14 April 2008

How to be a feminist boyfriend

Feministe feedback had a really interesting thread the other day, answering the following question:

Your most recent entry - on what a feminist relationship looks like - is primarily pitched at female feminists. I, as a well-intentioned but nonetheless male participant in relationships, would really like to know the answer to that question. i don’t commit the obvious sort of mistakes that non-feminist guys do, or at least i hope i don’t. Nonetheless there are certainly crimes of ignorance, so to speak.

In fact, you should write a book answering this question - “how to be a feminist boyfriend.”

There were loads of really great responses, and you should go and read them for yourself, but it reminded me of a conversation I had the other night about privilege with The Boy. He is definitely the most non-confrontational man I have ever met, and certainly strives to be fair and egalitarian, not just in our relationship, but in other aspects of his life too.

However, I sometimes feel that he doesn't examine what male privilege does for him on a daily basis. He generally doesn't analyse himself too closely anyway - thats not the person that he is - but I tried to impress on him that we all have a duty to be aware of our privileges (for example, in my case, being a well-educated, white, middle-class, straight, cis, woman), how they have smoothed our paths, and how the experiences of other people differ based solely on factors which they have no control over, including gender, race, sexuality, gender dysphoria, and a million other different things which can affect out experiences, and our treatment by others.

So, in order to be a feminist boyfriend, or indeed, a person who cares about others, here are some things which I think that The Boy should think about when he goes about his daily life:

  1. I am lucky that my genitals look how I want and expect them to look.
  2. I am lucky that when I do something badly, people don't put it down to my race, gender or sexuality.
  3. I am lucky that when I get turned down for jobs, I don't have to wonder whether it is because of my race, gender, or sexuality.
  4. I am lucky that people take it for granted that I can do things well, and competently.
  5. I am lucky that when I turn on the TV/look in a newspaper or magazine/watch a film, I find many people or characters represented who I feel I can relate to because they are the same race, gender and sexuality as me.
  6. I am lucky that my combination of race, gender and sexuality is so well-represented in the Houses of Parliament, the judiciary and other instruments of the state
This is obviously a far from exhaustive list, and if you want a far more exciting and complete list, Ampersand at Alas, A Blog has more. My point is not to write a full list of the privileges that white, straight, cis, males enjoy, it is to point out that thinking about these things, and incorporating this awareness into the way that you think about the world, can make you a better feminist ally, and of course, a better feminist boyfriend!

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