Tuesday, August 01, 2000
And a page with some excellent essays on the past, present and future of feminism. I guess I should state my interest in this: as a member of a social group that has been historically oppressed (queers), I've taken a certain interest in the ways in which different oppressed social groups interact with eachother's oppression - either to counteract it or perpetuate it.

Although I'm a homosexual, I'm also a male (and a white, upper-middle class one at that. Sheesh! Stone me now) and in that sense I cannot deny that I am implicated within the oppression of women on a broad social sense, even though I'd like to think that I've avoided any personal instances of overt sexism. The trouble with growing up with only three sisters is that while it is difficult to then become sexist, it is also harder to identify the issues concerning women because I tend not to differentiate between the genders. Which is obviously a misguided (but hopefully not too hateful) worldview.

Talking with feminists, many of whom are also queer, I was surprised to realise how easily I and other male queers could activate circumstances in which these women, many of whom might be friends, would feel oppressed and uncomfortable. I've watched and taken part in a number of arguments pertaining to this crucial point: up to what point should men (straight or gay) be expected to recognise their complicity in the oppression of women?

It's a tough question because there's an ideological answer and a practical one. Ideally, men should take responsibility for their oppressive behaviour and seek to educate themselves as to how to avoid instances of oppression, regardless of whether women are asking us to or not. On a practical level though, those in control are generally too comfortable to seek to change the circumstances of those they exploit. Even men with the best intentions, who believe they are acting reasonably, can cause harm, because their beliefs of what is reasonable are based on a male-established status quo which is fundamentally unreasonable. Divorcing oneself from the status quo is difficult for anyone, let alone if that status quo is one which reaffirms and validates your superior position within society. Males need to be reminded again and again that we're behaving badly in order to overcome this.

The feminists I've spoken to have adopted the ideological approach, and thus attempts on the parts of people like myself to seek advice on what men should do to avoid oppressing women were regarded as offensive in and of themselves. This caused me much frustration at first, and I felt like my hands were tied, as were those of many other queer men who feel a connection to feminists but aren't quite sure where to even begin changing the faults within themselves. Furthermore, wouldn't a more open, practical collaboration between men and women result in better results for women in society? The standoffishness I sensed amongst the feminists subsequently seemed needlessly purist to me.

What I've begun considering though is that while some sort of compromise on the part of women might help in addressing immediate concerns, there is the broader consideration of trying to change people's perceptions towards combatting oppression - it shouldn't be up to those who are oppressed to change their situation. If we could encourage a greater sense of consideration and willingness to support eachother which exists above and beyond the frameworks of anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, we wouldn't need these vocal minorities to police us. We should all be policing ourselves.

Where is this all going? Well, I've consequently decided that I really do need to educate myself on gender theory. Hence the research links. Actually any pointers towards particularly helpful tomes would be appreciated. But don't worry, I'm still the anti-socialist pig I always was.


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