Having male allies in the fight against feminism is great. We need more men to stand alongside us as we stand up for the right of women to be treated equally. We need more men to speak out on issues of sexism and sexual harassment. But we need these male allies to do so supportively.
When male allies don’t understand
My husband is a feminist. He works from home and takes on the lion share of the care for our children. He picks them up from school and takes care of them during the school holidays. He has no issues with me having a career and he shares the household tasks equally. I would consider him a male ally. However, when it comes to certain issues – particularly the need for women to have their own spaces – he really gets his back up. One of the things he once said was, ‘Why do women have to have all female spaces [be it an all female movie, all female screening of Wonder Woman, etc]? They didn’t like it when men excluded them, so why are they excluding men?’
It frustrates me so much when he asks this. Because what he fails to understand is that when men exclude women, it’s because they want to prohibit women from participating, whether is be in a sport’s event or the legislation for new health care. When women seek all female spaces, it’s not because we want to prevent men from doing the same activity. We do it because we want a safe place where we can be ourselves without judgment.
The problem with male allies not being as supportive as we’d like them to be is that they don’t understand how women have been treated – and are still treated – by men. I have written before about engrained misogyny and I think that’s what it comes down to. When men are in mixed company, they feel secure and confident. After all, they are male: everyone will listen to them and take them seriously. When women are in mixed company, they feel quite differently. They will have to work harder to make themselves heard and taken seriously. They are always on edge, always aware of how they sound, and even how they look.
When we women exclude men from our events, it is not done because we don’t want them to enjoy that (or a similar) event. It’s because we want to enjoy the event ourselves without always having to look over our shoulders and watch what we say. I am generalising now, but I want to point out that this is my opinion. I feel safer, more at ease, more confident in the company of all women than in mixed company. And that is something I can’t explain to my husband or other male allies, because they have no idea how it feels to be a woman. They only try to mansplain it all away, which makes me see red, which makes me incoherent with rage, which makes them tell me I am hysterical and irrational. Rinse and repeat.
Male allies: just listen
It would be best if male allies just shut up and listened to the women they claim to support. If a woman says she feels safer – or more comfortable – in all female company, don’t get your back up. Don’t pretend to be excluded, but give us our space. Unless you know what it’s like to be a woman and face sexism every single day, support us unconditionally.
This post is part of the summer 100 sex blogger challenge. Check out some posts by other participants of the challenge:
Taryn has an article about 10 ways to maintain intimacy without sex over at her blog, Ace in the Hole.
Kristin writes passionately about how Swerf & Terfs and white feminists should just stop it with their bullshit and I couldn’t agree more. Why can’t we just do away with all the hatred?