Feministing: On doing the emotional work of being a male feminist

By MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH

Be a male feminist. Prepare yourself to be held accountable.

I appreciate pieces like Lauren Rankin’s “Feminism Needs Men, Too” over at PolicyMic and interviews like this one Brittney Cooper (of Crunk Feminist Collective) did with The Feminist Wire because they force me to consider more deeply what it means when I identify as a male feminist. I come into this space with a set of privileges (cis, male, hetero) that are in constant need of interrogation, so it’s important to take some time to reflect on that a bit.

I’m deliberate about saying I’m a feminist for a couple of reasons. I believe in equality and tearing down the systems of oppression that stand its way, so identifying as a feminist signals my dedication to radical change. But one can be invested in that work without applying the label. I choose it because I always want to be held accountable.

The line that struck me the most in Brittney’s interview is when she said: “The thing that we aren’t saying about male feminists is that they have to do the emotional work.” Relatively speaking, the politics is easy. The emotional work? That shit is hard, but is some of the most important work we’re charged with doing.

Because after the dust has settled, the reproductive rights have been won, the pay is equal, and there’s equal representation in Congress, the mission is only half complete if sexism still dominates our social spaces. You can say the structural stuff is more important, but it’s the everyday stuff that reinforces the structural stuff that adds up to a clusterfuck of mind-numbing oppression. And so many of us are guilty of allowing ourselves to perpetuate it without ever taking a moment to see the damage we’re doing.

It’s when you’re kickin’ it with your boys and you don’t speak up (or maybe even join in) when the one dude is being called a “bitch” or a “pussy” because he didn’t hit on the girl you saw…

To read this piece in its entirety, visit our friends at Feministing.com

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