August 7, 2014

But I'm an anarchist! How can I be sexist?

"Going to Places That Scare Me: Personal Reflections on Challenging Male Supremacy"

Chris Crass, author of the book Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy, devotes one chapter to detailing his personal experience becoming aware of his own sexism and that of his fellow male activists. After accepting the reality of his privilege, he began the lifelong process of uprooting blatant and subtle manifestations within himself, challenging it within male comrades as indivduals, and helping structure activist groups to counteract sexist defaults and biases.

This is an essay for other people raised male who identify as men and who, like me, are Left/anarchist organizers with privilege struggling to build movements for collective liberation. It is written for men in the movement who have been challenged on their sexism and male privilege and are looking for support. I'm focusing here on the emotional aspects of my own experience of dealing with issues of sexism and anti-sexism.

More and more, gender-privileged men in the movement are working to challenge male supremacy. Thousands of us recognize that patriarchy exists; that we have material and psychological privileges as a result; that sexism undermines movements; that women, transgender, and genderqueer people have explained it over and over again and said "you all need to talk with each other, challenge each other, and figure out what you're all going to do." However, a far greater number of men in the movement agree that sexism exists in society, perhaps even in the movement, but deny their personal participation in it.

Deep Green Resistance takes very seriously the need for those with any kind of privilege to examine and disarm it within their own lives and relationships, but more importantly to use it to dismantle the larger systemic institutions that uphold that privilege. Crass' journey touches on many important aspects of anti-sexism work, and gives an excellent entry point for men with interest in facing the problems of patriarchy. He shares personal revelations that many of us might be ashamed to admit:

Learning in a community of largely women and people of color also deeply impacted because it was the first time that I'd ever been in situations where I was a numerical minority on the basis of race or gender. Suddenly, race and gender weren't just other issues among many, but central aspects of how others experienced and understood the world. The question I sometimes thought silently to myself - "Why do you always have to talk about race and gender?" - was flipped on its head: "How can you not think about race and gender all the time?"

The whole piece is important for men to read, as undoing sexism is a process that requires work and has no easy answers. But it's also valuable to keep in mind concrete steps men must take to challenge male supremacy, such as these laid out by a friend of the author:

"Gender-privileged people can offer to take notes in meetings, make phone calls, find meeting locations, do childcare, make copies and other less glamorous work. They can encourage women and gender oppressed people in a group to take on roles men often dominate (e.g. strategic leadership in actions, MCing an event, media spokespeople). You can ask specific women if they want to do it, and explain why you think they would be good, as oppose to tokenizing just to get a woman to do it. Pay attention to who you listen to and check yourself on power-tripping."

Read the entire chapter by Chris Crass: Going to Places That Scare Me: Personal Reflections on Challenging Male Supremacy.

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