Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Can a Man Really Be a Feminist?

Sigh... I'm asking this question quite seriously. One fellow male, also haunted by feminist concerns, suggested recently that "pro-feminist" is as close as we men can get. In light of recent revelations -- aided by an articulate female professor who read an edited version (published in Christians for Biblical Equality's Summer 2006 Mutuality magazine) of my article another of my blogs is named after -- I discovered another layer of self-ignorance that needed peeling off.

Sure, the original article discusses race at some length (the edited one less so). But when I mention being propositioned by a prostitute in my neighborhood, I also mention that she was African American. As the professor pointed out, among other things, I (1) didn't really know whether she was African American, African, or where she was from, (2) seemed to link her race with my repugnance for her proposition, (3) offered fodder for the old mythologies regarding black women's sexuality, and (4) showed my incipient vulnerability to thinking racially by mentioning her race at all, especially when the bulk of the article does not mention the race of women (or most of the men) I discuss there.

Of course, I would like to say "No, no, no!" And in fact, her second and third critiques, while understandable, did not ring true to me the writer. The truth of it is that if anything I find women of a darker persuasion more attractive than women of a pale persuasion. That such feelings themselves betray a certain racialist framework I do confess, with a sigh.

But the professor's first and fourth critiques rang very true, her fourth most of all. Why mention the woman's color? What purpose did it serve? What did it tell the reader about me and my own universe? As I told her in an email, the lesson I take from this experience is that I am more than ever a white male still in transit regarding issues of both race and gender equality.

Finally, the online article in its original version (quite a bit longer than the CBE Mutuality version) has been edited by me here to remove the mention of the prostitute's race. I am currently unable to change it on another site (Cornerstone Magazine) due to a foul technical glitch locking me out of the article database (sigh!). And as a historical note only, the article was originally given as a 2005 seminar at the annual Cornerstone Festival's "Gender Revolution" tent.

1 comment:

Colin Lamm said...

It's interesting how certain language / assumptions are lodged, often subconsciously, yet definitely, in our psyches. Currently my wife and I are trying to encourage the establishment of a College and Career type ministry in our locale. As we were discussing this with one of the potential leaders of this endeavor we both kept lapsing into lingo like, "What do 'you people' -- you know, 'your age group' -- like to do?" Often we resorted to language like "you kids" and "you young people". The other fellow laughed at this silly display of our ignorance.

It made me wonder if while discussing our plans with another middle aged person if I would ever self-righteously say "well, you know, some of my closest friends are young adults."

I know it may seem to pale in comparison to issues like racism and female / male equality, but it just seemed interesting to me, in light of your discussion, how deeply ingrained certain characterizations / prejudices of people can be.