Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Identify As A Feminist, Hilarity Ensues. (And An Early Review Of "Black Male Outsider")


Last week, while taking a break from unpacking boxes in my new apartment, I walked down to Lake Merritt to read some more of Gary L. Lemons' "Black Male Outsider", a book that i've only read 20 something pages of but has really been blowing my mind. More about that later. I see a colleague running around the lake, and he is running with a woman friend. He recognizes me, and they slow to a stop to take a break, panting through introductions and stretching. My colleague starts talking shop, and the dark glasses wearing woman looks down and asks "what are you reading?" I show her. She reads the title, and then the subtitle: "Teaching As A Pro-Feminist Man." Her eyebrows arch skyward, and she lets out a hearty laugh, repeating the subtitle as if it were punchline from a good joke, with extra enunciation of the word feminist, to accentuate the absurdity of the "joke". I calmly smile and say "yes, i write a feminist blog." She looks back down at the book, her expression partly hidden by her glasses. She reads the back a bit, nodding slowly, saying nothing. What is she thinking? Meanwhile, I don't think my male colleague actually caught any of this, he was ranting about something unfortunate that happened at work. At some point, they decide their break was long enough. We smile and say good byes and good to meet yous. I watch them run away... and I am left with the impression that somehow, the idea of being a black man who identifies as feminist... is funny. Hilarious. Farcical. Something that comes on after Tyler Perry's House Of (Dire) Pain with a laugh track that comes on while the main character does an action for gender equality and justice. 

I think about the reactions I would have had if the woman had been black. If she had been white. She was a mixed race woman, probably in her mid 20's, and I personally don't know if she identifies as a woman of color. I wonder how i could have handled it differently. I wonder if she left still thinking it was funny, or if it left some other impression. I wonder how i could have brought my male colleague into this surprising and short moment. But most of all, I ponder that for this woman, somehow my maleness and/or blackness makes the idea of me being feminist kinda ridiculous. 

Would love to hear thoughts on this! And to be clear, though this left me feeling a little bit shaken, confused and minimized, i don't perceive this action as a mindful attack, or even something that i should judge this woman about. It brings up larger questions for me besides this woman's experience. If anything, I appreciate the opportunity to think about what this incident raised for me. 

SO YES. The book! 

blackmaleoutsider.jpg picture by ffloodspace


It is a memoir and scholarly treatise that is speaking very very deeply to me (yes!! you understand me!! i nod my head so much while reading this) and like i said, i haven't gotten too far. I appreciate that he entitles the book "Black Male Outsider" because he has chosen to mindfully stand outside of the prescribed roles of heterosexism and patriarchal masculinity. Which definitely holds one up to public scrutiny and suspicion. How on point that I receive laughter for identifying with this book! Black Male Outsider indeed. Here are some of my favorite quotes so far:

"...Black Male Outsider functions as a pedagogical autobiography of black male liberation. With unbridled candor, it lays bare my yearning to be free from years of internalized wounds of white supremacist thinking and patriarchal masculinity. At risk of sounding overly dramatic, I am no longer afraid to admit that embracing black feminist thought was a life saving action for me." -xvi

"The more i scraped through the thickly layered, crusted-over pain of past boyhood hurts and heteronormative notions of masculinity attached to feelings of racial inferiority, the clearer I began to see the work in this memoir as spiritually grounded."-xix

 "We promote the belief that all men should be in perpetual process of soul work toward the rejection of white supremacist patriarchy." -xix

And there is much more, with references to bell hooks, Aaronette White, Manning Marable, Patricia Hill Collins, W.EB. Dubois, Alice Walker, Marlon Riggs, Audre Lorde and more. Click to Feminist Review for a full review from someone who has read more than i have! 

I do really love that Lemons speaks of this path as being spiritually grounded. This is spirit work, this is heart work. Love is a large motivational factor for me doing this work, as most of the people in my life are female, people i love. There are also many LGBTQ folks in my life who i love. It has become hard for me to reconcile saying that i love people while turning away when oppression is a daily experience for the people i say i love. It is a path of self-respect as well, when considering that latter notion. And also self-love, as Lemons demonstrates with the willingness to plumb into and heal the tender and exploited parts of himself that were warped by patriarchy. This is work I also continue to lovingly do. Among many other things, this path is a spiritual path of revolutionary love.  

Who do you love? 

.

72 comments:

Tako said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Richard.

I'm not going to try to theorize here what might have been going on in Sunglass Woman's heart and mind. Not for lack of ideas... more because I can imagine many possible histories and I'm certain that whatever I imagine would only scratch the surface of her reality.

I do want to talk about laughter, though... humans laugh to release tension. In the context of a "joke", the punchline is invariably a case of an outcome jarring with an expectation... Something unexpected happens, but in retrospect fits perfectly. This forces us to reconcile a NEW TRUTH, and we laugh to release the fleeting sense of tension that happens when our worldview is shifted ever so slightly.

What I'm saying is that your identity as a feminist clearly jarred with her previous conception of what black/male/who-knows-what-else might have been. The bad news is that feminist-identified men are rare enough that the appearance of one (of any color) can be jarring. The good news is that Sunglass Woman's worldview might have been shifted by this encounter.

I'm sorry you were left shaken by this interaction, Richard -- I'm sure it was disheartening to imagine you might have been perceived as an "outsider" despite all your work. I do hope you aren't also wrestling with a suspicion that you somehow failed yourself/feminism/her, though.
Sometimes change happens in subtle, small ways, and we don't get to see the fruit of our efforts. I do believe that you shifted her worldview simply by BEING WHO YOU ARE and BEING THERE. You challenged her preconceptions simply by coming to the table... her laughter was proof of that.

So I say thanks to you.

~Tako

whatsername said...

Hey, I live in the Lake Merritt area too. Just wanted to say welcome to the neighborhood. ^.^

Fiyu Pikni said...

I agree with Tako.

I think that Sunglass Woman's reaction is a fairly typical one that you have surely confronted in some similar form before.

They key thing is to never cower in the face of these people's reactions. You didn't.

I love what was said about you shifting her worldview, even slightly. Tako is right.

Thanks for sharing.

richard said...

@ Tako: Thank you for your words! What you wrote was beautifully crafted, wise, so very kind and encouraging :)

indeed, many of us laugh to release tension or conflict, and if i did not match her previous conception of a feminist, then i presented a conflict. To be clear though, i was left more shaken by that notion, than by her. It made me think of the proliferation of images of black men as hyper-masculine and how few images there are of black men of other masculinities (sigh... rest in peace MJ!! He held another image of masculinity, not without flaws of course... but i love that even heavy swagger type dudes can say they love MJ), and even fewer images of black feminist men to the point that it may set up a racist mythology similar to the one about Native Americans- we don't actually exist.

Of course, just in the day to day movements through the world that women do, i also do not blame women for thinking that feminist men do not exist. I also can tend to believe that, even though i am one!

Again, thanks for the positive reinforcement of me and my work. You rock. Hugs. :)

@ whatshername: Thanks!! hee. i love this neighborhood. i actually have been in this neighborhood for 7 years, i just moved somewhere two blocks away from my previous crib. two blocks closer to the lake :)

@ Fiyu Pikni: Hello!! its been a little while, good to see you here! and i always love yer online identity tag, it sweet mi yu see!!

and yes, good point, i have met this reaction in one form or another. in an abstract way, i am meta-surprised... surprised at my surprise :) But I have no shame around my stances, so i will indeed continue to do my work and let it shine when it is questioned.

Thank you :)

richard said...

@ aladydivine: Welcome to my blog! And thanks for your words, i was also nodding while reading them. One of my best friends in the world has reported being triggered by the name of my blog for similar reasons. She believes in my intentions, but also has a reaction when she sees the word "men" right smack in the middle of the word "feminism." My initial intention was to create a space where men of feminist inclinations can meet and hold each other accountable for being better allies, and doing work on ourselves around shedding patriarchal masculinity as much as possible. Which i see as not only in the service of women, but in our own souls, as men twisted by patriarchy and benefitting from the oppression of the women in our lives.

i wanted to emphasize the importance of men becoming allies to the struggle and our own healing, healing of ourselves, sons, brothers, friends. I want to exemplify that we can use our privilege to do good work. i want to model that a hetero black man has no qualms having the prefix "fem" before his "manhood". I respect the reasons why some men choose the term "pro-feminist", but to me, it seems distanced, like something done on the side. That feminism is that thing over there that one is "pro" for, as opposed to fully identifying with the movement, as bell hooks and many other black feminists encourage men to do. Perhaps the title of this blog may remain a metaphor for what all men should expect-- to not be considered down with the struggle until it is proven.

After the inception of this blog over a year ago, as time continued, i realized that my online colony of feminist men (of color) was really not umm, coming together. so i channeled that intention to make the blog what it is now, one that models a feminist masculinity, and discusses issues of masculinity, feminism, heterosexism, race, and liberation.

i see that you have commented in another area of my blog already (and yes, Aaronette M. White's book "Ain't I A Feminist" does NEED NEED NEED to be read by everyone, including all black men!!) and i am glad that you have decided that perhaps i am actually walkin the walk :) its real talk though, i should not be surprised that a woman will not just accept me at face value, me identifying as a feminist. I don't just run up to white folks and give em a hug cuz they self-identify as anti-racist. Shoo, I coulda been at the lake posing with that book as a ruse to get a date! i have already had men comment on this blog that they think i have a "good hustle going" with this blog, that the ladies must really "eat it up." gross. really gross. i understand that for this man, that is the only motivation he could imagine for doing this work.

recently, a man has really been testing me on why i do this work, but in a good way. i really should repost the comments as a blog post! i appreciate that he has made me really re-enunicate my stances, almost from scratch. If you are interested, peep the thread at Reportback From The 2009 SFWAR Walk Against Rape.

I'm looking forward to peepin your blog too-- i see that you posted the EXACT thing i was gonna post next, the Black Male Privilege list!! I am glad i read that you found his site to be in conflict with the list (ie, having misogynist themes) cuz i hadn't read his site properly, and was just gonna link it. I should read that more carefully too.

Have a great rest of the week aladydivine... and everyone! Thank you. blessings

~richard

richard said...

@aladydivine: yes, honesty is the best policy. :) ain't no room for half-steppin in this!

i do totally see where you are coming from. Given the legacy of men having the privilege to claim spaces, i can see how seeing the word "men" in the middle of "feminism" looks invasive, co-opting, like a visual representation of taking up space. Perhaps i should have polled more women about their thoughts on the name of my blog. most people i know are supportive though. But I may not have chosen this name if i had more in depth discussions with women, especially women who identify as feminists. Perhaps, even with the best of intentions of wanting to be a positive example for other men, and wanting to model myself as an unapologetic anti-sexist and straight ally that has no qualms being fem-anything... perhaps the title of this blog is still indicative of more unlearning i have to do.

To be clear though, I don't believe that calling myself feminist means that i understand a woman's experience, or even that i think that i no longer benefit from patriarchy. It means that i am also in the struggle for the liberation of women. I look to bell hooks and Aaronette White, who affirm that men who actively resist sexism are members of the feminist movement. I also recognize that not all feminists are comfortable with that, and understandably so. I have reconciled some time ago, that to step up in this way, i will be under scrutiny from feminists and non-feminists alike. I have no pretense that this will be a comfortable journey. It is my hope that my work is helpful for most, if not all.

re: feminist masculinity: i agree that the word "masculinity" needs to be overhauled. In the public imagination, being "masculine" means... you are 50 Cent. That is the small box of masculinity allowed to be a "real man". Especially for black men. I am of the belief that there are many masculinities, and that it is not limited to gender. when i said feminist masculinity, i was referring mostly to biological men, and speaking of a type of masculinity that challenges the gender coding of boys and men in a patriarchal society. a key component would be to not be misogynist, as well as to challenge hetero/sexism. Other components would be around men and boys just reclaiming humanity denied us by patriarchy. men *can* cry. men *can* be nurturing. men *can* be vulnerable. men can have an emotional experience outside of happy and angry, straight men can have female friends, and gay male friends. The list goes on. I think Bryon Hurt does an amazing job of covering this subject, some of his work is in the right margin of the home page of this blog.

and again, thanks for the heads up on the Black Male Privilege site! I still gotta read it! Been enjoying responding to you instead :)

Please, no fear of blowing up my blog! this is a space for folks to really bring it. And i think people can really learn from our interactions. Do you live in the bay area tho? I would be down to meet for tea if so :)

Ok, must run. till soon, i'm sure!

richard said...

one more thing! just want to share the Aaronette M. White quote that is in my email signature:

"What can be learned about feminist Black men's definitions and practices of manhood that would challenge institutional inequities, while contributing to the viability of African American communities and the construction of a humane and just society?"
-Aaronette M. White, from "Ain't I A Feminist?"

lukiakimo said...

Adding another angle...
I believe that there are many feminismS and so I am learning that what that word means to one person is very different that what it may mean to another. I personally feel heartened when I hear a male/male-identified person in my life identifying as feminist, because this cues me that they are at least somewhat in line with my world view and more importantly that they are probably (not always) interested in social justice in all forms. I also am aware that this label open them up to attacks about their “maleness” and masculinity and I respect how challenging this may be.
While I know that when I hear a man identify as feminist (and it doesn’t happen often ya’ll) I perk up a bit and pay closer attention to see if he is for reals talking- and if he is maybe he is someone I would connect well with. In fact, I have a sticker on my wallet that says “I love feminist men” and I have often used this as a bit of a test for people who I don’t know very well to learn more about them through their reactions (needless to say my current partner loved the sticker and started a great convo on a feminist group he used to be a part of in college!)
On the other hand- I have experienced men (one I was very close to in fact) who used his proclaimed “feminism” more as a hook to attract women- and while not malicious in his intent, was not (at that time) willing to do any of the work on privilege and social justice that to me is part of what being a feminist is.

richard said...

@aladydivine: arrg! sorry to hear you lost your brilliant comment... what you wrote in its place was pretty great tho!

i am smiling, loving that we are both loving this convo :)

re: sex positive feminism, here is my introductory post on it, curious what you think:

http://fem-men-ist.blogspot.com/2008/12/bringing-sex-positive-feminism-and.html

and then one that ruffled a few more feathers (which i was prepared for), my review of a sex- positive queer porn movie that some friends are in, and a comparison to not-so- sex positive mainstream straight porn.

I enjoyed writing that, and the ensuing convo, but i won't be reviewing queer women's porn on this blog anymore.

i peeped the link you sent, and i definitely agree with, and disagree with it. i agree that there can be a bridge to bringing male allies on board if the damage done to our boys and men by patriarchy is highlighted. I think the author takes that back though, stating that men are not hurt by patriarchy, that we only benefit from it. I don't believe that they have to be mutually exclusive. Men indeed benefit from patriarchy. And men also have healing to do from patriarchy. I think where we may all agree is that it is super eye-roll worthy when an oppression olympics starts, attempting to equate male suffering under patriarchy to female sufffering under patriarchy. Insulting, ridiculous, stop it. I am not a proponent of "Men's Rights". That would not be the next step for me when acknowledging that men and boys are hurt by patriarchy. In every oppressive power dynamic, i believe people's humanity is at stake on both sides. It is a sensitive topic for many. As a black man, i may not want to spend time thinking about the humanity of the white people who hosed, lynched, tortured, and enslaved my kin. But it is clear to me... their humanity was definitely compromised, even as they benefitted from institutional racism. Most anti-racist white folks i know definitely use the angle that white people have humanity to gain by shedding this superiority complex, and fear-based relations to the majority of the planet's population. I forget other ways white folks have to heal around racism, but one of my teachers from the UN, Nathan Rutstein shared in an anti-racism workshop that racism was brought to the AMA and UN as a clinical pathology. It was shelved, because it was too much for the establishment to handle. That white people are all sick from racism. The example that was used: You are a white woman in extremely dire need of help. You see a person of color walk by offering help. You scream for them to go away. Is it not pathological to deny help when in extreme danger?

So yes, i believe that there is a mental, emotional and spiritual toll on people in oppressor classes. Does that mean we should make that more important than the suffering of people in target groups? Absolutely not. Maybe use it as an excuse to use our privilege to be in a "poor me" place while benefitting from the suffering of others? Oppressah Pleeez! But i think we can do healing work while being respectful of each other.

Also, if you've read it, I am also curious what you think of Aaronette M. White's work, as she delves deeply into the concept of feminist masculinities.

And i'm TOTALLY with you about all the patriarchal connotations to femininity and masculinity. I like to queer them and describe myself as either feminine or masculine. And i like to positive behavior in children no matter what their gender. I especially like to switch things up a bit, and tell little girls how strong they are, and boys how sweet they are.

Till the next comment! Maybe see you over in the sex-positive section....

richard said...

ooops! forgot the link to my queer porn review/comparison

http://fem-men-ist.blogspot.com/2008/12/sex-positivity-review-of-crash-pad-and.html

richard said...

@lukiakimo: Welcome! And thanks for the perspective. There are definitely many feminisms, and it can mean something very different for any two people who define themselves as feminist. I hear you on the part where the person may be more predispositioned to other forms of social justice too. I feel like gender privilege & oppression is in all of our homes, we are intimate with it. if someone can start there, then more than likely, they can move from there to other forms of social justice. Especially since all movements involve people of all genders.

I love that sticker you have! if i may so without sounding conceited :) where did you get that?? Sounds like a really good gatekeeper to filter men in your life. Much less what an effective ice breaker it is for good conversations!

re: men who take on the identity of feminist as a tool to hook up with the ladies (someone introduced me to the term "macktivist" on this blog, lol!), that's just a problem. Especially if he wasn't doing all the privilege work necessary! What made him feminist in his eyes? Did he rock a Angela Davis tshirt and call it a day? :P

I actually expose myself a bit in another post, not as a macktivist, but i noticed a tendency to wallow in "poor me" vibes when i was single, and women were passin me up for for Mr. Misogynist Knucklehead. heh. let me know what you think if you peep it. Thanks for your affirmations! Blessss

What Is One Sexist Thing You Are Trying To Unlearn?

eetraveling said...

I'm THRILLED to hear men identify as feminist. Especially when they're so thoughtful about it. The struggle for equality needs smart advocates of both genders, and it makes me sad when some women actively discourage men from playing a part.

I wonder if the idea of male feminists has been tarnished by the school of girls-gone-wild, show-me-your-tits, porn-is-empowerful fake feminism? That nonsensical co-opting of feminism popularized by Cosmo magazine and other mainstream media sure is annoying. Maybe that's what the lady-by-the-lake and even a commenter or two is confusing you with...but it's clearly a far cry from what you're advocating.

Men can play many useful roles in the feminist movement that I, as a woman, cannot. Men often share their prejudices with one another in a way that they don't with women...so male feminists are in a unique position to educate their peers. Feminist male staff at domestic violence shelters can show girls that not all men are violent. Feminist male educators can provide strong role models for male students. Feminist male speakers can teach other men more productive means of handling conflict than violence. The list goes on and on.

Of course, there are many roles that women can play that men cannot. But we need both. Feminism should be advanced by as many people as possible, and it can't possibly succeed if we exclude, silence, or discourage discussion and honest effort.

I'm so glad that you felt driven to "create a space where men of feminist inclinations can meet and hold each other accountable for being better allies." We need those spaces desperately. I subscribed to your rss feed as soon as I found your blog, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

afeministotaku said...

(I just lost my original comment, grr blogger! But I'll try to remember the gist of it.)

I'm new to your blog, Richard, and wanted to say thank you for sharing the story of your encounter with the book - it's interesting to me to see that laughter was her reaction. I have to wonder if the laughter was honestly because she thought seeing you reading it was funny, or if laughter was just a knee-jerk reaction. I know that often people laugh when whatever is said is most definitely not funny and I'm wondering if this is the case? I kindof hope so, because the idea of someone laughing at a black male identifying as a feminist is truly disheartening.

The other thing I wanted to say is in response to this:
"I respect the reasons why some men choose the term "pro-feminist", but to me, it seems distanced, like something done on the side. That feminism is that thing over there that one is "pro" for, as opposed to fully identifying with the movement, as bell hooks and many other black feminists encourage men to do. Perhaps the title of this blog may remain a metaphor for what all men should expect-- to not be considered down with the struggle until it is proven."
YES! This rocks, so hard.

I've struggled with this very concept in my own personal life recently. I'm a white woman, and my partner is a white man. I am a feminist and often discuss feminist issues with him. He agrees with and supports the basic tenants of feminism - but I recently learns that he balks at being called a feminist. My reaction was ... bwuah?

So I think it is many many layers of awesome that you are comfortable with yourself as a male feminist and I'm looking forward to reading your perspective in this blog!

(Whew! I think that was about it, hopefully it made sense...)

whatsername said...

A Lady Divine had one massive reading fail there. Wow.

richard said...

@aladydivine: wow...! i'm sorry to see that you had such a strong reaction to that...! i have no idea if you are going to read my response, but i think i should respond.

To be clear, *I* myself have never led a woman around by a leash, or have a desire to. I am someone who finds the dynamics of BDSM interesting. especially the theory that the submissive/bottom is actually the one that holds the most power, because a scene can only go as far as the sub/bottom is willing to go.

i will admit that that is a very extreme example that i made, but what it is speaking to is... or against, are exclusionary politics. I believe that if someone is has done their work, that they can venture into fringe areas that people may be shocked about, areas that seem blatantly anti-cause. I believe that there many female feminists who do things in bedrooms that they would feel fear to tell their feminist colleagues. In fact, i know some. And some have thanked me for writing that, expressing gratitude that there won't be a pointing finger of expulsion from feminism because of how they like to have sexual play. Shame of desire is a sad thing.

If a woman desires to be held down by her male lover and roughly penetrated, does that make her no longer feminist?

Maybe that is more accessible of a statement than the one i made. Perhaps it was an oversight to start with such a shocking image. I still am not able to see a black woman on a leash from a white man. Colorlines did a VERY provocative piece around what is called "race play" which is WAY out of my range of what i am able to consider for myself. I don't desire to be beaten by a white woman. And sure, we can make assumptions about levels of internalized racism for people who do enjoy this, but, we don't know the real deal.

Shall we expel Franz Fanon from our canons of post-colonial theory and anti-racist work because he married a white woman?

What it comes down to for me, is respecting a woman's *choice*. I am not advocating for women to go out and beg their male partners to put them on a leash. If that is something that a woman enjoys, then it is her choice. And it is her choice to stop the role play whenever she wants too. It is possible that this is symptomatic of internalized sexism, and also possible that it is something else. I believe that healing can come from eroticizing power in ways that *the control is still in the hands of the woman*. In the real world, patriarchy does keep women tethered. With play such as this, the same position can be played with... except this time the woman has control over the outcome.

Again, i am only advocating choice. Clearly this is not for you, so i would never try to enforce my will upon you or any other woman that it is for you. That would be disrespectful.

I am sad that that statement has upset you so much, after our great connection. i am also saddened that that statement seems to have eclipsed everything else i have done. But i understand the rage. I understand that it is a shocking image, and i also understand that if i went to an anti-racist white man's page, and thought he was saying that black women should go have white men put them on leashes, my blood would be boiling. I don't know if this has clarified anything, but i am thankful for all you have brought to this blog, and will miss your insights and the great conversations. You are always welcome, as is your anger. Be well, take care.

richard said...

ps i appreciate the critique, and have gone back to that post and edited it to make sure that it is clear that it is advocating for women's *choice*, so it isn't possibly read as me promoting that this is how women will get respect. I don't want any other women to be traumatized by that! I hope it makes a difference.

Jacob Aziza said...

I understand what you are getting at in that post, but Richard, you gotta be selective in your choice of words! The reaction of the commenter above is surely not unique. Maybe a subtler example could have made the same point w/o producing as strong a reaction. Not everyone is familiar with the BDSM world, the rules, how a sub is the one ultimately in control - imagine someone suggesting that if a Black person truly felt connected to and respected by a White person, he should be comfortable playing "slave"! I know its not the same, but I can understand making that mistake.

Anyway, this thread has me realizing why so much of this blog doesn't speak to me as much I expect it to.
I don't think I ever learned all the patriarchal sexist assumptions that yall refer to.
I was raised by a politically-outspoken openly-bi former-hippy mother in the SF Bay Area. As I mention in my post about people assuming I'm gay, http://tiny.cc/notthat, all the stereotypical things that represent masculinity seem like a joke to me, like a bad caricature. I still have trouble believing anyone is really like that. Come to think of it, maybe that's why I find it so hard to connect to most men in any meaningful way.
I have also never seen, for example, the kind of catcalling harassment you spoke of, nor does it speak to the experience of the women close to me (I have been asking them, since I know I am potentially biased or blind to it). I don't doubt the reality of it, its just hard to fully appreciate a problem which doesn't touch the lives of the women in my own personal life.
The idea that a man might feel emasculated by being called a feminist is truly bizarre to me.

My first car had a bumper sticker: Feminism - the radical notion that women are people. It always seemed that simple to me.
You mentioned recently your love for the women and queer people in your own life. I definitely identify with that sentiment.
I am one of those men who identifies as feminist but is not an activist (and no, not as a ploy to attract dates!) I am not meaning to be defensive, and I don't know how others mean it, but I can explain at least my own feeling. I consider myself an environmentalist. As such I bicycle to a job where I help facilitate others biking to work. I drive a recycled vegetable oil truck, and use 1/30th the electricity of the average American home. But I am not an activist. I don't organize (or even go to) rallies or protests, talk to legislators, or engage in civil disobedience or other direct action. Its my own personal view that the way a person lives their personal life matters more than the extracurricular activities (though I do appreciate acitivist for thier role). To me personally, being a feminist is about how I interact with the women in my own life. It means I considered my wife my equal in every way. It means that I treat women with the same respect I'd treat a man. I do have one male friend who fits some of the stereotypes, and when he says something I disagree with (mostly around dating), I'll say so, and feminism is a topic I have mentioned on my blog http://tiny.cc/femporn but I'm no more an activist than I am in environmental issues. One might say it makes me a hypocrite, and I'd accept that criticism. My point is it is possible to identify with the label and be sincere, even if one doesn't actively fight for it.

Last thing, on the original topic: I have a (female) friend who refers to her Mills classmates as "feminazis". She is not anti-feminist, and would agree with probably everything you or your readers had to say on social and gender theory, but she associates the word with a very specific type of person; presumably self-righteous man-hater. I don't agree with her, but it is the stereotype a lot of people hold, (and the reason the term "sex-positive feminist" was invented). If the jogger held that sort of prejuidce aganist the word, perhaps she would have laughed just as much no matter who the author or reader of the book was.

Jacob Aziza said...

I see you came up with the same analogy and responded to it before I even finished typing.
Well. Nevermind then. You're too quick for me.

whatsername said...

Jacob, just wanted to let you know that I grew up and currently live in the SF Bay Area and I have experienced street harassment in every city here I've lived in. I actually am constantly nervous and vigilante whenever I go out on my own because of it. It's a very off putting and scary experience to be leered at and cat called by groups of men when you're on your own. And that's something that has happened to me from as early as 12 (I'm 25 now).

Just to give you some geography, I grew up in Petaluma, and have also lived in Santa Rosa, Sacramento and now Oakland. By far the worst harassment occurred in Santa Rosa.

In fact the only city I've lived in where that didn't happen when I walked alone was Seattle, WA.

If your women friends haven't experienced it, I count them very, very lucky, as all the women I know have at one point or another.

lukiakimo said...

@ richard: thanks for the welcome (this is lydia m and we have met a few times around the town), ive been reading your blog for a while and will try and comment a bit more... still new to the "blogesphere."
as for the sticker- a friend gave it to me from some rally she went too- wish i had more... maybe i should make some.
I re-read the “what is the one sexist thing you are trying to unlearn.” Really loved all the comment/discussion- have many thoughts and reactions to sift through before I comment though…

richard said...

@eetravelling: thank you for your affirmations! i'm umm, not sure if you will still agree with me after reading my piece on sex-positive feminism, but i definitely don't subscribe to the Cosmo bilge brand of feminism. Feminism Lite? Pop Feminism? Whatever we could call it. Hopefully we can still find common ground to agree even if there are places we disagree.

And I agree with you, men can have roles in the movement that our privilege gives us access to. I am in a position to intercept misogynist locker room talk, etc, etc.

Thank you for adding the RSS feature, i hope to hear more from you, i welcome any feelings you may have from anything i have written! Be well.


@afeministotaku: (a new Miyazaki film?? YES!)

Thanks for writing. I'm appreciating all of the speculations as to what Sunglasses Woman's laughter was about... but we won't ever know i guess. Like you, i do hope that it wasn't the idea of a black male being feminist that was so laughable. And like some have suggested, perhaps our interaction has given her pause. But in the final analysis, at least blogging about it has started a great conversation!

i am glad that you are with me on my taking on the identifier of feminist (as opposed to pro-feminist, or not at all!). What hesitation do you think your partner has with identifying as such? Out of respect for the institution? Or do you suspect less positive reasons? You don't have to answer that here... that's a bit personal :)

I hope you enjoy the rest of my blog, and don't worry, what you wrote made perfect sense :) welcome!


@whatsername: ...yes, that was intense! i think i needed to be clearer about what i was saying. i see that aladydivine has since wrote a post on her blog that while clearly indicating her extreme displeasure with me and my post, she also could have been a lot more directly rageful at me and my blog (she never named me or the blog). Its interesting, to get SUCH a late response from the anti sex-positive feminists now, as opposed to when i wrote it.

I took some time to re-write the post, hopefully that helps. And i truly hope that any trauma and hurt caused to aladydivine will dissipate very soon.

also, i hear you on the harassment piece... i am amazed that Jacob Aziza's female friends have not experienced street harassment. What a blessing! I do know that women have different assessments about what street harassment actually is, and have different coping mechanisms/filters to deal with unwanted/unasked for approaches from men who just feel entitled to invade a woman's space... the post i had on street harassment definitely showed a diversity of experiences, some rather surprising:

Not So Nice Outside: Street Harassment Is The Rage This Season.

thanks again, whatsername! :)


@Jacob Aziza: Ha, yes we came up with some of the same analogies. :) and yes, i do need to be more careful with my language. I went back to that post and edited it for more clarity.

Like i said to whatsername, I am wowed that your female friends have not experienced street harassment. They are truly truly, blessed. Most of my female friends, from around the age of 12 as well, have been harassed in the street, wherever they lived. Feel free to peep the link above, your friends may find it interesting too.

Nice bumper sticker :)


@lukiakimo: aha! i know who you are. :) welcome back! I am glad that you were feelin the "What Is One Sexist Thing You Are Trying To Unlearn" post. I enjoyed writing that one. Looking forward to more of your contributions... so crazy, the revival this blog is having! New and old school folks jumpin on and commenting. Its alive! yes! :)

richard said...

@eetraveling: just remembered the post i made some months back, The Onion made an excellent satire of Cosmo's politics towards women. Hilarious.

Cosmopolitan Institute Completes Decades-Long Study On How To Please Your Man.

Jacob Aziza said...

I should perhaps have been more clear:
Everyone of them had experienced catcalling of some form, but most said they felt it was annoying, but not significant enough to constitute "harassment". One older friend in LA compared them to mosquitoes. One did say she would avoid places it happened, and another said she thought it was a huge problem (and then texted me a few minutes after our conversation to say "so much for catcalling...I just got catcalled by a woman")

I'm not sure how much this variation is because of people experiencing different things, and how much is related to the subjective experience and the personality of the recipient of unwanted attention.
As was alluded to in the comments of the post on that topic.

Again, not trying to dismiss the experiences of whatshername at all, nor any other who experience it as worse than people I know.
Its just interesting to me to discover how much all of us tend to assume that everyone else's experience is like their own until they actually think to ask - especially myself.

Thanks all for the continuing education

aladydivine said...

Richard,

I read your response, and your reference to me in your response to whatsername. I don't feel that I owe you anything by way of explanation at all in regard to how I, and many women, feel about sex "positive" "feminism." There is NOTHING about anything you wrote that is in any way positive for women, and I would say that any woman who "enjoys" being degraded sexually needs a lot of love and healing, even though I'm sure I'll be screamed at for saying that. This is something created by men... it's no different than porn culture and prostitution except that some women buy into it as a turn on. The thing that upsets me MOST about that mess is that for women who have been prostituted, raped, assaulted, coerced, their voices are trivialized, their experiences minimized by the women who call it "sex positive" and attach feminism to it.

You write about how you would be upset to see a white man leading a black woman on a leash... but what if she thought she liked it, like these other "sex positive" women do? Why the outrage at THAT, but the exceptance, and turn on, in the other reference? Black women do not belong to black men, and according to your way of thinking, they're basically free agents and are free to partake of whatever behaviors they "choose" to... yet you would be offended, and angry, to see that.... think about that.

I'm beyond disgusted with this "brand" of feminism... I reject it unashamedly! You cannot be pro-woman's rights and for women's liberation and release as sexual objects in service to men and preach that dogma. It's terribly counter productive.

You wording yourself that way DOES undo everything else we've talked about. (erasing it on the post will not change the views in your heart) No man who supports women being lead about on leashes is an ally to me, and it is men who are *for* this type of denigrating action that gives many radical feminists pause. From the start, the title (yeah we talked about it, but it is still terribly intrusive and offensive) and your links to "sex positive feminist" sites have put me off, and I DID try to understand and see your perspective. I'm not willing to compromise myself further than that...

I just remember being an 5th grader and being beaten down by a bunch of boys (I was unfortunate enough to start puberty at 9) because I wouldn't let them touch me. When I got older I realized that some of the same things that was done to me then, by boys, is what is done to prostituted and pornified women. So to read about shit that is done to women who are abused by men sexually women like me like the tortured little girl I was in the school yard that day, as "sex positive" "feminism???" NEVER. It's disgusting, (don't give a damn who is offended to be honest) it's degrading, and its oppressive. Its unfortunate that the work that feminist women have been doing for years has been/will be set back by this doctrine, but it's real and its there. I cannot do anything to change that, but I don't have to accept it, or align myself with ppl who do. Anytime a radical feminist woman speaks to her experience in patriarchy, some fool will point to "sex positive" "feminism" to silence her. I've seen it done! It's always done! "Women consent to that, they're consenting adults" blah blah justification of male oppression and sexploitation of women.

Peace to you. I will tell you I will never forget the way that made me feel today. The way that took me back to every negative experience I, and women I care about, have ever had at the hands of men. Not ever.

aladydivine said...

whatsername:

It was not a reading fail! Please do not marginalize me because you find nothing wrong with "sex positive" "feminism." You believe what you want, but your voice should never silence women who protest the sexual degradation of women, ever.

aladydivine said...

PS: The reason I didn't name you or your blog, is because I would NEVER in a MILLION YEARS send any woman I cared about here. I would NEVER EVER risk them feeling the way I did/do. I'm not a feminist woman because it's popular (it sure the hell ain't especially not as a feminist woman who is pro-women and pro anything that is healthy for women) I'm a feminist because I care about women, and our liberation.

Part of the problem with that post, Richard, is how you're like speaking for women. It's the same problem with your review on les porn! You word the "sex positive" post saying "we don't consent under patriarchy." We? Really? The last time I checked you're a man, as in has a penis. You are NOT a woman, so in reference to women consenting to patriarchal standards set for us, you are not a part of the "we." Being a feminist identified man does NOT make you one of us in all that we go through as women, in patriarchy. There is more, but it's just really draining and upsetting to even go back there and read and try to comment.

richard said...

@aladydivine: i won't attempt to debate against anything you said. i am just sorry to know that we have moved from this being a refreshing exchange for you, to horribly traumatizing and upsetting for you. I am sad to hear what you went through as a 5th grader, and that this takes you back to that trauma. What happened to you was deplorable, and you never, never deserved that.

I won't try to explain myself... and you of course, never need to explain or justify yourself to me or any other man. I wish cooling for your spirit, and may the fire you do have continue to service you on your journey to liberate your sisters.

richard said...

To Any Other Commentors: I thank you for you comments, support and critiques. At this point I need to enforce that any comments that speak of A Lady Divine in a way that discounts her experience of this blog will be deleted. I am not one to staunch conversation, but it is clear that she has been very traumatized by some of my posts, and has already expended more than enough energy. I appreciate your consideration and compassion in advance.

whatsername said...

A Lady Divine, that's how I see what you wrote. You twisted his being supportive of women whose turn ons differ from yours into his being supportive of degradation of women. Now, that might very well be how it read to you, and that might be how you see the turn ons of women who differ from you, but that doesn't change that you (initially) quite simply said he was saying something he clearly wasn't.

That you're clearly intolerant of anyone's sex life that isn't your perfect vision of feminism is your own business, but don't get self righteous at me, saying I'm marginalizing you by pointing out that you were misrepresenting what was in the post and then go on to try and slut shame and mock sex positive feminists like me because we're supportive of all women's sexual agency, not just the ones that fit our own narrow view of feminism. Instructing me not to "silence" you (which I wasn't doing) while then trying to silence me... Yah, I've seen that sort of tactic before. *shrug*

If this is worthy of deleting Richard, I understand, this is your space. I'm not unsympathetic to the hurt LD is apparently feeling, but I couldn't let what she said go un-replied to.

And btw, I too was mocked and teased by boys when I was a child. And I too, am a radical feminist. But I'm also a sex positive feminist. And no, the two don't contradict each other, at all. I always speak up when women are being exploited and degraded, I just don't think bdsm inherently qualifies as that.

aladydivine said...

“That you're clearly intolerant of anyone's sex life that isn't your perfect vision of feminism is your own business, but don't get self righteous at me,”

Seriously, stop it right there. My belief that bdsm, and other acts which feature degrading women for sexual gratification are just that, doesn’t make me self righteous. That I feel that attacking those acts to feminism silences and trivializes women who have been pornified raped and prostituted by men, DOES NOT make me self righteous. But sure call me that if it justifies to you your interest in acts that DO marginalize women who have been terrorized by men. Call me self righteous for not seeing how women attending sex parties is positive and pro-women’s rights… I never said women have to wear a fuckin chastity belt! I never said anything about what women should and shouldn’t feel, what I did do is accurately make the point that this will/does silence women who are brutalized. And since in this particular post we’re talking about men becoming an ally to feminist women and feminism, explain to me how your average perverted man, who views women ONLY as sexual objects, will read about BDSM and have a real understanding of what feminism is? I doubt, though hell I could be wrong, that at these sex parties there are only “feminist” men present.

Furthermore the verbage (bottom submissive) are breaking women’s marginalization/gender norm and role HOW? And exactly how is the “submissive” the one in control, if she is paired with a man who decides he wants what he wants? I’ve seen what happens to women who are raped (yeah raped, anything that is outside of “consent” [which doesn’t exist, truly, in hetero relationships] is rape) in bdsm. I’ve worked with these women… so you’ll forgive my “self righteous” ass for NOT SEEING A GODDAMN THING positive about that kind of “sex.”

“you were misrepresenting what was in the post and then go on to try and slut shame and mock sex positive feminists like me because we're supportive of all women's sexual agency, not just the ones that fit our own narrow view of feminism”

I didn’t twist a damn thing… and I certainly haven’t been acting self righteous here. Where did I silence you? It never happened. But I see that my points and pointing out what this does to women pissed you off and you felt the need to “check” me. Smh Sexual agency? Oh right, according to this view, all a woman has to do is say no! She can do anything she wants, and if it gets too heavy just say no. Well I’ll tell you, that so totally works. That’s radical and damn good! Wooh, I must be dreaming about all the women who have been raped and tortured in my life after just saying no. After just exercising their “sexual agency” oh glad to see it was all a dream. Glad to see that the women who were gang raped was all a myth, because she has sexual agency and she said no. I didn’t mock you, I pointed out how “sex positive feminism” conflicts with reality! And that reality is that women are second class citizens, that our voices don’t count, that there isn’t a way for us to be taken seriously when we’re raped, or molested…. And it’s even harder if we “consented” to part of the activity…. The numbers don’t lie, and the countless stories of women don’t lie. My narrow view of feminism? Hmmm… ok.

I always speak up when women are being exploited and degraded,”
OH right… unless you’re the one doing it. But then it doesn’t count when it’s toward an “anti-sex positive” feminist. I don’t want to be associated with that in anyway. Call me a feminist, do not attach your belief to me ever. And if you’re a feminist, you’re the most misogynistic feminist I’ve ever “met”. And it’s not because of you “sex positivity” either…

aladydivine said...

ps: whatsername, mocked and teased further marginalizes what happened to me. It was far more than a little bit of teasing... but thank you for extending you hand, as a sister, to attempt to understand. You totally didn't trivialize what I said at all.

(sarcasm)

aladydivine said...

Won't be coming back here, whatsername et al, go on with the twisting of my words and framing this as an "attack" on "sex positive feminism." Feel free to further marginalize me, and trivialize what I'm saying. You won't have anyone to come back to correct/stand up for lil ol oppressor me anymore.

smh

richard said...

wow... i see that its too late to delete anything...

at this point, i'm heading out for the day, so i trust everyone knows how to take care of themselves, and that everyone is acquainted with how blogs can go.

blessings, y'all... keep fighting the good fight

aladydivine said...

Richard please remove any links to my blog here at your blog. Your readers have taken to trashing me around the blogosphere, and ppl are coming to my blog trying to post hate mail to my blog. I moderate EVERYTHING so those comments never see the light of day.

I shouldn't fuckin have to justify SHIT to anyone about my experiences, and I certainly shouldn't be trashed by whatsername and whomever else, if it's not her, that is trying to spam up my blog. I am going to look into what exactly can be done about her trashing me, legally if anything can be done. I don't take kindly to this at all.

Jillian said...

@aladydivine -

I don't want to trivialize your feelings at all, and I'm sorry that people are coming to your blog...that's completely inappropriate.

That said, I take issue with you speaking for feminism. As a woman, I respect a woman's desire to enjoy sex in any way she deems fit. We can't help what turns us on, and there are plenty of women who have NOT been abused who DO enjoy BDSM. I also respect and understand your feelings about it, and that's perfectly okay too.

I just wanted to throw in a woman's opinion here, because I don't like you speaking for me.

Natalie said...

Richard,

Do you have contact information? I am actually a former student of Dr. Lemons. He teaches in the English and Women's Studies department and he was my favorite teacher. I am currently interning at The Feminist Press and would like to get in touch with you about possibly featuring a book that we are releasing with past and contemporary black feminist writers.

Thanks,
Natalie

richard said...

To All Readers And Commentors: At her request, all comments made by A Lady Divine that contain a link to her site have been deleted. This may give a skewed view of the progression of the thread, which actually started with very positive exchanges between us. Regardless of how it started, what is left are her comments where she did not include a link, clearly because she was no longer trusting of me, or others who follow this blog. These comments more illustrate her ire with me and my stances.

@aladydivine: i hope this is helpful. Believe me, I know first hand what it can feel like to receive rage from those who may be active for the same cause, but still differ in ideology and understanding from you. And it can be painful.

@whatsername & Jillian: Thank you very much for posting other points of view from feminist female perspectives.

@Natalie: I would LOVE to be in contact!! Thank you! Can i find you on the Feminist Press website?

aladydivine said...

It is bad enough to receive rape threats at my blog from angry black men who take issue with me for telling the truth about black male violence against black women who partner with non black men. I for sure don't want to be called a petty bitch who ran because someone put me in my place about women's sexual tastes.

I don't give a damn about your opinions of me for "representing feminism." That wasn't my goal. It's quite clear to me that most of you are arguing with me because watsername presented this on her blog as me attacking people who are sex positive. I expected that.

Watsername, please remove reference to me, and the link to my blog, what you're doing is wrong. You're angry because I wouldn't debate you on this, and because I closed comments on my post. I had to, because as soon as I posted that the activity level on my blog sparked, and all the traffic was coming from HERE which is why I asked richard to remove my links to my blog.

whatsername said...

ALD, I already removed the links and your name, I replied to your comment at my blog and did as you asked as soon as I woke up this morning. I also let Renee know that I did so, and was ok with her doing the same for my guest post. I'm not particularly interested in "debating you" and I never tried to comment on your blog. As I said on my post, I simply think it's rude to talk behind someone's back and not give them the opportunity to respond to critique's of their work/thoughts/posts. It was not an act of trying to attack you, I simply don't agree with your position, that doesn't mean I hate you as a person or something.

aladydivine said...

Jillian, you're not just throwing a woman's perspective in here. You, like others, are throwing a sex positive perspective here. Your "positive" experiences in BDSM do NOT negate the NEGATIVE experiences women and girls have had in the same. I'm glad that you aren't in the number of women harmed by men in this way. The aftermath is terrible. :(

Thanks to all for coming here to further put me in my place btw. The point has been well taken.

"Regardless of how it started, what is left are her comments where she did not include a link, clearly because she was no longer trusting of me, or others who follow this blog. These comments more illustrate her ire with me and my stances."

You're right, I don't trust you or your followers. I cannot when the comments that are the most degrading and threatening are coming from here. I'm not blaming you, richard, for your commenters, but the traffic is indeed coming from here.

aladydivine said...

edit to response to Jillian: "there are other women namely watsername who have posted here, so you're not just giving a woman's perspective.

to whatsername:

Thanks for not asking me first if it were ok if you link to my blog and misrepresent what I was saying at yours. Damage done, ppl commenting, trashing completed.

I never named you/trashed you, or directed my post at you, or richard for that matter, in my post/on my blog. The fact that you couldn't show the same respect tells me all I need to know about you and how you handle yourself when someone disagrees with you.

"As I said on my post, I simply think it's rude to talk behind someone's back and not give them the opportunity to respond to critique's of their work/thoughts/posts. It was not an act of trying to attack you, I simply don't agree with your position, that doesn't mean I hate you as a person or something."

For some reason my computer is not allowing me to go to your site. (a sign maybe)

whatsername said...

ALD, linking to people's sites when you are responding to their posts is very common in the blogosphere. I have never had anyone ask permission of me to do the same, and I wouldn't expect it. This is simply how conversations usually happen. I'm sorry you felt it was an intrusion, and as such I removed all links as you requested. But I certainly didn't call for my readers to go flame you or something, and given the ending to my post, I don't see why you would think that would be the end result, either.

ald said...

"This is simply how conversations usually happen. I'm sorry you felt it was an intrusion, and as such I removed all links as you requested."

Linking isn't a problem, trashing someone and misrepresenting what they're saying is, though. Done talking to you, thanks for removing the links.

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
whatsername said...

If critiquing the argument you and many others have made and presenting my own is trashing you, well then, I guess I trashed you. Personally, I think anything we post on the internets is fair game for critique. *shrug* As for misrepresenting what you said, I definitely did not do that. And if you feel I did, why don't you respond with a critique of my critique?

If the conversation is thus over, then I will simply thank you for giving me the extra nudge I needed to make the connections I did in my post, and be done with it.

richard said...

@ald: i'm sorry, if you could clarify something, but as always, your prerogative to conserve energy and plead the 5th- did you say that someone that linked from this blog, went to yours and issued rape threats?!?!

after breakfast i should rename this post I Identify As A Feminist, And A New Circle Of Hell Is Discovered

richard said...

@Natalie: i grabbed your contax from your post and then erased it. will be in touch!!

ald said...

"i'm sorry, if you could clarify something, but as always, your prerogative to conserve energy and plead the 5th- did you say that someone that linked from this blog, went to yours and issued rape threats?!?!"

No I said it's bad enough receiving rape threats (and that was in response to the post on the marine and his wife at my blog 4 black men raped her while making her husband watch) and is likely from one of those black men out there who gets his boxers in a bunch when a black woman posts about the shit black men do to black women in IRR's.

I was told that i should be raped and murdered for bashing black men... That comment came from a tag search on wordpress that matched on of the tags on my blog. One of the comments that DID come from here states that "I'm a petty bitch who ran because someone put me in my place about women's sexual tastes." Coulda been some random person who stumbled on your blog, coulda been a follower of yours, I dont care. I just will be more careful with men in general when it comes to feminism, and certainly with linking to my blog since apparently folks cannot disagree without inflammatory language and disgusting attempts to silence me.

whatsername: I don't have to critique your trashing post. I reserve the right to not waste any more of my time, energy and emotions on your need to misrepresent my views to fit with your judgement against women who don't agree with you.

I'm very upset by this entire mess... I'm disappointed, I feel attacked, and definitely don't feel safe here. Waking up this morning to a rape threat and being called a petty bitch would set anyone off, imo.

richard said...

@ald: Thank you very much for elucidating ald. i know that you taking the time and energy to respond is not something to take lightly. It sounds like you have had a very rough morning. It is my hope that you have good support systems, and that you can activate whatever it is you need to do to feel safe.

Michelle said...

Whoa...I'll leave my comment on a point back in this string of comments. I know many women who have suffered some form of sexual violence in their life. And they've worked very hard, through healing & building trusting relationships, to not let that violence they've experienced shut down their sexuality. Part of patriarchy is controlling the expression of sexuality of women (as well as exploiting it). So women's resistance of the control of their sexuality and their ability to enjoy their expression of sexuality is something to celebrate. And, for some, that may include exploring expressions of sexuality that eroticize power dynamics. That folks do so in a loving, fun, celebrating sexuality way is a good thing. An outright declaration that all hetero sex is rape or that all sexual exploration of power dynamics is degrading to women isn't accounting for many folks' life experiences--all the nuances and shades. Maybe some folks are wrong--they don't know themselves and they truly are being degraded even if they don't think so. Sure. But one simply cannot presume that's true of every single experience and person. Rather, it is equally true that many women have been sexually empowered and had healthy experiences exploring sexual power dynamics. I think it's brave to embrace the expressions of your sexuality in this simultaneously puritanical/sexploitative world. More power to ya.

richard said...

@Michelle: Thank you for providing yet another female perspective on this issue. More power to you too.

sfHeath said...

Richard: Very hard to slog through the comment thread on this post, as you said; but well worth the trouble. I'll be checking your blog out in the future.

richard said...

@sfHeath: Thank you for sloggin on thru! I would point you towards the "fem.men.ist signature and fave posts" links on the home page for more exemplary reading. Thanks for stopping thru!

Five Steez said...

Hmm... lots of comments... so I'll just say this...

Richard, I never knew of male feminists till I read your blog. Sounded like an oxymoron to me before. But after your blog, I fully understood the notion and I'm with it. I suspect even the female feminists I know may not expect to hear of male feminists. Of course, that is within the Jamaican context and speaks volumes about gender relations here.

My two cents...

Peace cuz

richard said...

@Five Steez: Thanks for bringin the familial and cultural lens cuz! Blesss

Jacob Aziza: Around whether your female friends experience street harassment you said:

"I should perhaps have been more clear: Everyone of them had experienced catcalling of some form, but most said they felt it was annoying, but not significant enough to constitute "harassment". One older friend in LA compared them to mosquitoes. One did say she would avoid places it happened, and another said she thought it was a huge problem..."

I would say that whatever name we want to refer to it as, there is a legacy of unwanted approaches from unknown boys and men on the streets towards girls and women-- and girls and women are forced to find coping mechanisms around this. I have female friends that out of necessity for psychic survival, have developed very strong filtering systems. These friends have broken it down for me in such terms. It may manifest when i notice inappropriate behavior from strange male passerby, and my friends don't. Sometimes when i run into a female friend on the street there is a lag in my being able to get her attention cuz they are in the zone, looking straight ahead or down, and/or wearing a iPod, sunglasses, etc etc... and a male figure in the periphery trying to get their attention on the street goes through some phasing out...

...and i would imagine that after decades and decades of men feeling entitled to make invasive comments, that if you got your filtering system upgraded to "impervious force shield", that street harassment could indeed become relegated to a mere annoyance.

The thing is, you and I have the privilege to not have to deal with these "mosquitoes" day in and day out, most of the time we don't have to worry that eye contact might be considered an invitation for a man to start following us down the street, and we don't have to worry about said man following us possibly getting verbally abusive or worse if we don't respond in a way that is to his liking. We don't have to consider changing our walk home from work / jogging / shopping route, and we don't have to spend energy creating a shield against a barrage of unwanted male energy. Of course, if you are a man in a gay club, things would be very different. But clearly... most public spaces do not operate like a gay club. And once in awhile, we may encounter a very persistent panhandler. The dynamics with the rare super aggro panhandler are incomparable to the levels of street harassment that women experience- it comes a wee bit close if the panhandler is also asking you for a date or something, but we don't get the sheer volume of that, over years and years.

Basically as a man walking around in a world made to benefit hetero men... we have the privilege to not experience this type of invasive behavior day in and out, and women are forced to find ways to deal.

took awhile to respond, its been... a little busy lately :) Take care!

daveNYC said...

"This may give a skewed view of the progression of the thread, which actually started with very positive exchanges between us. Regardless of how it started, what is left are her comments where she did not include a link, clearly because she was no longer trusting of me, or others who follow this blog."

Removing the links is cool, although ten seconds of google-fu got me to her blog, so it's the classic case of horse v. barn door. What is more annoying is that by getting rid of all of ald's non-hostile comments, the picture that is painted is of a person who starts off hostile, gets very hostile, and then says she's taking her ball and going home. It's neither pretty nor informative.

Perhaps in the future if a similar train wreck develops, there could be a way to preserve the thread of the conversation but still strip out any info someone is no longer comfortable sharing?

ald said...

"Perhaps in the future if a similar train wreck develops, there could be a way to preserve the thread of the conversation but still strip out any info someone is no longer comfortable sharing?"

This is actually what I was referring to. I don't use blogger so I don't know how that works, but at wordpress if someone said please remove links to my blog from the comments, I could go in, and edit the links from their comment/name.

I don't care if people are reading my blog, I was receiving some very hateful, invasive, destructive and dangerous comments from people coming to my blog from here, womanist musings, and jaded hippy. I just needed a damn break from all of that. It was overwhelming, and my first experience like that as a blogger who has been blogging for 2 months now.

I don't appreciate you lableing me as hostile... My anger, offens, and trauma described here are VALID. I was not here to be "hostile" to anyone, and the "take her ball and go home" reference is inappropriate too. I left here after being attacked, and after receiving some pretty warped comments at my blog coming from here, I had every right to leave here and make it known that I wasn't feeling safe here. That shouldn't be trivialized.

richard said...

unfortunately, blogger does not allow one to simply remove the links (booo). That was definitely the first thing i tried to do. however, I did save the text of the convos, and could repost them.

re: reposting... imma say, totally your call ald

daveNYC said...

Hostile != invalid.
Whether or not the attitude you took in your posts was valid is difficult to determine due to the deletion of the earlier comments (which was the point of my comment). I'm not making some determination as to whether or not I think the tone in your posts made sense or not (after all, it sounds like you had a real crappy fifth grade), but the first half of the discussion is missing, so anyone who reads the comments is mildly stunned when they get to yours and the volume is suddenly turned up to eleven. Without the context of the first half of the discussion, your posts just end up looking a bit unhinged.
And I'm not bloody calling you unhinged. There's a difference between making a comment on the tone of a post, and making a comment on the poster.

Jacob Aziza said...

@Richard, comments on catcalling

Growing up in Richmond, I definitely know what its like to feel unsafe walking on a public street. That threat wasn't combined with anything sexual - and I realize that makes it more personal.

"if you are a man in a gay club, things would be very different."

Recently at a gay bar I was hit on incessantly by a guy who just wouldn't take a hint. Never mind if I'm gay or not. I don't want to sleep with some random person I meet in a bar. Of any gender. And the feeling I took away was definitely that this would get really annoying, really quick. I could imagine it being a quality of life issue.
I've also had a guy sit watching me as he "took matters into his own hands" so to speak, when I was shirtless on a hot day.
Beyond uncomfortable.

I totally get how significant that is, and how lucky I am that its a once or twice in a lifetime experience, and not something I have to deal with regularly.

Like I said, I am not trying to invalidate the experiences of people for whom what you describe is a daily reality, or the significance of it.
That it happens to anyone ever, is unacceptable.

I am still not sure that what you describe is actually the norm.

The way the incidents that escalate to violence are sensationalized reminds me of the media response to strangers abducting children. Its dramatic and emotional, but it is extremely rare. The focus on it makes millions of people paranoid about something which (essentially) never happens.

Since I never hear about how much a problem catcalling is w/o an example of how in one particular instance it lead to a beating or murder, I have to question the neutrality of the sources. This is why I started asking real life women. I don't think its reasonable to make psychological assessments of people in order to force fit their own opinions to a pre-determined conclusion.

Jacob Aziza said...

@ald (if you ever come back)

I am trying to fully understand your take on this. I suspect that things have gotten carried away because of how personal the issue is, but clearly you have thought about this, and have your own reasoning.

So, in order to clarify, I just have a couple questions:

How about so called "femdom" bdsm?
Do you feel power play is ok if the woman is the one in control?
How about submission/domination play if everyone involved is female?

If you feel those situations are unacceptable, can you explain why?
If they are ok, how about if a committed couple alternated roles?

When you wrote about "just saying no" - do you understand about "safewords", and the rules that are generally in place in those contexts? Are saying those rules are consistently violated? Do you believe that they are always violated, or are you saying that because they ever are, that risk makes the entire practice unacceptable?

Could you explain the sentence "...“consent” [which doesn’t exist, truly, in hetero relationships]"
I'm sure it isn't what you meant, but its hard to interpret it differently than how Michelle read it: "all hetero sex is rape."

Do you believe it is possible for a male to see a female as desirable sexually, and yet NOT see her as an object or something meant to pleasure him?
Is it possible for a woman to desire hetero sex purely for her own sake? In that case could she use or objectify a man?
Not asking if you believe these things are the norm, but just if they are even possible.

There seem to be a lot of absolutes in your arguments, which is what I think a lot of people are responding to. They object to the notion that ALL sex is exploitative, but perhaps you are arguing that MOST is. Which could still be something to debate, but if we're not even having the same argument, of course it will be impossible to understand each other.

richard said...

@Jacob Aziza:

Thanks for your response.

I'm in the middle of several things, so my response will be concise, i hope it does not come across as curt.

i am glad that you acknowledge that having a couple very uncomfortable advances against you a year doesn't compare to a daily experience of that. Sorry you went through those experiences too.

Without invalidating your expereince, I also want to add that women and girls also grow up in the Richmond with a whole other level of extremely intimate safety issues to navigate.

I also want to say that you should not be surprised if you get angry responses to your statements. You have essentially heard different women in your life, my life, and on this blog tell you that this is an everyday reality, but you have chosen to believe that perhaps it is not so. This is a space for bringing light to the oppression of women, and to hold up their stories. We have the privilege to believe that rape is not as large a problem as it is, or street harassment, or any form of violence that women have to navigate daily under patriarchy.

i'm also not sure if you read my piece on street harassment which concludes in a very real case of an 18 year old young woman getting followed and shot for rebuffing a catcall. Yes, this is not everyday news, but a lot of my women friends through gritted teeth know that they may have to be polite and nice to disrespectful men, because it can get worse otherwise. Even just ignoring these men can illicit a volley of the b-word coming after some women just trying to walk home from a long day at work.

i would like you to imagine someone white saying that they aren't so sure that black men are targeted by the prison industrial complex, no matter what you shared with them, and compared it to getting stopped for a couple traffic tickets last year. i realize that i am assuming that we are aligned politically in the knowledge that in fact black men (and other poor, queer, people of color, etc) are targeted by the criminal (in)justice system, a function of institutional racism.

gotta run! peace

Jacob Aziza said...

The women in my own life I spoke to told me that harassment isn't a part of their daily realities.

I don't think that should in anyway invalidate the experiences of people for whom it is, or diminish its significance.

This topic came up because I was saying a lot of what I am reading here is new to me. That doesn't mean I doubt it is real. Like I said, I have been noticing people's tendency to assume everyone else's experience is like their own - particularly my own tendency to do that.

I understand my experiences as nothing more than a glimpse of what it must be like to deal with that sort of thing regularly. I didn't mean to compare, only that I found a way to empathize on a more personal level because of them -
though, incidentally, I think it is a gross over-simplification, and in some ways a cop-out, to say the justice system "targets" black men. That's a whole other long digression which doesn't apply in any way to gender relations.

richard said...

ah Jacob Aziza, you continue to test me in good ways. :) i more or less responded to your last statement on whether black people are targeted by the justice system (founded on stolen land, built by Africans, now profiting off of a billion dollar industry jailing mostly people of African descent) on your own blog where you deal with race.

http://neapolitanblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/race-whites-are-still-winning.html

It sounds to me like the women in your life do experience harassment, but call it catcalling, annoyance, mosquitoes, needing to walk different routes, etc. Things you and i don't have to deal with.

richard said...

and perhaps where we are having disagreement is with the usage of the word "daily". I agree, not everyone has the same experience, and I am sure that there are women who don't experience harassment every single day. If you can afford to live in the quiet and affluent Berkeley Hills, probably not as much harassment. And regardless of class or race, it is surely possible to not have harassment be a daily reality for some. I would still say that a daily reality for most women is to navigate the world in a way that lessens the possibility of experiencing sexual violence, again, something you and i don't really have to think about.

Lala said...

I'm going to tell you what other folks are too PC to say: the woman thought of you as a clown and a joke to call yourself a feminist. Outside of some those of color like say a Melissa Lacewell-Harris or a bell hooks feminists don't have a lot of use for black men.Why would you possibly call yourself that she thought? Thats life outside of blog world. I like you Richard thats why I tell you what you need to hear.

Lala said...

Richard I have a question:what is it YOU want and care about as far as YOUR issues? Everything you write seems what women/feminists want or what homosexuals want/thing. What do you as a black man want what are your issues?

richard said...

i want conscious community.

ald said...

I'm sorry... but I had to say something. First of all, what Richard wants as a man, and as a black man have NO PLACE in his claims as a feminist man. If you are truly feminst and pro women, then what you write comes from that place and it needs to address that community. What you want, as a man and as a black man expose an agenda that falls outside of your claims to be a feminist. Your bio male identity need not have a place in your feminism, and this is why many radfems don't think that men should call themselves feminists.

I want to share with you an AMAZING piece about you so called feminist men that might help you better understand what I am getting at and how your claims are NOT helpful to the movement, or to women at all. And this comment, and Richard your response, about what you as a man want, is evidence of my distrust and being reluctant to trust so called feminist men.

http://celiesrevenge.blogspot.com/2009/04/with-friends-like-theseor-retooled.html

This crap has got to stop...

richard said...

dear ald,

around when we first started conversing, and after looking through various posts in my blog you said:


"I cannot tell you enough how refreshing this convo is. You're not hiding behind your privilege, making excuses or trying to deflect. Honestly it's like my brain is being massaged right now via this convo, especially since I've been having mind numbing convos re:black male privilege with men/boys I'm connected to.
"

i feel that since then, after discovering that we differ in ideology in one area of feminism, that i have become all bad for you. You have called me disgusting, and equated my stances with those of your abusers, although i have done nothing but extend compassion towards you and your experience of re-trauma on my blog. I have continued to honor that you have been triggered here, and also taken on projections that are associated with people who are not me.

I have developed a narrative that may or may not be true around these dynamics.

I feel that you need for me to be all bad, and that you continually lash out at me in unconscious or conscious hopes that i will lash back, to confirm to you that i am the worst kind of man, perhaps worse than the horribly violent black men you have experienced and blog about.

I feel that you have decided that it is inherently impossible for me to have integrity, and that i have engaged in this work with the express purpose to deceive women.

I feel that we are no longer engaging in the politics of feminism, but the politics of trauma. I do believe that at this juncture, that anything at all i say will always be seen through the lens of All Bad, whereas before, we may have enjoyed meeting each other on the topic of what building conscious community could look like. But now, me stating that as a black man, i want to help build conscious community now somehow reeks of a malevolent agenda, evoking mistrust and anger. This exchange saddens me on many, many levels.

I am not seeking victim status here. I am in no way trying to compare my bio male / comparatively trauma free experience to yours. I do however feel that you have made me someone less than human now, an arch enemy, someone to just jab at whenever you want. I also have concern about the energy you put into coming here, since you have stated many times that coming here is retraumatizing for you.

As someone who believes in the power of compassion, i need to not only extend it to you, but myself. I am needing to put on the comment moderation, and basically take steps to not keep getting these hurtful, character assassinating comments from you. I feel pretty sure that you will feel as a woman being silenced by a man. I however feel that i have honored your anger and your words here on levels that i am not sure you will receive at too many other blogs. I don’t have to spell out to you how it can ruin your day to wake up and find jabs taken at you on your blog from people who don’t know you. Again, the jabs you take are not the same that i take, but i am still a human being with feelings. It is my hope that this will not turn into a version of what you have had to tolerate, ie, receiving a queue of comments that are written to discredit and insult. Perhaps we can agree to disagree, and simply be at peace with that.

When everything is said and done, i thank you for bringing your fire and making me look at myself in important ways. i am very aware that it took energy for you to write me while re-experiencing trauma, know that i value that. I wish you well on your evolving journeys through the blogosphere (it can be very rough out here! May you find the allies you need and trust, for real! A matriarch elder in my community says "we are each others wealth") and i wish you much healing and joy. Blessings.

Lala said...

I like and respect your answer I just wish you would spend as much time on what effects you directly as you do the interests of others. And thank you for accepting the question in the spirit it was given.

B Town Get Down said...

I know I am far from finishing reading all these comments... but I wanted to express a thought before I finish...

" And men also have healing to do from patriarchy. I think where we may all agree is that it is super eye-roll worthy when an oppression olympics starts, attempting to equate male suffering under patriarchy to female sufffering under patriarchy. Insulting, ridiculous, stop it. I am not a proponent of "Men's Rights". That would not be the next step for me when acknowledging that men and boys are hurt by patriarchy."


I think the next step is for men to realize the ways that their own personality and lives have become less colorful and interesting, and to step it up, and live on the front lines. To try to enjoy more, and be more honest with each other. To shake the comfort zone of "power" or patriarchy and start enjoying the modern world. Admitting when we like things that aren't manly, and more importantly, every time we find anything beautiful. Reaching out to help each other. Pursuing a fun, and ultimately modern existence that doesn't ignore what happened before it.

Indeed there's a lot of work to be done not just to heal women, but to make men fuller and more interesting members of society. I only know and can speak of what I feel inside, and who I want to be, but I know it's important, and I feel it's part of something larger, and very relevant.

So many small, everyday interactions need to change to create the kind of culture I want to live in, and I'm a part of a lot of them!