Submitted by Joe Samalin, MasculinityU contributor
For over a week now, I’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching the avalanche of attacks against Zerlina Maxwell, following her calling out the problems with arming women with guns as a way of preventing rape. I have also been happy to see more and more support for her, mostly from other women and survivors of sexual assault.
For a week, I’ve been working towards saying something in support of Zerlina – from my particular perspective as a white, straight, feminist, American man. And as many, many voices spoke out this week, I became paralyzed.
There are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands more men than ever before who are aware of and engaged in addressing gender-based violence. And yet with the recent attacks on Zerlina, we are, as usual, pretty freaking quiet as a whole. When we do speak out it is most often still after a woman that we know, love, or work with calls on us to do so.
Why is our (white) silence in the face of men’s violence against women so still so overwhelming time after time, even more so in the case of women of color (9-year old girls of color!) as the target of the violence?
Even as I pondered this, I found myself guilty of it. I found myself getting caught up and letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good”: if I cannot be supportive in the exact right way, if I can’t say and do everything perfectly from the get-go, especially when it comes to race, I am going to stay quiet.
This is how patriarchy works: by encouraging us, white, straight men, to consider everything we have to say as the “most valuable”. We believe this about ourselves even when we don’t think we do. And guess what, the fact that a white man is speaking in support of a woman of color, even while hundreds of women are doing so, still may get more attention.
So is there a reason to raise our voices as white male feminists? Yes. And this is it: Until we truly work in in partnership with and with the leadership of our fellow activists, until we see the same level of proactive response to attacks like those against Zerlina Maxwell, regardless of race, we are not doing our work. We are serving racism and patriarchy.
Therefore: ANY and all attacks on Zerlina Maxwell (and others) for her one-time and on-going calling out of truth must stop, and we must raise the voice of 10 times, 100 times the number of men in her support. We may not always do it well, and we do have the responsibility of doing it thoughtfully. But do it we must. We owe and can give nothing less than being all in. As white, male feminists, we have to do something, do more with our privilege.
And so tomorrow, in part two of this post, I will address the issue Zerlina has been speaking to and how men can do more to be involved in supporting it. Stay tuned!
Sincerely and in brotherhood,
Joe Samalin, with input from Bix Gabriel