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Rethinking Feminism

Feminism is a topic I have been weary and careful about writing at Radical Second Things. I have written up articles about it and scrapped them and considered writing them anonymously. (Writing an article anonymously would be stupid - where would I write it that no one would connect it with me? Also, my style is fairly unique and I think anyone who knew about me would figure out who wrote it.)
 I am a man. I'm not a woman. I don't know what it's like to be a woman in this world and never will. I like to think I am empathetic and have long accepted that we live in a multilayered people - people can adopt views that may cast me in an unfair light while being totally rational, building off of their personal experience. This makes identity politics and gender politics especially extremely difficult to talk about without loading it with all sort of subjective analysis - we ultimately cannot truly understand the other person's experience unless we have lived it.

Nevertheless it's a topic I have to talk about. I grew up around mostly women, am romantically interested in women and, oddly, seem to have mostly female friends at this point. One of them has brought up feminism alot with me - she is from a developing country with more traditional gender norms and she said that she found herself more distrustful of men in the United States and felt as if she had to detox from some of the ideas a feminist friend she made here gave to her. Another female friend talked to me recently about a more misogynist male acquaintance of hers and that conversation, after talking about the subjects several times in one week, made me finally decide to write about it.

Like I think most men have, I have had some bad run ins with feminism. I grew up around mostly women and I did feel, over the years, like I was being talked to differently than the women around me talked to one another - though I think that has changed over the years. Sometimes they got pretty bad - I had a really insane interaction with one of my sisters in which, after telling her she looked nice, she literally told me to die. My other sister would scream at me about looking at porn using my own laptop and her wifi when I was doing nothing of the kind. It seemed as if I couldn't talk to either of them without that sort of verbal abuse and so haven't talked to them in several years.

After my girlfriend Jennifer passed away, one of her friends seemed to seek me out as a target for hatred. Out of literally thin air, she accused me in e-mail and text of being a homophobe and bigot towards transsexuals. She posted this stuff on a memorial group I had started for Jennifer as well. I didn't feel like the crap she was saying to me was even worth of being dignified with any sort of deflection and I banned her from talking to me or posting on the memorial group.

Jen had mental health problems and drug addiction. She tried to work past those challenges and I generally am weary of all of her friends - it's clear that she sought out some friends who shared her same challenges. Nevertheless that attitude has been seen again. Alot of articles and arguments from the feminist world do seem to boiling over with hate - one recent article in The Week analogized any man who proposes to marry a woman with slaveholders and rapists. Naturally, as a man, I have a negative reaction to this. I think proposing to a woman is a sign of deep humility and respect - a man is making himself very vulnerable and ready for rejection in doing so. I think talk like that is pure hate and anyone thinking like that has some issues. Writers like Meghan DeMaria, the writer, do seem to act as if men are guilty until proven innocent of the worst possible charges.

However, as one of my friends said to me, that's "not all feminists." For every article you get like that Week one, you have figures like Malala Yousavzai, a figure who is beloved at the moment by many in the west but may become a radical figure of scorn for her self-identification as a "socialist." Malala is very much a feminist whose targeting is precise - her chief issue is making education for women and others who don't enjoy the privilege in our world more widely available. This is a serious issue - trying to do so was offensive enough for members of the Taliban to attempt to kill her. I am reading her book right now and am impressed that such a young woman has so much insight.

The issues around Malala run deep and do give validity to feminist arguments that oppressive systems can pull back rights afforded people. Afghanistan once had an airline and women working as teachers, stewardesses and other professions before the Soviet Union invaded it. The United States helped sponsored the mujahideen and Saudis who created the Taliban and really brought about a patriarchal state in Afghanistan. The burqa, now associated with that country in our culture, was actually a Saudi creation - brought to Afghanistan by Saudi extremists rich with both American financial support and petroleum dollars. Things can get worse.

While I was interning at Tikkun, my empathy for the attraction of feminism grew greatly. I do understand how women attract to it and even am willing to look at the anger that people like Jen's friends directed towards me as misplaced frustration. One project that I worked on was artwork by Carol Rosetti, whose empathetic messages of empowerment really stirred me:

Rosetti's images of gender empowerment do connect greatly in my personal experience. Jen was very, very frail when she left this world. I would bring her food, great amounts of food, and she would either pick at it or not eat it at all. One of her boyfriends told me that she did exactly this around him. It was terrifying and I've no doubt that the oppressive self-imagery that many women are inundated with had alot to do with her obsession about weight and body image. You sometimes see bodybuilding men who are obsessed with body image but rarely in the sort of destructive way that Jen was.

I was talking to a friend recently and she said a point that did get me thinking that maybe I had all this wrong. She said "There's no hating of sexes. Feminism is all about celebrating who we are. You're a feminist, I don't think you know it though."If that is the case, we need to make sure that it is binded in a way that reinforces what we have in common and not the crude differences we have from one another. We really are one, made in God's image.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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