bell hooks’ Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center includes a great chapter about the role of men in feminism. hooks argues that feminism needs to become more inclusive by integrating people from its margins (i.e. men and women of color) into the center. It is only this way that feminism will become the mass-based political movement it needs to be to create real change. This has important implications for male allies working in feminism today.
The chapter describes men as potential “comrades in struggle” and gives several reasons for the “exclusion” of men during the Second Wave. There are two main forces working against male participation: socialized misogyny and the view of all men as anti-women. Mostly she takes aim at the radical feminists for their separatist rhetoric and fallacious thinking that all men are “the enemy.” In an oppressor—oppressed relationship it would seem that this would be somewhat valid. But turning feminism into an exclusive zone had the consequence of removing men from the struggle. It came to be seen as a “women’s issue” and not a broader human rights issue.*
hooks argues that this separatism did not pose a threat to the existing power structure. They don’t have to be afraid of the movement engaging people in the wider culture. If feminism means withdrawing from society through exclusion, the status quo will remain unchanged. This is no way to create meaningful change.
As these news articles mention, having women-only forms of public transportation is just a band-aid approach. It doesn’t address the root of the problem and is based on the following false assumption. Social norms like street harassment are irrevocable and withdrawal is the only solution to a society that cannot be changed. More male allies working to right these wrongs will be a ringing refutation of this assumption.
– Sean Crosbie
This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.