The other day, in my Spanish class, my teacher brought up feminism. At first, I was so excited- it’s rare to see a teacher, especially a male one, bringing this up and educating their students about it. But as the discussion (or, more accurately, lecture) proceeded, I became aware of how problematic this teacher was turning out to be.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The fact that my teacher even brought up the subject is a massive step forward in the right direction, and I certainly appreciate his efforts. But, the problem with his rhetoric was that it was male-oriented. For the duration of the class, my teacher spoke about feminism- his personal view on it. When the women in the class attempted to speak about their experiences, he shut them down very quickly.
Why is this a problem? Let me explain. While it is wonderful that more and more men are becoming allies to feminism, the fact remains that, for the most part, the movement is not about them. When we speak about things like the wage gap and sexual discrimination, the war on reproductive rights, and other, horrific things that happen to women, we’re not looking for men to tell us their opinions on these subjects. We need to listen to the stories of women who have actually endured these things. Men need to learn that sometimes, their voices are not the most important. It’s a hard lesson to learn, when society constantly amplifies mens voices, but it is a necessary one.
It’s the same thing white people have to learn when discussing race- let People of Color tell their stories and amplify the marginalized voices. It’s the same thing cisgender people have to learn when discussing trans issues- let the marginalized group tell their stories, and feel safe doing so.
While every single person who identifies as a feminist and supports the movement is helping the movement progress and grow, every one of us needs to learn how to best support the movement. For men, that is ensuring that women’s voices are heard, and sometimes, learning to be the listener rather than the speaker.