New group hopes to inspire dialogue, support between genders
For any man who feels that strike of pain when he learns about a sexual assault against a woman, or bristles at a derogatory joke, there’s a new group for you.
“Men and Feminism,” a new collective starting at Camas Books on May 4, has a mission to speak to the unspoken and give men a new voice when it comes to supporting their female counterparts.
The group has been in the works for over a year thanks to Comrade Black, local spoken word artist and member of the Camas Collective and Victoria Anarchist Bookfair Collective. Yet the recent group sexual assault against a woman on Cedar Hill Crossroads became the pivot point where Black said it’s finally time to get things done.
“The idea started with some articles I read by feminist thinkers like bell hooks and Andrea Dworkin, that kept saying that there was no group of men teaching other men about feminism, and that they wanted men to be allies, to be part of the movement,” says Black. “In the end, I am doing this simply because no one else is and I think it needs to be done.”
Black says that he struggled with ideas around how to start a group that could be feminist-oriented while targeting men, and kept thinking “I don’t know enough, or I need to read more.” But with the help from some of his friends at the Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Centre, and with the admittance that the need outweighs “getting it perfect,” Black decided to give it a go.
“I am not organizing this because I have somehow moved beyond sexism — I haven’t — but I am committed to trying to unlearn sexism,” he says. “It is a difficult process since so much of this is learned right from the time we are small children … challenging patriarchal thinking is an active process that means making yourself committed to being open and vulnerable, and being called on it when you fuck up.”
Black says he’s seen terrible acts of injustice against women, the most recent being police and media alerting women to dress and act with caution in order to avoid getting raped.
With any luck, he hopes to see the group work to educate men on the significance they can play in this thought process, as well as demystify feminism — and misconceptions around it — on a whole.
“For someone new to all this, it can be really difficult to know where to begin. A lot of feminist writing is super academic, often very bias and not written for men. Much of it uses very difficult language, especially discipline-specific terms like heteronormative,” says Black. “Many men don’t know where to begin because there is not really any place for them to learn. In universities, feminism is taught as women’s studies, which many men don’t think they are allowed to take, or are going to be welcomed to. We need to create positive and welcoming spaces for men to also take part in learning about sexism if we ever hope to create a world free of it.”
Black emphasizes that feminism is about ending the systems that create inequality, not about making women more powerful than men.
“Pretending people are equal when they are not simply reinforces that inequality and perpetuates the systems that create it,” Black says. “We can not have true equality in a society based on coercion, violence, capitalism and colonialism. In the end I think the most effective thing I can do is teach people that they have a responsibility to not allow sexism in their community, and that it is irresponsible to not stop it when you can.” M
“Men and Feminism” will have ongoing monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of every month, 7pm at Camas Books (2590 Quadra). The group is free, though attendees must come with a willingness to learn.