After a week’s hiatus from the series, I’m back live-blogging Feminism For Real … hope y’all missed it. This week we have two poems by Robert Animikii Horton about men, feminism, and what it means to be an activist. The place of men within feminism has been contested and championed as long as there has been feminist movement happening in the world. There can be found, with tedious reliability, the men-belong faction, the men-can-be-allies faction, and the men-are-the-enemy faction. Pretty much regardless of time and place. I’ll wear my colors on my sleeve here and say that I’ve pretty consistently come down on the men-belong faction. If you believe in human rights for all, and work and speak to combat gender-, sex- and sexual orientation-based oppressions (along with all the other aspects of the kyriarchy), then I’m willing to play ball.* For my money, feminism is about one’s values, not one’s gender identity or anatomical (or chromosomal) make-up.
MALE FEMINIST AND INVISIBLE ACTIVIST two poems by Robert Animikii Horton (pp. 81-84).
In keeping with the way I handled the last poetry pieces, I’m going to share some stanzas from both of these pieces, and then a few thoughts.
To me, it [male feminism] means being willing to open one’s eyes and heart to the fact that, in our age of purported civic integrity and opportunity, massive inequality exists between men and women, and that much work must be done so our collective walk matches our collective talk.
To me, it means we all have a place in the sacred circle; men and women. Young and old.
… To me, it means not only holding this awareness within, but spreading awareness and working to deconstruct and dismantle inequality in the short time we are given in our lives.
Our single mothers, radical subversives to the uphill climb
Arthritic, hardworking hands embrace seven cents instead of a
brother’s wave-given dime
Higher-learning, fatigued and yearning through the eighty hour
Boycotting paths of least resistance and the silent household
Speaking the words to build up her children to question the
Civil disobedience to a virile social code
One’s subjective interpretations of reading matter are always colored by the issues of immediate personal importance. What jumps out at me in these two pieces is the necessity of working with imperfection, of recognizing a broken and often hostile system and cultivating means of resistance that will not be an overnight success. Surviving within and against forces that threaten to overwhelm you. We are called upon to open our eyes and hearts to the injustices that surround us and shape our lives daily, and yet not become so crippled by that knowledge that it becomes impossible to act — impossible to promote “civil disobedience to a virile social code.”
I have no easy answer to this challenge — I suspect that if one had an “easy” answer then there would be something wrong with the solution, and that we are called upon to constantly struggle with what the most effective and equitable solution might be. There is a school of theological thought that argues that we are incapable of fully understanding or articulating the glory of [insert supernatural being or forces of your choosing], and that it is hubris to assume we could ever accurately represent [being or forces] in human terms. Yet, the argument goes, we are also called upon to keep trying — and failing — and trying again — because there is something key in the attempt that helps us move toward the divine in ourselves and in the world.
I would argue a similar principle is at work in the realm of social justice activism (not surprising given the centrality of social justice concerns to many faith traditions): we will never reach utopia, and there might even be something inherently dangerous about doing so — if in fact we could — but the working toward itself is important, even vital, to the survival and thriving of humanity.
Next week I’ll be back with a post on Megan Lee’s “Maybe I’m not Class-Mobile; Maybe I’m Class-Queer: Poor Kids in College, and Survival Under Hierarchy” (pp. 85-92).
*The question of who gets to be a feminist has come up again recently on some feminist blogs … I like Fannie’s post on the subject over at Fannie’s Room, for those interested in the question of Feminist Membership Cards and the issuance thereof.