Trigger warning: mentions a rape and mentions rape jokes.
Before I begin, let me be clear about where I am coming from; I am a heterosexual, white, cisgender man from a lower middle class background, who is also a feminist, a pro-gay activist, and a socialist. I am also a disabled man. In other words, in the grand and complex landscape of liberation politics, I can define into one group of protected characteristics, meaning that I can stand at the front of the disability rights movement. But I am not, automatically, a good feminist or pro-gay rights activist.
The question I want to answer is simple. Can I, as a man, be a good feminist? Some would answer that I cannot. I am not female. I have never faced discrimination because of being a woman. Whilst my long hair doesn’t conform to normative models of masculinity, I have never been objectified, groped, or been paid less than my colleagues like women are on a day to day basis. Whilst I have been raped, it wasn’t because of my gender, but because I was a vulnerable child placed in the environment of a predatory and sick man.
Despite not facing the discrimination that women face, I continue, of course, to support feminism. I wish to see an end to patriarchy and gender discrimination because I believe it will better our society. I believe that as a heterosexual man, I am affected by feminist issues, but I recognise that it is in a VERY different manner to the way my female friends are. They are on the front line, as it were, and I am several miles back, still chocking on the stink of gunsmoke, but not in immediate fear of losing my life. The same would go for my gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* friends. That is all reversed when I am with my non-disabled, but pro-disability rights friends. I am in the trenches there; my non-disabled girlfriend is back at HQ.
What I am trying to say is that if you are one of a group I am going to call the “indirectly affected” that is, a feminist man, an anti-racist white person, a pro-gay heterosexual, a pro-trans* cis-sexual, or a pro-disability rights able person (…the list goes on…), you can be a valuable friend and ally, but you need to be clear on where the boundaries are. I have tried to put these into three golden rules of being “indirectly affected”: Continue reading