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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Can a het guy be feminist?

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Author Topic: Can a het guy be feminist?
AnotherAnon
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I'm depressed lately because I want to be feminist and I have attraction to women, and I feel like the two are incompatible. I have gender issues but am ultimately male-bodied and so the issue has relevance. I feel like viewing women and feeling instinctive attraction makes me awful because it would be inherently disrespectful to take any action based on that attraction. Let's take gender ambiguity from the issue: is it possible for a het guy to be feminist?
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Kachina
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I don't understand why not... from my understanding a feminist is just someone who believes men and women should have equal rights. And I don't think being attracted to women makes you awful, quite the contrary! As long as you are not thinking of them as objects but understand they are people just like you, and treat them as such, there is no conflict. Most straight feminist woman are attracted to men! And I know I'm happy that my boyfriend, who is also a feminist, is attracted to me.

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Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise. - Grace Hopper

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bump on a log
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quote:
Originally posted by AnotherAnon:
I feel like viewing women and feeling instinctive attraction makes me awful because it would be inherently disrespectful to take any action based on that attraction.

Why? If a given woman is also attracted to you and wants to have sex with you, and you treat her with consideration, what can be wrong with that? (I'm female btw.)

Being quite politically involved, I know a fair few het male feminists. They are sincere and really 'walk the walk' when it comes to treating women as equals.

And you know, if it's your reactions based on ingrained gender stereotypes that you're worried about -- it may not be, I may have this wrong -- that's not confined to het males. I'm bi and have been seriously in love with people of both sexes. When I was in love with a girl I had all kinds of sex-stereotyped reactions that really took me aback. I was readier to get angry at her in certain ways, readier to call her b**ch inside my head...We all have to deal with stuff like that and try to overcome it.

[ 04-13-2011, 08:09 AM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

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Heather
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AnotherAnon: let's see if it helps to take this off of you and put it in another framework.

So, those of us who are lesbian or queer/bisexual and are women (whatever kinds of genitals we may have) and are also feminists. Would you suggest we aren't really feminists just because we have romantic and sexual attraction to and/or those kinds of relationships with women?

If so, can you say a bit more about why, and how that somehow could undo or negate things like engaging in feminist political actions, really doing the work of feminism?

If you wouldn't say that's true, but only for people who are also women, why do you feel like it's somehow different for people who either identify as men or have XY chromosomes and/or penises?

One more question to sit with: do you feel like sex is disrespectful to women? If so, how do you make that fit with the fact that women, like men, have our own sexuality and sexual desires, and that just as many of us want and enjoy sex and sexual partnership as men do?

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Captain Girl
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Is it possible for a het guy to be feminist?

Yes.

In my experience, it's not looking at women and finding them attractive and acting on it that impedes men being feminists. We are all human beings, and our sensory systems are attached to our brains are attached to our gonads, so that kind of thing is going to happen.

I have, however, seen many men struggle to acknowledge and unpack the privileges that they carry in a patriarchal society, and I think that issue does prevent a lot of het guys both from being feminists and from entirely understanding how and why they aren't.

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Yakri
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I'm heterosexual, male, and a feminist.


So i'm gonna go with yes. ^_^

Ways of thinking aren't limited to certain sub-catagories of humans.

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Chin up and face the future, wonders beyond your wildest dreams await us!

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bump on a log
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quote:
Originally posted by Captain Girl:
I have, however, seen many men struggle to acknowledge and unpack the privileges that they carry in a patriarchal society

Me too. I've also seen men struggle to cope with the often ill-fitting and constricting roles that are forced on them in a patriarchal society. It's not just women whom patriarchy hurts, and if you have gender issues, AnotherAnon, maybe you already know that all too well.
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Captain Girl
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quote:
Originally posted by bump on a log:
Me too. I've also seen men struggle to cope with the often ill-fitting and constricting roles that are forced on them in a patriarchal society. It's not just women whom patriarchy hurts, and if you have gender issues, AnotherAnon, maybe you already know that all too well. [/QB]

This too. I'm not sure it's possible to have a system that hurts half of the people without actually hurting all of the people.
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MissMomo
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Of course they can! I know plenty of heterosexual male feminists. Finding women sexually attractive is not the same as objectifying them (i.e. seeing them as only being good for their physical attributes and not as emotional or mental equals). A feminist, in my view, is someone who believes that men and women are equal and should be treated as such.
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AnotherAnon
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
AnotherAnon: let's see if it helps to take this off of you and put it in another framework.

So, those of us who are lesbian or queer/bisexual and are women (whatever kinds of genitals we may have) and are also feminists. Would you suggest we aren't really feminists just because we have romantic and sexual attraction to and/or those kinds of relationships with women?

If so, can you say a bit more about why, and how that somehow could undo or negate things like engaging in feminist political actions, really doing the work of feminism?

If you wouldn't say that's true, but only for people who are also women, why do you feel like it's somehow different for people who either identify as men or have XY chromosomes and/or penises?

One more question to sit with: do you feel like sex is disrespectful to women? If so, how do you make that fit with the fact that women, like men, have our own sexuality and sexual desires, and that just as many of us want and enjoy sex and sexual partnership as men do?

I guess I would say that it's okay for women but not men because of the context of power relations. Men have patriarchy to make them dominant in every interaction, yes? If a man has sexual interest in a woman, this would be assertion of dominance in a sexual manner, whether or not through conscious intent.

I guess I do see sex as disrespectful. It's turning someone, a person, into a utility for pleasure. Even the simple form of sexual attraction is objectification in a way because it places the attraction on the body when the mind is what's important. I think it's kind of different for gays and lesbians, though, because of the power thing. There's no essential power disparity.

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Angus
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Patriarchy influences our interactions with each other, AA, but it doesn't need to dictate the quality of our relationships. To suggest that men are dominant in every interaction with women is, I'd say, an exaggeration and an over-simplification.

As for sex, really good sex generally brings pleasure to everyone involved. If it's a matter of one person using someone else selfishly, that can be problematic, but as Heather noted, women have sexual desires too -- and for straight women, those desires tend to involve having sex with men.

Finally, I think it'd be useful to unpack your definition of "disrespectful." It's not clear why you think it's disrespectful to find someone sexually exciting -- to me, respect has far more to do with how we act than what goes on in our minds, and there are certainly both respectful and disrespectful ways of acting on a sexual attraction.

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Djuna
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quote:
Men have patriarchy to make them dominant in every interaction, yes?
Well, not quite. [Smile]

Patriarchal structures dictate that the masculine and feminine are defined in opposition to one another. Patriarchy further demands that men be masculine and that women be feminine. Patriarchy then assigns that some rooms or spaces privilege masculinity (such as Congress or a football field) while some rooms or spaces are assigned as privileging femininity (such as a domestic kitchen or a women's locker room). So first off, masculine men are made to take the dominant role in some situations, and feminine women are told to take the dominant role in others. And the crucial thing to remember is that in a patriarchal society both the dominant and submissive roles are very restrictive and very hurtful. A patriarchal society hurts those who are trapped by the roles it gives out, and severely penalises those who deviate from those roles.

Let's take the example of Congress. The US Congress is patriarchal. I don't mean to criticise the US particularly - this is true of most countries I'm aware of - but I have the data for Congress to hand. Congress has 91 women and 448 men. So, for argument's sake let's say in Congress, men are in a dominant role over women, in that American men get more representation in Congress than American women.

Now, there's arguably patriarchal ideas inside the Congress hall, and there's patriarchy influencing those who elect Congresspeople, which helps to continue the patriarchy inside Congress. Let's say, to use your words, that Congress is disrespectful to women, and asserts male dominance (it does, hence their outrageous disregard for women's health programmes).

Here's the kicker: Congress is patriarchal, but that doesn't mean that the system by which it operates is. Democracy with equal votes for male and female citizens - which is what the US has - is not essentially patriarchal. Do we agree on that?

Congress is patriarchal, not because of something essential about the way it works, but because the people it's filled with are put there by a patriarchal society. In that way, Congress is a symptom of society.

So now let's take the example of a bedroom (assuming that a bedroom is where sex happens, which isn't always true). If in a given relationship, there's sex happening that is disrespectful to any women that may be involved, that's not because there's anything inherently wrong with sex, but perhaps it's because the people having that sex were raised in a patriarchal society.

Going back to what I said about certain rooms being assigned as dominated by masculinity and others as being dominated by femininity, it's possible for a bedroom to be dominated by either - or neither, or both. It's just not true that it's inevitable for men to be dominant in heterosexual sex - if none of the people involved want that to happen, and communicate well with each other, then it won't happen.

quote:
It's turning someone, a person, into a utility for pleasure. Even the simple form of sexual attraction is objectification in a way because it places the attraction on the body when the mind is what's important.
I agree, although I disagree that the mind is always more important than the body. Could you explain what's wrong with objectification, and don't you think this is also exactly what happens when a woman is attracted to a man, when a woman is attracted to a woman, when a man is attracted to a man, where any combination of people attracter to each other meet? [Smile]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Djuna
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Also, here's some articles you might find useful to read:
Yield for Pleasure (Or, Why Chilling Out With Intercourse Can Improve Your Sex Life)
Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner
An Immodest Proposal
Let's Get Metaphysical: The Etiquette of Entry

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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