The ultimate end is to change the world to one where people are people, whatever gender, whatever particulars of spirit and personality, and not corralled into gender boxes both materially and culturally. It feels fractal, like there are a million questions at every level, where gender has f’d up daily life and made it an obstacle course.

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  • Talking about male appropriation of the self-identification as a ‘feminist’ immediately calls to mind the issues in colonialisation of language, culture and ideas – that an appropriation, (whilst possibly a sincere appreciation) – ultimately leads to the dissolution of difference, of separateness (and all that ‘s positive about that) and homogenises and subsumes a culture within what happens to be in this case a ‘white, male patriarchy’. And so male appropriation of feminism whilst well-meaning can be, thinking about colonial issues, a very destructive thing.

    I however cannot imagine a successful feminism without a constructive dialogue with the ‘genderised’ or ‘masculinised’ (in a popular cultural sense) male. I just can’t imagine a sympathetic male gender figure being sympathetic and supportive to the experience of women and other non-’conventional’ gender identifications without education – without education that really gets through, whatever the approach.

  • Michael

    The skepticism of cisgendered female feminists of male allies is understandable. There is a lot of intrusion and destructive phonies out there. However, I want to point out that there is a big difference between gender and sex. Namely, people that identify as “men” may not want to identify themselves as intersex or transgendered in order to validate their feminist position. Or people who want to express their female gender, but are still imitating male gender expression out of fear and intimidation from the patriarchy. I sympathize with the skepticism, I really do. I wish there was an easier way to sort out phonies – but I don’t think it’ll be as easy as sorting them along the basis of perceived sex or gender.

    • marv

      Phony allies aren’t the crux of the problem. It is gender itself. Just because a person believes in her/his identity doesn’t make it true/real. Look at all the people who believe in the god delusion. Gender and religion originate in male dominant societies and wreak havoc on women’s lives. The solution is not more genders and religions but the abolition of them. All gender and religious identities reinforce gender hierarchy. They don’t challenge the fact that either are socially made within patriarchy.

      Think about taking a vow of silence. It can enlighten the mind.

  • Ciaran Jamieson

    As a man who does consider himself a feminist ally i completely agree with this post. I have a lot of female friends and quite a few of those are feminists. Most of them have had negative experiences at the hands of men and I will freeley i have made assumptions, and thought said and done things that have caused them pain. While i know this has been to a lesser degree than most of the other experiences that they have had. over time though particularly in the last 3 years though i have come to realise why what i have assumed, said and done is wrong and why it had the effect that has and i have mode good ground in changing that outlook of myself. I am not female I don’t have to put up with ehat women do i am one of those privileged white males. but i do see what happens and i do disagree with it> I don’t claim to know exactly what feminism entails, but from the discussions i have his with my feminist friends I think i do have a good idea have what its about and based on that understanding i am a feminist ally. but i don’t expect any credit for it i just want to see things change and for equality for women not to be a dream but to be an actuality, men, don’t think you know everything, just concentrate on treating women with the equality and respect they deserve.

  • Lasivian

    I consider myself a feminist, and I won’t shy away from using that title, my gender is irrelevant.

    What does it mean to me?

    It means that sexism, in all forms and all ways is wrong.

    I think the issue at hand is how the term has been corrupted to mean something that it isn’t in a society that is still rife with acceptable sexism.

    That doesn’t change based on what genitals I happen to possess.

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