Dear Alex: My letter to a Male “Feminist”

Journey On by Aleta Pippin

Journey On by Aleta Pippin. Source

Over at Everyday Sexism, I came across this:

Alex 2012-09-13 18:06

Finally came out as a feminist. Now every day I get shit from my friends about it. They constantly make jokes about sexism and women to me now (I mean, they did that before, but now it’s multiplied). Maybe a while ago this would have hurt me. Now, NO FUCKS ARE GIVEN. Take your sexist, asshole selves elsewhere. I really do hope everyone who comes on this site and makes posts doesn’t put up with the sexist bullshit they deal with. PLEASE stand up for yourselves. We have to show these pricks how strong we really are!
Dear Alex,
I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.

The good news: 
It’s great that you support the right of women to be treated like actual humans.  Not tolerating sexist remarks from your peers challenges their beliefs and that’s why they like to slag you.  But challenging the status quo is so important to changing things for the better, and we’re glad you want to do that.
Here’s the bad news:
I assume “Alex” doesn’t mean Alexandra, and you talk about women as if you’re not one, so I’ll assume you’re a guy.  If so, you’re not a feminist.  You’re a feminist ally.  If you want to be an effective at being a feminist ally, there are some things you need to know.
Chiding women for not standing up for themselves more is so not cool.  You get hassled when you stand up for women.  We get hassled every day whether we stand up for ourselves or not, hassled so much that many of us don’t have any energy left to take on the patriarchy head-on.  The very site you’re on, Everyday Sexism, lists just a few of the things that happen to women, everywhere, all the time.
If we’re lucky, we only get hassled.   Women are regularly attacked, beaten, raped and even murdered for challenging male supremacy.  We’ve been conditioned all our lives never to assert ourselves or contradict a man.  You haven’t, because of your male privilege.  You don’t know what it’s like to grow up as one of us having that beaten into your head, every day.  You only see what happens to us from the outside. And that’s why you can’t be a feminist.
If you want to be a male ally to feminists, you need to NOT talk to women in any way that sounds like you’re blaming us for whatever we have to do to survive oppression.  Even if you think it’s not “strong” enough.  Listen more, support more, and judge less.
And most importantly: DON’T TELL US WHAT TO DO.
Feminism is one thing you don’t automatically get to be boss of just because you’re a dude.  Even the men who genuinely sympathize with us try to pull this controlling shit, and that’s another reason men don’t get to be feminists. You’re an ally, and your job is to support us, not to command.
Best wishes,
Also: Francesca , who posted on 2012-09-11 14:31 :
The situation you were describing falls more under the aegis of gender essentialism, not “sexism against men”.  There is no sexism against men.  Gender essentialism sucks because it oppresses women.  Men can be embarrassed or inconvenienced by gender essentialism, but they don’t suffer gender oppression.  Male privilege prevents that.

4 thoughts on “Dear Alex: My letter to a Male “Feminist”

  1. Is that the whole of Alex’s piece? If so, I’m not entirely sure why you are assuming ‘Alex’ is a man; because “they…make jokes about sexism and women?” Women do this too.
    I’m never comfortable with assumptions – let’s try and stick with facts, surely? – although I agree wholeheartedly with what you say to male ‘feminists’.
    I just hope ‘Alex’, if ‘she’ sees this, doesn’t feel ‘she’s’ now getting shit from all sides.

  2. The problem I run into is when I define terms like “funfem,” and funfems tell me that I’m trying to tell them what to do and that I should shut up. They do succeed in making me feel uncomfortable (although not as uncomfortable as feminist bloggers are on the Internet, I know that). I feel like they are kinda right: I do wish they’d stop pretending to not be women-haters, because it just muddles the issues for everyone else.

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