Blogging as Therapy Vol. 1: Male Privilege, Dating, and Feminism

June 15th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink


Liz,

I’ve been in a bit of a funk (#Glee!) lately. I must admit that said funk is a contributor to why I haven’t posted for several weeks. There are so many topics that have been swimming around in my head, but to actually sit and write about them has proven to be pretty daunting. With that said, it’s no fun being in a funk and sitting around thinking about how you are in a funk just makes it worse. We kind of started this blog, on the “blogging as therapy” tip and if you don’t mind, I think that I’m going to take it back there for a little while.

As a first post on this “blogging as therapy” series, which is bound to become a trend (due to the funk), I’ve decided to tackle a topic that has become an extremely relevant part of my everyday life and that one reader (s/o to JCH!) suggested we publicly consider—the complicated intersection of male privilege, feminism, and relationships between men and women (platonic and otherwise). Deep (But really though, I just always want to talk about this. Let’s be real.)

I recently read an interview done by The Sexist, a blog on Washingtoncitypaper.com that focuses on sex and gender in Washington, D.C., entitled “Fucking While Feminist.” In the piece, Amanda Hess, blogger for The Sexist, interviewed feminist activist and author, Jaclyn Friedman.

In the interview Hess asks Friedman several questions about the difficulties of “dating while feminist” including whether or not she has a “feminist litmus test” that she references when getting to know a guy. Overall, I thought the interview was pretty light-hearted and entertaining, and I do think that Friedman brought up some very interesting points that I have considered in regard to my own interactions with men.

I don’t know if I would quite label myself a feminist for my own personal reasons, but I am one to actively challenge traditional understandings of gender and societal roles assigned to men and women. With that said, sexism has definitely become an important factor for me in forming relationships with men and to be honest has proven to be a very real source of frustration. How does one compromise? IS there a litmus test?

I recently attended a panel discussion on Black Male Privilege put together by the Brecht Forum in New York City. The panelists included Marc Lamont Hill, Associate Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; Byron Hurt, award winning filmmaker, anti-sexism activist, and essayist; R.L. Heureux Lewis, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York; and Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke University & author of “The New Black Man: Redefining Black Masculinity.” The discussion was organized and moderated by Esther Armah, international award winning journalist, playwright and radio host of Wake Up Call & Off The Page (WBAI 99.5 FM).

I went to the discussion skeptical about the fact that there were no women on the panel (except for Armah serving as the moderator) and eager to hear what was to be said because panel discussions on Black Male Privilege just don’t happen. Apparently, lots of other individuals felt the same way, because the place was packed. I arrived about ten minutes before the discussion began, and it was already standing room only. Armah began by asking each of the panelists if they thought Black male privilege was real and if so, how would they define it. Two and half hours later the room was still full, the discussion was still going strong, and I left feeling a little more hopeful about the Black community generally, and relationships with men in particular.

Going into depth on the panel would require a whole other post to do it justice, but a significant theme that each of the panelists continued to emphasize was that feminism is not just a women’s movement, and sexism is not just a women’s problem, it affects all of us. Although there are many benefits to privilege, there are also many limitations and constraints, which may be easier to ignore, but are just as damaging (interdisciplinary/cultural studies 101, but we are quick to forget). It is when we start to recognize the parts of ourselves that we are forced to repress and the ways that we are still put into boxes, even while claiming privilege, that we can truly begin to see that with these constraints none of us can ever really be whole. And really, what more can you ask for out of life than to be whole, intact, complete—fully content with who you are and in the ability to express yourself. Wholeness is the goal.

With that said, in searching for my wholeness, I would like to think that I have become a little more patient with individuals who are also searching for theirs, that is unafraid to be introspective and challenge their beliefs and opinions. So when it comes to friendship and dating, it may sound cliché, but I think an open mind goes a very long way.

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