Note: I analogise between racism and sexism in this post. Yes, I realise they’re not the same thing. However, I believe there are enough similarities and parallels to draw useful analogies.
I was having a poke around on fora.tv, a rather neat site with video of book readings, speeches, and appearances. One video is a July 21st reading of Jessica Valenti’s book, “Full Frontal Feminism”.
Asked by an audience member about “men’s emancipation” in the US, Valenti replied:
I have a chapter on men in the book, because I do think that it’s really important. If we’re talking about feminism we have to talk about the way patriarchy hurts men too, the way sexism hurts men too, because If we’re going to build a really strong feminist movement we have to have men involved as well. You know I think that the best way to do that is to say, “Hey, we’re not the only ones suffering from sexism here, this is hurting you as well”.
What struck me here is the contrast between this rather pervasive idea of “men should support feminism cos sexism hurts men”, and ideas about white allies in the antiracism movement. Is anyone going around saying that the only way to enrol white people into antiracism would be to talk to them about the ways in which racism hurts white people? Not that I’ve seen. To me, that would be the absolute pinnacle of repugnant white-centrism. You’d have to be positively festering with self-entitled unexamined white-privilege-boils to think that racism is wrong because it might occasionally hurt white people’s feelings.
There is absolutely no need to centre white people in antiracism. The reason racism is wrong is because it hurts people of colour (and, incidentally, disproportionately women of colour), not because it hurts white people. White people should fight racism, should ally with antiracists, because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s in their own self-interest. They should ally because that’s part of being a decent human being.
Doesn’t all of the above sound blindingly obvious?
So why is there this pernicious streak of male-centrism in feminism?
How about men supporting feminism because it’s wrong to hurt women, not because “sexism hurts men”? Why are women thinking that this is too much to ask for?
Categories: gender & feminism