Friday, April 16, 2010

Feminism is not a pick-up line

So a little bit of background here - I wrote a post for the BARCC blog a couple of weeks ago about being an ally, and trying to deal with being a straight white dude in a variety of movements where I need to recognize my privilege with the quickness. Here is my favorite part of that post (is it weird to link to my own stuff?):

The real danger with the good guy mindset is that it gets real easy to make my feminism cosmetic only; to make it a button I wear at NOW meetings or an interesting piece of conversational material I can pull out at a party when I want an otherwise uninterested woman to think I’m cool, different, and “not like those other guys.” Seriously, though, “I’m a feminist!” isn’t a pick-up line.

A couple of weeks later, two of my favorite bloggers wrote pieces that, while not companions per se, certainly touch on an issue related to this. First, Holly over at the Pervocracy, and then Cuppy at her place, both write excellent posts about trying to both fit feminism into their lives, and still have lives in addition to that. I have often felt these things as well - feminism is really important to me, and a major source of my identity, but I also really like Led Zeppelin and soccer and martial arts and terrible action movies and God of War and Warhammer 40K. Some of those things don't really have any particular relation to feminism in general, some of them can be incorporated into my belief system (go Boston Breakers!) . Some of them are...harder to do that with (no women in the 41st millennium!) But feminism is a big pillar on which my sense of self rests. It generally informs the rest of what I do with my time and my life.

So. I want to represent myself honestly to the world. I want people who are interested in meeting me to have a rough sketch of the things we might have in common, and as a straight dude, I want potential female partners of mine to have a clue what makes me tick. Where does that desire to be honest, and to express myself, start becoming...exploitative, perhaps? I list a lot of my loves on things like Facebook...including feminism. It's on my OkCupid profile. I make no bones about being involved in the movement when I talk to people. And, to be fair, despite my post for the BARCC blog, that has gotten me a couple of dates with women. I don't think I mean for my involvement in this world to be self-promotion, but it sometimes feels like it's coming across that way. I sometimes feel like I'm name-checking my favorite band and insinuating that I know the lead singer when I talk about my feminism, even if I'm not trying to impress someone.

A lot of my own personal feminism is external to me (on a side note, I hate saying things like "my feminism" because it makes me think I'm in Konoha and Naruto is about to go into a lengthy four-episode flashback about "his ninja way!"). I'd like to think I do a lot of internal work, too, to start breaking down the walls of misogyny that built up like plaque in my system, but more of my feminism is directed towards the neighborhood I live in and the organizations I work with. I feel like having straight dudes who openly identify as feminists is important for the movement, and that's been where I live for the past couple of years. So I'm a little conflicted - I like being the straight guy who's a feminist, but I don't want to abuse it. For me, reconciling my life with my feminism is also reconciling my sexuality with my feminism. I'm not sure I've figured out how to do that completely yet.

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