Feminism, masculinity and online discussion forums

So, I have been looking at a Canadian online blog on feminism (feministcurrent.com) in the course of researching angles for a future dissertation involving male interactions with feminism. In particular I want to look at the relationship that men have with feminist issues – looking at male views and experiences on feminist subjects through a feminist lense. What I definitely don’t want to do is to focus on male reactions to or opinions on feminism.

My initial idea is that feminism in theory and principle is as useful to emancipating a ‘truer’, ‘freer’, more original expression of male identity, involving a non-gender specific masculinity and femininity (if we have to use these terms for now) and gender identity as it is useful to women. I am also looking at the inherent ethical implications when ‘males’ (those identifying as) interact with feminism.

Examples of the complexities and frictions that occur when men interact with feminism and feminist ideas are frequent occurences on the site and make interesting reading. The site introduced me to the term ‘male allies’. The subject of the post was the ‘trouble with male allies’  http://feministcurrent.com/7798/the-trouble-with-male-allies/. The interesting thing for me are the points of friction highlighted by the authour (echoed and supported in and by other comments) where a ‘male feminist-ally’ is percieved to over-step the boundary between ‘support’ and being a ‘spokesperson’ for feminism or feminist views. This is interpreted (justifiably, in my opinion) as men ‘speaking for’ women, in place of a woman’s voice.

This percieved transgression is interesting in that an important element seems to be – and is mentioned explicitely – in the male identification as a ‘feminist’. This immediately calls to mind the issues in colonialisation of language, culture and ideas – that an appropriation, (whilst possibly a sincere appreciation) – ultimately leads to the dissolution of difference, of separateness (and all that’s positive about that) and homogenises and subsumes a culture within (what happens to be in this case) a ‘white, male patriarchy’. And so male appropriation of feminism whilst well-meaning can be, thinking about colonial issues, a very destructive thing.

Even with this in mind though, I can’t imagine a successful feminism without a constructive dialogue with the ‘genderised’ or ‘masculinised’ (in a popular cultural sense) male. I just can’t imagine a sympathetic male gender figure being sympathetic and supportive to the experience of women and other non-‘conventional’ gender identifications without education – without education that really gets through.

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