Tag Archives: allies

Being a better ally to trans people

This is an Ask a Geek Feminism question from one of our readers (it’s still not too late to ask more questions):

One of the things I’ve been trying to work on recently is being more accepting and supportive of trans people (although this specific question can relate to several other contexts). I have heard a trans person say they’ve been hurt by being called “unnatural,” and I’ve heard coworkers make similar remarks. Would it be a good defensive for me to say to those coworkers, if the opportunity arises, “So are computers.”* ?

I wonder if that would resonate with the tech people I spend most of my time around – oh, yeah, we live and love things that are “unnatural” all the time, so maybe we shouldn’t look down on others for something else “unnatural” – but I’m worried about potentially causing more hurt to anyone listening by implying they are unnatural.

I personally just despise framing things as “natural” and “unnatural”, myself, but I don’t know if that response helps or not.

* or cars. or antibiotics. or sewage systems. really, most things.

There are always multiple ways to respond to any given microaggression, and some will work better or worse in different situations and with different people. It’s also great when allies stand up for us and point out when certain words or phrases or jokes are unacceptable, since we get tired of doing it all the time, and also because sometimes a cis ally — or a trans person who isn’t known to be trans in the particular situation they’re in — will be listened to whereas a person who is known to be trans won’t.

Personally (and I’m just speaking for myself here), I don’t think your hypothetical response is bad, or unwittingly transphobic, but it’s not my favorite possible response. There are trans people who champion transhumanism (putting the trans in transhumanism?) — for an example of what such a worldview might look like, see Donna Haraway’s “The Cyborg Manifesto” (Haraway’s student Sandy Stone — worthy of a geek woman profile herself — wrote “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto”, a deeply flawed but historically influential essay in which she encouraged trans people to aspire to more than just fitting in as someone who’s typically read as a cis woman or cis man). Some of them see that to buy quality HGH, to undergo hormone replacement therapy and surgery as sought by some trans people as radical body modifications, and see themselves as being part of a cyborg movement.

Moreover, both your co-workers and your hypothetical response assume that trans people, by definition, seek medical intervention to bring their external body into congruence with their neurological or subconscious sex. I assume that what is being thought of as “unnatural” is the use of medication or surgery. However, many trans people do not undergo any medical interventions, whether by choice or due to the many economic and social injustices that make this type of health care especially difficult to access for many people. So really, the people being tarred with the “unnatural” brush are actually a subset of trans people.

In the rest of this answer, though, I’ll show how the accusation of ‘unnatural’ is only used to protect the power structure as-is: people accept all sorts of things that were once considered unnatural if those things prove to help white heterosexual cis men.[1] Specifically, they accept medical technology, beautifications and body modifications usually used by women (so long as they jibe with the male gaze), and (since it’s become economically beneficial for white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, at least to some extent) women working outside the home and in professional jobs.

Medical technology. Since not all trans people (myself included) want to see themselves as better than human, or beyond human, I think there are better answers. Like you said in your question, antibiotics are unnatural. So are hip replacements, cochlear implants, anti-depressants, insulin, thyroid replacement hormone, breast reductions and augmentations, artificial legs, organ transplants, crutches, wheelchairs, and pacemakers. These are all medications, procedures, devices that are used by both cis people and trans people. I think very few people would want to go back in time to a world without medical technology. For trans people who avail themselves of them (or want to), medication (that is, exogeneous hormones or for growth: http://pumpauthority.com/hgh-supplements-for-sale/) and surgeries are treatments for a medical condition. It’s not that being trans is a disease or a disorder — or that being the sex we’re born as (for example, the sex I was born as is male although I was coercively assigned female at birth) is a delusion or a problem — it’s that some of us have brains and bodies that function best when testosterone is our primary sex hormone even though we were born with gonads that primarily produce estrogen, and some have brains and bodies that function best when estrogen is our primary sex hormone even though we were born with gonads that primarily produce testosterone. And some of us have, deeply wired into our brain, a mental map of an external body that has different genitals (or other features) than the body we were born with. In the latter case, surgery to make our bodies the shape that our brain expects is treating a medical condition, which is a body that didn’t form in the way that our brain expects. And in the former case, hormone replacement is just a matter of supplementing a hormone our bodies don’t make enough of, much like taking synthetic thyroid hormone for someone with hypothyroidism. Much of this is widely accepted and know, these facts even find themselves in some of the testosterone supplements review papers available today.

None of this is “natural”, but again, if “natural” means going back to a world where nearsighted people get eaten by wolves because there are no eyeglasses, don’t sign me up. There’s something very ableist about wanting to live in a world where medical interventions aren’t available: it basically means you want to live in a world where disabled people are all left to die. Since most of my friends and I would be dead in that world, no thanks.

Alternatively, you could certainly argue that anything that exists is natural, in the sense of occurring in nature. Human beings have developed technology because we evolved brains that made us capable of developing it. That’s 100% natural. So is anything that we’ve created using natural materials. Like the health food store that tries to sell you “100% chemical-free” food, people who talk about what’s “natural” and “unnatural” are using clichés to fool you into accepting a category that’s actually semantically empty. Trans people are natural because we are trans, and we exist; full stop. We’re not confused cis people or flawed versions of cis people, but rather, individuals in our own right.

Sometimes claims that trans people are “unnatural” are really claims that trans people are some sort of modern creation of medical technology, as if we didn’t exist before medical interventions that sometimes make our lives easier existed. This argument gets it backwards and erases our agency — it’s not like cis male doctors were dying to treat trans people; rather, we had to fight tooth and nail to get some small modicum of access to treatment (and that access has always been easier to get for white trans people who can at least act like they conform to the stereotypes for their self-identified gender). And anyway, gender-variant people exist in every culture and have been noted throughout history.

Some people disbelieve this reality because they believe in an oversimplified, fifth-grade-biology view of evolution in which reproduction is all-important and features that seem to discourage reproduction can’t possibly survive. As Joan Roughgarden showed in Evolution’s Rainbow and Bruce Bagemihl showed in Biological Exuberance, it ain’t necessarily so. Understanding evolutionary theory does not entail believing in some sort of “invisible hand” that directs all organisms’ behavior so as to maximize reproduction; it also doesn’t require attaching moral value to reproducing. Those last two are about ideology, not science. If anything is unnatural, it’s the belief system that nothing in nature has any purpose besides reproduction (or indeed, that there are purposes aside from what people and perhaps other conscious beings ascribe to it). Bagemihl, in particular, outlines an alternative framework (at the end of Biological Exuberance) in which we view pleasure and abundance, rather than reproduction, as what living beings optimize for. In this framework, there’s nothing strange about animals (human and otherwise) who engage in homosexual, bisexual, and pansexual behavior, or who are gender-fluid or intersex or occupy genders besides the two that most Western humans recognize. Since we have a choice about the ideas we use to give meaning to raw data, we might as well pick ones that don’t come pre-bundled with a whole lot of social hierarchy implying that cis men and women are better than others, or that people who procreate are better than people who don’t — eh? There’s nothing natural about attaching moral connotations to the ability to reproduce.

Closely related to the “natural” microaggression is the microaggression of referring to both cis men and trans women as “biologically male” and trans men and cis women as “biologically female”. The sexes most of us get assigned at birth are better characterized as “sociological sex” than “biological sex”. When a baby is born in an industrialized, medicalized setting in the Western world, typically what happens is that a doctor (or midwife, or other medical worker or in some cases, a parent or family member) inspects the baby’s genitals and determines whether, as an adult, the baby will be able to play the penetrative role in heterosexual intercourse between two cis people. If the doctor decides that the baby’s phalloclitoris is large enough that, scaled up, it’ll be big enough to accomplish this task, the doctor assigns a male sex to the baby. Otherwise — defining maleness by the presence of a penis and femaleness by the absence of a penis — the doctor assigns the baby as female. Nowadays, of course, especially for people who can afford it, this ascertainment gets made before birth using modern imaging technology (that is, using imaging technology to enhance the same old heteronormative criterion). In either case, this is absolutely subjective — less than a few decades ago, it was completely routine for 46,XY newborns (most of who would presumably grow up to assert themselves as male) to have genital reconstruction performed on them soon after birth to turn their “abnormally small” penises and scrota into a vulva. This is no longer routine, but still happens. The reasons have to do with a bag of social assumptions most of us are inculcated with involving the ideas that everyone is heterosexual — or if not, at least that not being heterosexual is undesirable — that everyone is sexual, and that the correct way for two people to interact sexually is missionary-position, penis-in-vagina intercourse. That’s why I call it sociological sex and not biological sex. If we went by biology and not sociology, we wouldn’t assign infants a sex until they were old enough to affirm one for themselves, since the only reliable indicator of one’s sex is the brain, and the only way to determine someone’s innate, subconscious sex is to ask them what it is.

Gender expression (not just for trans people). I want to take a couple of steps back and point out that what I’ve outlined is a version of the medical model of transsexuality. It’s still not the version that gatekeepers such as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health like to purvey, but regardless, some trans and genderqueer people reject the idea of medicalizing transness at all. I don’t, however, see the existence of such people as evidence for “unnatural”ness either. Regardless of what you’re doing or not doing with your body, there’s nothing unnatural about modifying your body, appearance, and behavior to communicate who you are and how you’d like to be treated. It’s possible to view gender as a language, and language is one of the most basic things about being human. Using symbols to convey meanings is natural.

I recommend Talia Bettcher’s article “Evil Deceivers and Make Believers”[2] in which she outlines “the natural attitude about gender” — which probably most or all of us have been taught, and many people have rarely questioned — and how it’s used to frame trans people as either deceptive or deluded. I think her argument relates directly to the real meaning of “unnatural” when used as a slur against trans people. If you can suggest that trans people are somehow “fake”, you can suggest that cis people are better than trans people, and thus justified in devaluing and dehumanizing trans people. People often rely on scientific terms they don’t understand, like “chromosome”, to lend false legitimacy to the idea that trans women are somehow less female than cis women or trans men are somehow less male than cis men, but one shouldn’t be fooled by the bogus biological science — it’s social science all the way down. As Bettcher shows, ultimately, the socially inculcated assumption is that outward appearance is an advertisement for what genitals one has. This is a convention I was never asked to consent to participating in, and if I’d been asked, I would have said no — but in any case, there’s no particular scientific or biological reason to assume that everyone is obeying this convention.

I’ve used the phrase “trans people” a couple of times in this answer, but I’ve argued myself that it’s a misleading phrase. It’s really trans women who face the bulk of the scrutiny from the dominant culture about being natural enough. This shouldn’t be too surprising, since it’s essentially the same scrutiny that cis women in sexist society are subject to. Cis women are expected to go to a great deal of effort to make themselves physically attractive (makeup, clothes, shoes, shaving, exercising, hairstyles, cosmetic surgery…) while simultaneously constructing a simulacrum of “natural”ness (that actually resembles nature very little — especially for women who aren’t white, thin and able-bodied, since the normative ideal of femininity in Western culture requires being all three). Trans women face all the same scrutiny, plus a double bind: if they do too much to conform to compulsory femininity, they’re accused of being “artificial” or “unnatural”; if they don’t put in this effort, they’re accused of really being men. They can’t win. Naturalness is a lie, an artifice, a construct made by somebody trying to sell you something.

Gender roles. Moreover, men (and other women) have also hurled the “unnatural” brickbat at cis women who wanted to work outside the home, decline to have children, love other women, go to school, or do science or engineering. That in itself should be a hint that there’s a problem with judging any women, cis or trans, by how “natural” or “unnatural” they are.

I also recommend Natalie Reed’s article “Bilaterally Gynandromorphic Chickens, And Why I’m Not ‘Scientifically’ Male” in case you need further convincing on why there’s nothing “biologically” or “scientifically” female about cis women that isn’t also true about some people who aren’t cis women, and likewise with cis men. “Sex Is Also a Social Construct” is useful as well. In this post, I haven’t even mentioned the dichotomy between sex and gender, which I believe is spurious and unhelpful. If you’ve been taught “sex is between the legs, gender is between the ears”, throw that in the garbage if you want to be a good trans ally. I won’t recommend any general resources specifically about how to be a trans ally, since many of them start with good intentions but end up doing just the opposite; however, familiarity with the articles in the “Trans*” section of the Freenode Feminists’ list of educational resources would be a good start.

Conclusion. I hope this gives you at least two tools with which to confront some language in the future: first, directly attacking the social hierarchies implicit in calling a particular group of people “unnatural” (whether it’s trans people, queer people, disabled people, mixed-race people, or so on); and second, calling attention to the bogus and oversimplified assumptions about science that underlie calling trans people “unnatural” or biologically a sex that they aren’t.

[1] Thanks to Valerie Aurora for this phrasing.

[2] Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, vol. 22, no.3 (Summer 2007), 43-65.

The word LINKS spelt out in clips (safety pins)

Where the Wild Linkspam Are (25th May, 2012)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Featured Image Credit: ‘Links by Clips’ by RambergMediaImages (Keith Ramsey) on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tag reading "NOT OK" lies on wet ground

Ways for men to respond to harassment of women

This isn’t exactly geek feminist, but we often get asked questions about how to be a better ally, so I thought this was worth sharing. It’s a video of a bunch of men demonstrating ways to respond to street harassment. Within geeky circles, stuff that’s not unlike street harassment does happen at conferences and other gatherings, and it’s worth being prepared.

Not only is this a good collection of lines to have in your head, but their delivery and expressions also help get the message across:

So if you see bad behaviour happening, these are some non-violent ways you can step in and tell someone to cut it out. Sometimes, a clear expression of disgust from other men will make a really big impression, and once one person says something others will chime in and make the offender really look and feel like he’s in the minority. It’s good to have a bunch of lines prepared and practiced so you aren’t left with your mouth gaping open thinking, “did he really just say that? here?” and instead you can launch right into responses like, “I can’t take you anywhere,” “That’s not ok,” “Are you serious?” or “It’s not a compliment.” This video is obviously targeted at male allies, but some of these lines may be useful to others who want to be able to step in.

Remember, the wiki has an article on allies that can always use more links and tips. If you’ve seen any great resources, please mention them in the comments or add them directly to the wiki!

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

I’m too pretty to linkspam (2nd September, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Playing the linkspam card (4th June, 2011)

  • Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men: If white, male elites started saying, I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men, chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.
  • Not Exactly Avatar Secrets: A Critique of Ramona Pringle’s Research: Ramona Pringle does “research” into people finding love in online games. Flavor Text is not impressed: I think the main issue I take with this – and you addressed it earlier on Twitter – is that the whole thing just smacks of “gamers are human beings, too!” as if this is somehow news. The sky is blue! Fire still hot! Gamers capable of social interaction and forming meaningful relationships!
  • While we’re talking about Flickr groups (This is what a computer scientist looks like is now at 55 photos and counting), photogs here might like to contribute to the New Feminine group, for a diverse range of images of women that show femininity as other than submissive and sexualised.
  • Deconstructing Pointy-Eared White Supremacists: What do we know about elves? They are, generally, portrayed as the ideal: more magical, more beautiful, more in tune with nature. They are older than you but almost immortal… Elves are also very, very white.
  • A Bright Idea – Hack a Day: Our submitter writes: Woman comes up with nifty idea. Site reports about her. Comments filled with the usual She’s hot; and all important Why doesn’t she have a degree?
  • RIP Rosalyn S. Yalow, 89, Nobel winning medical physicist: Dr. Yalow, a product of New York City schools and the daughter of parents who never finished high school, graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in New York at the age of 19 and was the college’s first physics major. Yet she struggled to be accepted for graduate studies. In one instance, a skeptical Midwestern university wrote: She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.
  • From 2008 (hey, it’s recent in academic terms…) Budden et al Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors, Trends in Ecology & Evolution: in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information
  • Tropebusting: Matriarchies in Gaming and Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The most prevalent of these tropes is that Matriarchies are Evil, like really, really super-duper EVIL. (Also, hey, bonus elves…)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

“But what could I have said/done?”

[Trigger warning for use of rape as an analogy for display of dominance]

This is a discussion I just saw in a project/support channel on an IRC server I frequent. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to stumble on similar in my travels.

I’m the “elky” in the excerpt, all other identifying factors have been excluded for the purposes of focusing on the event.

* joiner (~joiner@XXXX) has joined #projectchannel
<_douchecanoe> show your professionalism and just proof them wrong
* pingout has quit (Ping timeout: 276 seconds)
<_douchecanoe> write an article that rapes their article
* latecomer (~latecomer@XXXX) has joined #projectchannel
<_douchecanoe> bystander
<joiner> here I am joining #projectchannel and the first thing that strikes me is rape
<_douchecanoe> http://<insert a link to an article here>
<talkingtodouche> why on earth would I want to write an article for them?
<bystander> does it output an .xml file?
<elky> joiner, :(
<_douchecanoe> joiner at least you know that you’re in the right place
<_douchecanoe> talkingtodouche not for them
<bystander> for epeen
<elky> … for being…? worst thing to say.

What happened after this? Business as usual for most of the channel occupants. No apologies. Nothing. Infuriating.

Now, I don’t know “joiner”*. For all I know ze is not a survivor. For all I know joiner is an ally and this is how ze is responding. But for all I know zir comment is a genuine display of anguish and ze needs acknowledgement. Personally I prefer to not risk that the last is true.

What did I do? In the channel, I asked “joiner” if they had come in to address a need before being rudely sidelined, and when they replied happily they were compiling, I joked by exclaiming “swordfight!” and let them know I was making sure they were OK hence letting them know I am approachable.

What would you have done?

(* Not real nick. None of the nicks in the log are the real nick involved, except for my own.)

Comment note: I’m not looking for cookies, they are off-topic for this thread. Please focus discussion on how you may have approached the situation, or, if you are a marginalised person, how you personally would appreciate someone responding in a similar situation.

The Importance of Allies

Deb Nicholson is a geeky gal who is motivated by the intersection of technology and social justice. She spends her time working freelance with the Caucus to Increase Women’s Participation in Free Software and pursuing a CS degree in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This has been cross-posted from her blog.

Ever since I started working towards the goal of increasing the number of women participating in the free software community, I’ve had men say some variation of the following to me, “I didn’t know it was this bad. Is there anything I can do?” The answer is yes!

There is a great potential for change. I think the gropers and insulters are the exception and not the rule. Unless 30 obnoxious men are changing their appearance and flying all over the globe to be “that guy” at dozens of linuxfests and free software gatherings every year, their numbers are still significant. If you believe my conspiracy scenario, then you may as well go all the way and imagine them to be trained and funded by Microsoft on a secret island in the remote Pacific. (Also, I have a work-at-home situation that starts with you mailing me a large check that I’d love to discuss with you.) But seriously, the dearth of opposing voices is what allows this small group to disproportionately set the tone at free software events. The bad actors are not the majority. Silence on this issue serves the status quo.

When thinking about change, I’ve always found Ursula LeGuin’s story, “The Ones who Walked Away from Omelas” inspiring. This example is from fiction and so naturally the choice to pipe down or walk away from a society that oppresses even one of its members is drawn in very broad strokes. LeGuin has essentially written a parable. If you as a conference goer find out that an event’s success rests upon the tears and ostracization of a small number of people, then walk away. Don’t attend that event again. Let me be a little more explicit. Say the keynote speaker is disrespectful to women and sets an inappropriate sexual tone for the conference. The conference organizers don’t feel that they can tell someone famous and important to either stay professional and respect all attendees or stop speaking without damaging the status of their event. The women at this conference no longer feel welcome. If you think those are the wrong priorities then you have two options, speak up or walk away.

Find yourself another event or project that values the inclusion of all its members over the egos of a few bad actors. Get involved where they’re doing it right! Or say something when your “mostly OK” community missteps. A simple, “Hey, that’s out of line” or “We really don’t need to use that kind of example” can go a long way. Sometimes you may find yourself in a smaller group and a quick, “That was really inappropriate” may be in order. What if you aren’t quick in the moment? After someone’s been offensive you might say to the offended party, “I’m sorry that guy was a jerk to you. If you want to report him, I’m happy to go with you to find a staff person.” Of course, this last example is going to be the most effective at an event that already has an anti-harassment policy in place.

Allies are extremely important. There aren’t that many women here yet. So, in order to be successful at changing the tone in the free software community, we need your help. The thing you can do today is to write to a conference you’re thinking about attending in the next year and politely ask if they would adopt an anti-harassment policy like this one. A policy may seem like a small step, but its adoption empowers the organizers to stop offensive behavior and to kick out repeat offenders. It also goes a long way towards broadcasting to potential attendees what sort of treatment they can expect and what won’t be tolerated. I hope that you’ll choose to speak up when you feel you can affect behavior and walk away when you feel the situation is irredeemable. Thanks to all of you who already do!

The links are strong with this one (4th December, 2010)

  • Valerie’s Conference anti-harassment policy is under discussion at LWN and Hacker News (‘ware: both sites well known for faily comments, although as of writing LWN is doing mostly OK). LWN’s article will be de-paywalled in a few days, before that, go via Valerie’s free link.
  • The Mistress of the Lash Wears Chains: I began to wonder just what drove the [game design] obsession with these matriarchies. I then realised that this was the flip side of “male fantasy’- which is “male nightmare.’
  • The Importance of Allies: Ever since I started working towards the goal of increasing the number of women participating in the free software community, I’ve had men say some variation of the following to me, I didn’t know it was this bad. Is there anything I can do? The answer is yes!
  • A series of questions in photographic form. This ongoing body of work explores the power dynamics inherent in the questions asked of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people.
  • Reinventing the Outreach Program Wheel: Why, oh why do I have to be hatin’ on the good works that SciCheer wants to do for the young girls of our nation?
  • Becoming Einstein’s cousin: profile on Cathy Foley, an international expert in superconductivity, the first woman to become president of the Australian Institute of Physics, and president of Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies.
  • Wake up, LOPSA members., or, Sexism in LOPSA, part 3
  • Women in Web Development: Do The Numbers Really Matter?: The failure isn’t the industry or its hiring practices. It’s in education, summer camps, parenting, and all the other places young girls could be coming into contact with coding, development and engineering but aren’t.
  • Gertrude Rothschild, Dies at 83: Important geek engineer who improved LED displays; defended her inventions against patent infringement. (In contradistinction to copyright infringement, which poorly serves IP interests in 3D objects and processes).
  • Finally, a quick thought from @heathermg: … the head of NASA Astrobiology AND the lead researcher who discovered this lifeform are both women.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Beginning a feminist journey

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question. (See the status of this project, also.)

I am a girl geek in a relationship with a guy geek, and this guy geek was raised by his mom and his aunt to hate men and hate himself for being a man. In puberty he rejected that and swung a bit in the opposite direction, and now he’s in a place where he believes in the equality of the sexes but he has internalized stereotypes and vitriolic messages about both sexes. He recognizes that and he wants me to help him learn about feminism. Well, that’s great! But I haven’t got the foggiest where to start. We tried reading the Feminism 101 sites together, but it’s too unstructured. Do you know of anyplace else I could find an approach to teaching feminism to men, specifically, or have any advice for helping him confront the internalized hated?

I’ll be interested in the Hive’s thoughts too, but to be honest I’m not sure you can provide structure in this quest, ultimately. It’s a big messy pile of issues, and one person’s structured look at it will be another person’s incoherent mystery.

I wanted to post this after the linkspam put up the lists to the latest round of self-education posts, because he needs to accept responsibility for his own education. If he’s not willing to do a lot of listening and doubting and struggling to understand and looking back at his six-months-ago self and being embarrassed at his lack of clue, you can’t make him and we can’t make him.

Let me talk about myself for a bit. I’m very privileged, and I’ve spent a few years now reading about intersectionality issues and oppressions other than patriarchal ones. I don’t get an ally cookie and reading the social justice blogosphere is far and away not the only thing an ally can or should do. But here’s what’s worked for me:

  • reading a lot of things, mostly in my case blogs, with stories in them about oppression playing out in people’s lives;
  • thinking privileged things like “surely that’s an exaggeration” “but I’m not like that” “but my friends aren’t like that” “but I’ve never heard of anything like that” “I think your point would be better made if you…” and so on;
  • (at least sometimes) noticing myself thinking those things and keeping them inside my own head; and
  • (sometimes) noticing oppression that isn’t happening to me personally and thinking “that’s fucked up” and (sometimes) analysing, criticising, or trying to end it.

Not a direct answer to your question, but perhaps your partner does need to ask himself what it is he needs structured for him and why.

For others, were there any resources that provided you with some structure to your early feminist or anti-oppression thinking, even if they later turned out to be incomplete or problematic in and of themselves? If you’re a male feminist/feminist ally, how did you start out learning and what are you learning at the moment?

Note: discussions of what one can do to learn about or further social justice can themselves end up ableist and classist among other things. There are many types of activism and the types that can be done or are preferred by conventionally educated abled folk with leisure time aren’t the only kind. Be careful with your ‘must’s.

Good girls don’t linkspam (3rd May, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.