Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why I Am (Not?) A (Pro) Feminist [Man Poet]

There is some thoughtful writing over at Delirious Hem. But it’s been bothering me alot lately that I really don’t how I might be a (Pro) Feminist [Man Poet]. I don’t know what that means. I don’t have alot of actual contact with women. There are issues involved with this. I felt like I’d better either post something of this nature, since I didn’t do so at Delirious Hem or try to get the piece taken down. I considered emailing Danielle and asking her to take the piece down, but I don’t want to do that so I’m posting this.

Let me be clear. I am Pro-Feminist. I am in favor of equality, of the inclusion of previously marginalized voices, of what a man can learn from the experience of being a woman. I was asked to contribute to this forum. But I almost immediately had conflicted feelings about it. I probably cannot honestly identify as Feminist. Their are alot of women who I admire and have huge amounts of respect for, who’ve shaped my life. But in all honesty I have deeply conflicted feelings not about Feminism, but about my own relationship to Feminism. I do feel that as a White Man I’m afforded and exercise more kinds of power in more contexts than I can even know about. A problem is being stuck in the mindset of seeing Feminism as something that’s “all about” women. It isn’t. It is about opening our public (and private) fields of discourse and exchange to more modes of thinking and being than are currently (readily) available. Some of the most important of those modes happen to have been developed by, and perhaps were known all along to women, but of course their voices have been marginalized.

Marginalized by people like me. In the sense that I am a White Male. A White Heterosexual Male. There’s a Louis CK bit where he is ironically extolling the virtues of being a White Male. It’s true. White Hetero Males are the most privileged group in the history of the planet. And it is a direct result of benefiting from a history of oppression and unspeakable brutality. We ought to at least bear witness to that.

I try to, I guess, compensate. I co-curate a reading series where I live. I try to invite at least as many women as men to read and attend. But then what am I saying here? That a poetry reading is a Male environment? It’s up to me to include women? What kind of position of power might I be giving myself by saying that? But then it is true. Poetry readings, English Dept’s (tho I haven’t been near one of those in a while), and various agencies of Literature are historically dominated by Males. And men do have to account for that.

The way we behave creates a wake that reaches everyone else. Men with rejection issues, with latent loathsome attitudes, latent misogyny, seek power. I’m no exception. I’m not anyone’s boss, anyone’s abusive partner, but that doesn’t exempt me from some shared responsibility.

I’d thought about writing about something I’d noticed, about how there seems to be a different codified behavior that is acceptable for a man than that that’s acceptable for a woman, say, in the context of a poetry reading. That it’s more acceptable for a man to kind of “not give a fuck”, where as if a woman takes on this kind of flippant stance toward it, she’s perceived as crazy, menstruating, or a bitch. A friend advised against this.

I can’t separate what would constitute a worldview that is Feminist and Male from how one might act in private. What things are permitted? What things are ok for me to do in my own place of shelter? What things are “ok”, in terms of dealing with these fucked up issues. I’m not sure what for me would constitute an active public Feminism. But I feel like I have to say these things if I’m going to signify as a (Pro) Feminist [Man Poet].

I would like some feedback here.

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