Imagine if a large group of people have been constantly arriving at your house, to throw flammable objects at it, set it on fire, almost burning it down.
You, and many others who share the house, have been struggling to rebuild and get things back in order, over and over again, for a long, long time. A certain group of you realises exactly what is going on, and form a team to defend the house.
One day, some people in that group decide that setting your house on fire isn’t really a good thing to do. They come to your house, apologise for their group’s actions, and pledge to you that they will support your team from now on, and stand with you to defend the house from their group members’ attacks.
At first, you trust them, because they really do appear to be sincere, and mean well.
However, since they still maintain ties with people who are part of the group, for whatever reason – family, business/financial purposes, strong long-term friendships etc. some of them are often bribed, or even tricked, into helping the group drop more flammable things into your house.
Some of them you find have even been lying – they did so, so that they could participate in destroying your house more easily. They even try to convince you to be more polite and less defensive towards the flame-throwers, in order to give them a chance in burning some more of the house.
Some of them really do have good intentions, but since they have been living in the flame-throwers’ house since birth, and indoctrinated into their role of being the flame-throwers, they often carry flammables on themselves, between the fibres of their clothing, without even realising, and occasionally drop some on the floor, causing frightening sparks. You let these people stay – because you know their actions are accidental – but restrict them from certain activities, out of concerns for safety.
(As for the others, you try to get them out, but of course it isn’t that easy – so many circumstances prevent you and your housemates from having the power to do that.)
As time goes on, more members of that group join you, and the first and second situations happen more and more often. Gradually, you and the other original residents of the house lose trust in them.
Now, if one day, another member of that group who truly want to help you, and has absolutely no flammables hiding in their clothes’ fibre, shows up at your door and not only expresses their intention to help you defend the house, but also demand full access to all activities in the house – would you still trust them enough to do so?
What if the members of that group start telling you what to do? What if they tell you that you are being too defensive, too unkind, too angry when dealing with the flame-throwers, that it would only make them more aggressive, etc?
This is exactly what the relationship between men as a class and women as a class looks like. It is a fact – not up for debate – that the former has oppressed the latter since the dawn of humanity. Some members of the latter (women) decide to build resistance – thus feminism.
Pro-feminist men are like the members of the flame-throwing group, coming to the “house” to support feminists, because they have realised that the behaviour of their class, against the class of women, are wrong. However, in most cases, they would still have connections with non-feminist men in their lives, which makes them compromised in being completely against misogyny. This does not mean that they are inherently bad people – societal pressures can have immense effects on people’s actions and attitudes. Male socialisation, the force which leads to men believing that they are entitled to have power over women, objectifying women, seeing women as lesser human beings etc. is like the flammables hidden in clothing fibres – even the most pro-feminist man would have them. This is how deeply sexism is ingrained in our world, our socialisation, our everything.
All men are compromised in supporting women’s liberation to a full extent. Again, this does not make every single man in the world a horrid person – it is the result of social structures.
It is also a known fact that “male feminists” have fucked up from time to time, trying to lead and dictate feminism for their own ends, and even abuse women in the movement. Hugo Schwyzer is a prime example. (I’m not going to list cases here, look it up yourself. I am not responsible for educating you blah blah etc etc.)
All of this is why it shows a blatant sense of entitlement for male allies of feminism to demand for themselves to be trusted. Why it is blatantly entitled for men to lecture women on how to best “do feminism”. Trust is earned – this statement applies especially for members of a historically oppressive class. It is grossly entitled for oppressors to expect and demand trust from the oppressed.
Myself, and many other feminists, only accept support from pro-feminist men who understand the above. For self-proclaimed “feminist men” or “allies” to attempt to distance themselves from the class of men, to claim that they are “not like all those other men” etc. is to remove accountability. Other feminists do not trust men at all, and they are justified in doing so.
Feminists are justified in not trusting male allies. Women are justified in not trusting men.
Equinox Until Solstice A young Asian Australian feminist sharing her artwork and writing. Sometimes I blog about philosophy and politics.