Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A feminist man

Here's what I strive for:

"For both men and women, Good Men can be somewhat disturbing to be around because they usually do not act in ways associated with typical men; they listen more than they talk; they self-reflect on their behavior and motives, they actively educate themselves about women's reality by seeking out women's culture and listening to women...They avoid using women for vicarious emotional expression...When they err-and they do err-they look to women for guidance, and receive criticism with gratitude. They practice enduring uncertainty while waiting for a new way of being to reveal previously unconsidered alternatives to controlling and abusive behavior. They intervene in other men's misogynist behavior, even when women aren't present, and they work hard to recognize and challenge their own. Perhaps most amazingly, Good Men perceive the value of a feminist practice for themselves, and they advocate it not because it's politically correct, or because they want women to like them, or even because they want women to have equality, but because they understand that male privilege prevents them not only from becoming whole, authentic human beings but also from knowing the truth about the world." Kay Leigh Hagan as quoted in bell hooks The Will to Change, p. 186.

This whole book, The Will to Change has been really powerful for me. I obviously fall quite short of this definition of a Good Man. I don't take criticism well; I am sometimes attention seeking in my feminism (full disclosure, I'm doing this right now), and I don't intervene as often in misogynist behavior as a I could (but honestly, my discussions with other adult men are limited to around 2 a week and at least one of those is with Brad Jones, so opportunities are limited). But I do have the will to change.

I love the phrase above "practice enduring uncertainty" in both of its apparent interpretations. One, that I have to actively practice making it through feelings of uncertainty and wait for truth to be revealed. But also, I can have a practice of cultivating long-lasting and fundamental uncertainty. Uncertainty is so often a negative, but especially when it comes to confronting privilege in its many forms, uncertainty has to be the default, because the privilege clouds the decision-making process so thoroughly.

I'm lucky to have a great partner to work through this uncertainty with me. bell hooks, after giving the above quote, then goes on to say, talking to those who wish for a world of Good Men: "Many of us have lived the truth that recognizing the ways we are wounded is often a simpler process than finding and sustaining a practice of healing. We live in a culture where it has been accepted and even encouraged that women wholeheartedly stand by men when they are doing the work of destruction. Yet we have to create a world that asks us to stand by a man when he is seeking healing, when he is seeking recovery, when he is working to be a creator." The Will to Change, p. 186.

I realize that it is often messy and unattractive for Cait to see me and stand with me while I go through the process of working through my privilege. I get frustrated and insecure, I retreat to old patterns and withdraw emotionally. I'm lucky to have someone to work through these issues with me with kindness and patience. Thanks love.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Tim. There is a lot to work through and I too am grateful for feminism and a strong partner to help me through it all and become more whole.