What does feminism mean to you?
Feminisms means a great number of things to me. First and foremost, as a white middle-class male, it means checking my privilege at the door. What this means to me is that I am a part of the conversation, but I cannot ever lead the conversation. I can sympathize, but not empathize with the plight that many women face on day-to-day basis. To me, this means that I have to listen more than speak, learn more than teach, and be open to criticism. I’ve found that my place within feminism is to seek to upend the cultural narrative that codifies which subject-positions are available for both “men” and “women”. Pragmatically, this means above all else, listening to people and asking questions that are intended to get them to think about what they’ve said. For example, if I hear someone say “that’s a women’s job,” I might ask them “what is it about the job that makes you think that only a woman can or should do it?” I’ve found that these types of questions open up a space for in depth conversations that can be quite fruitful. Professionally, feminism means being aware of codified and uncodified systems that favor one gender over the other. More often than not, these systems favor men. I find that I spend a great deal of my time working with my fellow men to get them to understand how the “men’s club” culture directly benefits them while also often putting many women at a competitive disadvantage.
When did you realise you were a feminist?
My grad school advisor, who is a woman, challenged me on a great number of topics related to feminism that I had up until that point, never considered. Before talking with my advisor, if you had asked me if I was a feminist I probably would have said, “that’s not an issue that I really choose to care about”. After two years of rather honest and frank discussions surrounding an independent study and my thesis, I came to identify as a feminist. I owe a great deal to her.
What issue/area is the most important to you?
Perhaps this is too academic and too abstract, but I find feminist methodologies to be the most interesting to me. I’m the type of person that I needs to know “how” as much as “why”. To that end, Krista Ratcliffe’s book, Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness (Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms) has been very helpful to me in working to overcome my own privilege as well as working with others.
What do you say to people who say “I’m not a feminist but….”
What is about feminisms that makes you feel as though you cannot identify as one?
Where do you see the feminist movement going in the future?
I want to be careful with how I answer this so I am going to offer nothing more than an observation. I can’t speak to much more than academic feminisms, but I see the movement moving towards a more nuanced approach to intersectionality. I know that this topic was hot not long ago, but many people seem to be returning to the issue in one way or another.