Man Seeks to Understand Feminism

I’d never encountered such an honest and open male perspective on feminism before I read this Ebony article on killing patriarchy by Joshua Adams. And although it refers to black feminism, it can be applied to feminism in general.

Here are my favourite excerpts:

Being Black gives me a base level of empathy and awareness regarding the plight of the oppressed. But being a man can cause me to be oblivious to how I exercise my power as a man at the expense of women, or how my critiques of ideas in Black Feminism (no matter how well intentioned) can be seen as sexist, or even worst, unknowingly be sexist.

But then there’s this other part of me, a part I don’t like to admit. There are times certain ideas of Black Feminist thought make me feel…emasculated. And that’s difficult to bear, because I know that word is beyond problematic. But I have to be honest with the way I feel before I can change it.

Aleshia implored me to interrogate those feelings more before I resolved why hooks’ statement made me so uneasy. Was it hurt? Denial? Ego? Confusion? Misunderstanding?

There’s a maelstrom of conflicting ideas and emotions in my gut every time I engage feminism. For example, part of me is disgusted by the sexual exploitation of women of color in the media. But another part doesn’t want to be told that looking at a woman’s body is objectifying her.

Is my frustration rooted in feeling that Black feminists don’t discuss enough how women can promote patriarchy just as much as men? Is that even a fair critique, since I haven’t done nearly enough research into Black Feminism to make that claim? Am I upset that as an intellectual, I want to be able to critique feminist ideas I don’t agree with or would like to try and engaged in nuanced debates without being called a sexist, or, worse, actually being sexist? Or am I just in denial about not being ready to let go of the patriarchal privileges and parts of my identity as a heterosexual, Black man? All of it is just a lot to take in.

One thing I am sure of this: Every man who comes to feminism for answers is a man who can redefine his manhood. This endeavor can be liberating and transformative. It can also call to question personal truths, and raise defenses. Slaying the dragon of internalized patriarchy is hard, because it is a beast that doesn’t want to die. And to be honest, sometimes we don’t want to kill it. But it’s up to Black men to look into our hearts; to ask these tough questions, and reach a better understanding of our identity as men. All we can ask of Black Feminists is to give us a push in the right direction.

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