To My Feminist Brother(s) // Amandahbeth Tilus
To my feminist brother(s),
I believe that you are owed a debt of gratitude, which I am happy to pay in part today.
I chose to dedicate this post to my feminist brother, Preston, and others like him. I am aware that there are feminists who would deny his ability to represent this movement, however, I tend to find gender-discriminative membership rules a bit restrictive and outdated. In my view, feminism is best represented when men and women acknowledge each other as equal agents within a relational world; to do so, women and men must take part in this discussion together.
Men who participate in feminism must often take on the challenge of responding to accusations, from both men and women, of “defecting” from their own gender. These conversations assume that the feminist mission is to dismantle the current male-dominated hierarchy and replace it with a similarly unbalanced female model of power, rather than establishing an equal balance between both men and women. Furthermore, they suggest that feminist men are unaware of the beliefs, structure, and purpose of the feminist movement which they have chosen to support. This latter argument is unique in that gender exclusive feminists also use it to counter potential male supporters. As I reflect on my own feminist development, in comparison to that of many feminist men, I am grateful for the freedom with which I was able to explore this facet of my identity.
For those that prefer a utilitarian argument, consider that the activism of feminist men may serve multiple purposes for the feminist movement. Firstly, it demonstrates the capacity for caring, respectful, non-romantic relationships between men and women. When I hear my brother, husband, or father speak positively regarding feminism, I feel loved. Secondly, the presence and voices of feminist men promotes an atmosphere of accountability in promoting equality for all people, not women alone. This presence is especially helpful when discussions regarding the painful history of feminism threaten to consume the energy needed to make positive changes in the present. Excessive focus spent on assigning blame to either gender for the inequities of the past, and the trials of the present, wastes precious time and results in reductive conclusions. Men and women are equally responsible to move forward and make positive changes in this world. Finally, feminist men serve as a reminder of the manner in which privilege may be used to enact social change. My feminist brother inspires me to remain aware of the unearned privileges that I have, and the ways in which I may use these for the benefit of all.