Thursday, September 02, 2010

Prescription for straight white dudes

Today I want to be perfectly honest with you by underscoring the fact that I am a straight white dude. You see, this is the point in our conversation where a woman usually interjects and says, "Well, what the hell does a 19th-century, Euro-pee-on, bearded misogynist have to do with me?" I depend on women to do this, in fact, because it's easy to get carried off into some argument that concerns dudes doing dudely deeds -- and the next thing you know, you are alone with a bunch of dudes.

So I want to acknowledge the fact that my prescriptions are really written for myself, a straight white dude -- for example, when I speak of engaging rural white communities. This is a problem that needs to be resolved within the white community. It's not a problem that people of color need to take on, or anybody else. It's not appropriate to ask someone who is likely to court significant harm to do something that someone of conscience within that community could accomplish at less risk. There are tasks that are appropriate for different folks, so I write from one perspective in the hope of coordinating with others.

In the last few weeks, one of the very high-minded organizations I belong to sustained an injury from the neglect it has shown toward women's concerns for some time. Like so many high-minded, socially-conscious associations, it is an unmitigated straight white dude disaster. I hope I am anticipating Mel's upcoming post about women and anarchism by saying this, but feminism is something that any of you who are anything like me really need to defer to if we want to move past dysfunction, towards strength in our organizations.

Feminism is a doorway to many perspectives. No matter what group of people we are talking about, women somehow manage to occupy this "perspective from the bottom" -- whether or not they even enjoy a "view of the top." It is as true within ethnic categories as it is within the working class, so -- and here I am speaking as a man -- I believe there is an absolute necessity to go there.

Men have a special role to play within feminism by, firstly, supporting the idea!; and, secondly, revealing the strategies by which patriarchy -- men's authority over women -- appeals to them. For men, everyday is a choice between aligning themselves with women and going with the flow. Going against what is constantly perpetuated as "normal" requires strategies of its own, and men do well to devise some!

Only when men and women are free to sustain an honest conversation about what they want can many of these other struggles take meaningful shape. I don't see very much of this happening anywhere, whether online or in person. You will understand if I mourn this point until it changes!


Rachel said...

I thought you were a woman for several months when I first was referred here from IOZ, which is as good a compliment as I think I can give online.

Men are also important in feminism because, as in other areas of life, they tend to be listened to. It's a bitter irony that my husband's repetitions of my ideas are all that might sway people into, eventually, listening to me.

drip said...

Rachel, it may be a bitter irony to you, but it is a sweet irony to the white dudes who can lend support that is out of proportion to their abilities due to their "white dudeness". I have come to believe that my principle obligation in all encounters is to keep an open mind because I have learned that you never know what package the message will arrive in, or who might be receptive to a well thought out, respectfully delivered observation.

JRB said...


Well, that is excellent because you completed my post for me.

Somehow I neglected to say that, just as people have a responsibility to address problems within their own communities, men should be learning how to confront men on their own shit. And that's, just as you say, largely because men are less likely to listen to women.

Anonymous said...

I have the good fortune of being around talented and gracious woman most everyday. I listen and speak per my ratio of ears to mouth; you will make more 'observations' this way.
But there are so many flavors of feminism.
I think these men who don't engage may find themselves at a great disadvantage - in our lifetime, within our society. Today's white dude must evolve.