Ally vs Member

So, in trying to unpack why the latest Dawkins twitter comment was so terrible, Adam Lee said this:

The sexism comes in when a man presumes to instruct women what they should care about as feminists. That’s not my job, yours, or Richard Dawkins’. If we want to identify as feminist allies, it’s not up to us
to tell them where to spend their time or energy.

I never noticed it before, but this allowed me to finally put the pieces together on an issue with feminism, and most of the liberal and progressive movements built around a minority grouping. If any man can call himself a feminist, it’s Adam Lee, methinks. I don’t think he’d disagree with me on that. But if he’s a feminist, then shouldn’t he get a say, and an equal say, in what feminists should care about? Isn’t that, for example, what democracy is about? And even worse, if feminism is nothing more than the radical idea that women should be considered equal to men, then I’m a feminist, too. Which means I should get a say as well. So, then, why is he asking us to identify as feminist allies, and not as feminists. The only reason he’d have to be an ally and not a feminist himself is because he’s a man, and surely men can be feminists, right?

But it gets worse. If feminism is an equality movement, then men have to have an equal say in what it cares about and what solutions it promotes. While women might have special concerns that need addressing that men don’t typically see, any solutions have to take the interests of men into account just as much as the interests of women. We want a society that is equal for all, which means that we don’t want to leave men in a disadvantaged state wrt women when we fix the disadvantages of women. So men have to have a say there, too.

This, then, I think, is the insidious nature of the “ally” line when combined with the appeal to “it’s just about fairness and justice” type of mentality. My main beef with feminism is that it needs to decide what it is, whether a women’s advocacy movement or an equality movement. But it benefits from being both, by being able to try to guilt men into supporting it with “It’s all about equality!” but, at the end of the day, pushing those men into supporting roles because feminism, you know, is all about women and the concerns of women. If men can only be allies to feminism, then men need a movement where they look after their own concerns and where women are allies to them … a movement that feminists insist we don’t need, right up until men ask women in feminism to deal with their inequalities (where typically, you see women telling men to go fix their own problems themselves). Because of this, that movement is not the Men’s Rights Movement, as that is dominated by men who are more angry at feminism than really interested in fixing things for men (hence the insistence on returning to “traditional” maleness that works for those who it works for, but is terrible for everyone else).

Thus, feminism wants men to think that feminism is the movement for equality for all, while sidelining them as “allies” so that women can focus on their own issues. It’s a great scam if you can pull it off.

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