Friday, April 24, 2009

Pragmatism Might Be A Better Approach

This is Part Two of yesterday's post.

I do consider myself an activist. I also consider myself a Feminist. But I also understand the concept of pragmatism and how it must be included if success is ever to be reached. To wit, while it might seem necessary to constantly harp upon the role of male privilege in modern life, whether visible or invisible, I know that many men will take offense to that tactic. It's human nature. Few people are going to respond positively to any group or movement that heaps blame upon a massive segment of the population by stating specifically that they benefit from some kind of inborn advantage. While stating it might be completely justified and completely true, one wonders whether the cost of abject honesty is worth the membership needed to make goals a reality.

To wit, I believe in the ideals and goals of Feminism. As I said yesterday, my mother is a Feminist herself and I was raised to believe in the equality of the sexes. I also know that more men would join and lend their talents if they didn't feel like, upon entrance, that they wore a bull's eye by default. The way to defeat sexism in its multifarious permutations is to seek the input of male allies. I promise that they are just as weary of men behaving badly as women are. Furthermore, they understand what it is like to be summarily dismissed as chauvinistic due to the ravages of prior bad experiences with offensive men.

Problems with many identity groups like feminists occurs when their rhetoric renders them self-isolating and extremely limiting in their greater impact on society. After a while, they end up being exercises in preaching to the choir. A little choir practice now and again is a good thing, but too much of doesn't really move the dialog forward. The message is stuck in time. This is why when I, as a male, express feminist points of view or mention feminist scholars, many women are surprised why any male would ever be interested in such a thing. They often find it appealing that I would have gone to the trouble to learn about the history of the movement, but often hand in hand with that notion is that most men would automatically feel so threatened by the idea of a strong, opinionated woman in any context that they wouldn't make much of any effort to dig deeper. This may have been true in another time with a different generation of men, but it's far less the case in this day and age. Men don't feel threatened by smart, empowered women. Men feel threatened by any movement which labels them automatically part of the problem from the moment they leave the womb.

For a similar example, I recall the Civil Rights Movement as practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers. If one is to be fair, one must acknowledge the many white liberals who lent their political clout, money, time, and effort to the movement. Though most preferred to take an advisory position far out of the public eye, one cannot deny their existence or their impact on the overall success of the movement as a whole. I can't ever recall Dr. King mentioning that all whites were part of the problem or that every white person benefited from the color of their skin from birth. Both statements are likely true to some degree, but the pragmatic King knew that stating them in a public forum or incorporating them into the goals of the Movement would be counter-productive at best. Compare this to the militancy, separatism, and hatred of whites practiced by the Black Panthers, or by Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam as voiced by Malcolm X. Though Malcolm X after his conversion experience in Mecca softened to the idea of incorporating white support, he also stated that whites could help but could not join.

Let me reiterate that I want Feminism to succeed. I want the Equal Rights Amendment to be passed. I want to see complete parity in pay for men and women. But I know that so long as the current tact is maintained, we will still be fighting for these same reforms years from now and wondering why they've never come to pass.


darkblack said...

Well said. It will be a long struggle toward true equality for all, but refusing to demonize an entire group for something that they cannot change is a subjectively large step that many must take on the path.


Utah Savage said...

Let me cast my lot with honesty. Yes, it might not always be pleasant but it's better than perpetuating a misperception of the truth. Change does not happen with out a bit of pain for the ruling gender/class/race/sexual identity. Sorry guys. I vote for honesty.

Comrade Kevin said...

And here the argument has stalemated. This has been the fault line for the last several decades.

I don't know about you, but I'm just hoping for some resolution.

Faded said...

In my life, the less you argue with women, the better your life ends up being. Sometimes you can't even agree with them without getting your ass handed to you. Everytime I've told a group of female feminists that I'm a male feminist- I get the raised eyebrow treatment and end up being heaped with scorn and derision that I could ever consider myself as capable of empathizing with women.

So, I just gave up trying to convince them of my pure motives. When in the presence of a group of ardent feminists, I relegate myself to "just a man" status, and when the complex subject of gender equality comes up I don't attempt to insinuate my opinions beyond self-deprecatory comments of mollification. After all, I'm a member of the gender that has caused them so much pain and therefore, no matter what, I'm still "just a man."

Continue striving to be a feminist and fight the good fight for equality. But I myself quit trying to convince them I was on "their side". It doesn't have to be women vs. men, but women AND men together. If they could realize the only people on the "other" side are the men AND the women who believe that certain genders should be restricted on certain levels, this would be an easier task for all of us to accomplish.