I’m in favor of men speaking out about how patriarchy hurts them; how they’re expected to act as men, how they’re denied validity in their emotions beyond angerâ€”and denied their full humanity as oppressors.
But it isn’t the job of women to facilitate that discussion.
Last night was the opening night of The Vagina Memoirs, an annual performance at my university as a part of the V-Week Campaign. We share our own stories. I like to think of it as social justice through performance. I’d never verbally shared my own writing before. It was awesome. Perhaps Iâ€™ll reflect more on the process after our last performance on Saturday.
We had a dialogue afterward the show, and someone in the audience made a comparison to reverse racism and asked why we weren’t including men’s voices in such performances.
My director responded rather tactfully and we plugged an upcoming show at our school called Undressing the Other: Discovering the Naked Truth About Stereotypes that traditionally is starring women of color and their allies, but for the first time this year there is a separate men’s cast. I didn’t say all I wanted to say last night because I wanted to promote Undressing the Other, so I’ll share my thoughts here.
The director of the upcoming men’s show was in the audience, and spoke out. But I was surprised no more men spoke up, especially white men (the men’s show director is a person of color) when the man in the audience compared what we were doing to reverse racism. The Memoirs cast had just made ourselves extremely vulnerable, sharing stories about our body image and femme queer identity and watching porn and losing our virginity and being raped and molested. All things that we shared in hopes that other women wouldn’t feel so isolated and alone, and yet the men in the audience wasn’t inspired enough to step out of his box and explain that no, there is no such thing as reverse sexism. Women can reinforce the status quo, the patriarchy. Women can be prejudiced towards men. But women do not have the physical or institutional power to backup that prejudice. Why didn’t anyone step up and say that?
My fellow castmembers defended their pieces by qualifying, “We don’t hate men!” I certainly don’t! Some of my best friends are men. Seriously. But I also wanted to speak up and say that I disagree: all men benefit from sexism, so yes, all men are part of the problem and are morally obligated to combat sexism, everyday. Yeah, much like I benefit from racism because I’m white and live in a white supremacist culture. I have to combat racism. It’s the right thing to do. Those aren’t two mutually exclusive struggles.
And it’s not our job as women to coordinate a show for men talking about masculinity. I think it’s great a small handful of men at my school want to be allies to women and speak out about how white supremacist patriarchal culture hurts all of us. I wish more men would instead of criticizing women like itâ€™s our job as the minority to make sure the majorityâ€™s voices are included.