By Chris Crass (November 16, 2017)
To men looking inward and outward at the nightmare of patriarchy and feeling woefully inadequate to do anything remotely close to effectively rising up for gender justice and feminism in ways that these times call for.
I am with you. Every single time I do anything to try and show up for feminism in the world, I struggle with wave after wave of feeling deeply inadequate, of feeling that I myself am inadequate and that in comparison to the profound need for an intersectional feminist vision, politics, values, and strategy for moving men into new ways of being human, of moving men into confrontation with patriarchy and misogyny, of moving men into journeys of personal transformation alongside building movements for racial and economic justice with gender justice and feminism at the center – that alongside the need for all of that, whatever I do will be so insufficient, so limited, as to almost be insulting to women, and people of all genders who face harassment, violence, and sexism on the daily.
And, when I do work with men for gender justice, I am overcome with the fear I have of other men. The memories of violence and threats of violence from boys and men in my life, almost all of based on enforcing and expressing patriarchal masculinities. And I remember not only the times that I was bullied, but the times that I bullied – often in the same day.
And when I take public action for feminism, when I work with men, I remember the ways that I have been sexist, been misogynistic, and how I have to actively fight the socialization of toxic masculinity every day – sometimes successfully and sometimes totally failing.
I am not here to look down on other men and shame us into embracing feminism. I am here, in the emotional, spiritual, and social devastation of toxic masculinity, looking around and saying – “yes, nothing we do will be enough”, “yes, each of us is inadequate for what must be done”, “yes, even the people we love the most will likely experience us as frauds, as pathetic, as triggering, when we try to speak out and take action for feminism”.
And I say, patriarchy is a system that has created this nightmare over hundreds of years through institutions, policies, cultures, torture, and violence, and we, as men who believe in feminism, must inch forward, must crawl, must grab on to each other and help each other move forward, we must find our courage, develop our abilities, listen with our hearts, speak from our souls, and take action knowing that our lives, the lives of all who we love, are at stake and that the world is literally crying out and calling forward, a movement of men who will say “No More”.
Men who will say “Yes I’m part of the problem and I want to be part of the change”, of men who know that feminism means we all get free and who will come alive fully, in the work and on the journey for the end of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, who will come alive to heal ourselves, heal our relationships, develop ways of being that are more and more liberatory and join the women-led multigendered, people of color-led multiracial, working class-led multiclass movements working for systemic and cultural change to create racial and economic justice with gender justice and feminism at the center.
In the process of learning to “act like a man” I’ve felt the fists of boys and men against my body, and my fists against other boys and men’s bodies. Let us, as men, now join hands and help each other rise for feminism.
In the process of learning toxic masculinity, I have heard the voices of boys and mens, with mine joining in, speak and normalize misogyny, harassment and assault of women, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people. Let us, as men, use our voice, our influence, our roles, our lives to generate life-affirming, heart-nourishing, feminist values-living culture in ourselves and with men throughout our lives.
Let us bring out the best of who we are, acknowledge and work on the worst of who we are, join with others, and learn and grow and come alive in the fullness of our humanity and become feminist men who can help heal and transform this world.
Even though I am scared, even through I know that what I do is far from enough, I am here with you and I believe we can all get free.