So, today I was minding my own business, as usual, and without a doubt, patriarchy smacked me in the face—through an update on my twitter timeline. I saw the reaction of Hay Ladies blogger, Andrea Grimes, to the ignorance of Richie Whitt, Dallas Observer sports blogger. I would think that this is how Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers felt after he made the choice to utilize his legal and contractual privilege of taking a day off from work to witness the birth of his child, smacked in the face. I say privilege because we still live in a nation (read: world) where paternity/family is an anomaly. Whitt had the audacity to question this man’s personal choice to be a responsible father.
Grimes explains that Whitt has made it his job to
“perpetuate a system of toxic masculinity wherein men are only real dudes if they don’t do too much of that being-a-human-being shit, like trying to physically and emotionally support their families, witness once-in-a-lifetime moments and demonstrate that there’s more to life than a paycheck .”
I will not use this post to further explain how disgusting Whitt’s words and sentiment are because Grimes does a pretty awesome job at it here. What I will do, however, is tell a little story about allies.
I am a feminist AND a man—two distinct identities. Many people assume these identities should be conflicting, but that comes from a lack of understanding of how feminism and masculinity affect our lives. Actually, it has always been my expression of my masculinity, or “lack thereof,” that has informed my feminist identity. From the start my personality, interests, and actions have been in distinct conflict with the expectations of what normal masculinity means. I wasn’t very aggressive. I sought out friendships beyond conversations based on sports, and video games—which usually led to me being friends with mostly befriending girls. My “manliness” was definitely in question, and even before the onset of puberty, my sexuality was a topic. Like many people, my feminism began to emerge before I even knew the word. Internally, something felt wrong.
What I did not realize until just now, while reading the words of both Whitt and Grimes, was that I made it through my childhood and adolescence because of the man standing in my corner along the way. The man that that taught me play an instrument, who didn’t push me to play sports if they weren’t my interests, and who came to just about every one of my dance concerts—My Dad. My dad has been my male feminist ally. He may not call himself a feminist, and he still has some of his expectations of beauty and manhood, but his feminist action (though he may not realize it) was allowing me to expand my definition of masculinity through my exploration of simple childhood games and activities. He not only allowed me to cry, but also cried in front of me, and takes pride in the fact that I get my sensitivity from him.
His constant pride in the man that I was becoming has been an indirect cause to why I can, today, call myself a feminist. Because I was allowed to explore my masculinity, I am able to refute the expectations of our binary gendered system. There are many theoretical and practical reasons as to why males should be allies in the feminist movement. The best one I can think of is that we will all be happier.
To quote Grimes once more: “Toxic masculinity, gender policing and shaming doesn’t just hurt women. Doesn’t just hurt men. Hurts everyone. Hurts families. Hurts people, all people, who deserve to not be pigeonholed and socially pressured into any one kind of behavior based on the junk in their drawers.”
We need more men to speak out against Whitt and others like him. It is our job to applaud men like Colby Lewis until it becomes a norm, so that we can be more productive, happier, and healthier fathers, friends, partners—better human beings. Good men create better men. It is our job to tear down the system. It is our job to redefine the expectations.
My name is Jawad. I am a Man. I am a Feminist. I am a Gfem.