Should a Man Teach Women about Feminism?
Feminism needs a hero.
Women deserve equality. That seems like a simple enough cause. Yet as more and more people join the feminism train (which is fantastic), throwing their support and their individuality behind this common theme, a hierarchy of problems emerges, and it goes so much deeper than "I'm a woman who enjoys demeaning beer ads, and as a woman I have the right to enjoy them."
Enter Charles Clymer.
Charles runs a rather successful feminist page on Facebook called Equality for Women, which serves as an effective microcosm for the successes and problems within the feminist movement.
He's also a man.
Is this a problem? His supporters say no, and point the finger at the dissenters, calling them hindrances to the movement, saying equality, and thus feminism, applies to all people. And don't women need men on their side, male advocates, if you will?
Clymer explains his goal: "With Equality for Women, I want to provide a safe space for persons of all genders (who believe in women's rights) to encourage each other in their activism and get news and commentary on issues of inequality facing women."
But when a man becomes a feminism advocate, and then a feminist leader, the lines become blurry. And the mission statement is quite narrow. Any comments or questions outside his set goals are deleted. If those deletions are questioned, the users are banned.
To Clymer, deleting and banning people makes his page the idyllic world he is looking for, and helps it to provide the service he deems to offer
"I feel like people seeing those (now deleted) comments get the wrong message," Clymer says. "And I want the page to be a safe space."
Unfortunately, many comments on Equality for Women that have been deleted are by women, and many of the people who have been banned are women. And this angered the women, as you can imagine, because now you have a man running a feminist page essentially silencing women he doesn't agree with. And the disenchantment begins.
Former moderator Zoe Katherine says of her time there, "I disagreed on him preaching feminism to women. He's completely unaware of his privilege. You can't tell us not to reclaim words, and you can't tell us to be thankful for our periods. If we disagreed publicly, he'd threaten to remove us as mods; if we did it privately we were guilt-tripped, or simply ignored."
Stephanie Kay related to me a story in which she posted a request that any male moderators on the page "remain aware of the fact that authority over women is a male privilege, and that male allies should be very careful about not turning themselves into the 'voice of feminism'."
Both Clymer and Kay forwarded me the entire Facebook exchange between themselves and the moderators from back in March when she voiced her concerns.
Kay apologized for voicing her opinion in a way both Clymer and his mod team found offensive at the time.
"Basically, she was saying I'm sorry you took offense to what I said," says Clymer. "It was a false apology, and it really angered me because not only was she disrespecting me, she was now disrespecting the moderators."
He later wanted to extend an apology for what you're about to read: "Though I still stand completely by what I said to Stephanie Kay, the way I said it was completely abrasive and inappropriate, and if I had to do it again I'd change the tone. Although I completely believe in the concept and far-reaching harm of male privilege, I feel she only used it to attack myself and the women moderators, which is why I mocked her approach on that. However, that still did not give me the right to berate her. Maturity demands maturity. I'd like to extend my deepest regret and apologies to Stephanie for how I worded my response."
Here was his response at the time:
"Stephanie, I'm going to let you in on a little secret that, apparently, no one has had the guts to tell you up to this point in your life: having a vagina does not grant you magical powers of perception and nuance anymore than my penis magically blinds me from the horrors of the world.
You have to earn respect for your opinion. I'm not going to hand it to you because you're a woman talking women's rights.
And yes, I am the leader of this page. These are my moderators, who I have selected for the page that I created and into which I have poured money for advertising, and make no mistake: I do hold executive privilege (your favorite word, apparently), and I do have the final say on decisions. However, I trust my mods, and instead of being a dictator, we work as a team of equals. They let me know when something's off, and I listen to them and heed their advice.
I run this page, a feminist blog, write a column for another feminist blog (under a woman editor-in-chief who respects my writing and invited me to contribute articles), and on top of all that, I volunteer 30-40 hours a week at a feminist lobbying firm.
Here's a good question: what the fuck have you done for women's rights, lately, other than troll the page I created?
You want to talk about privilege? Fine, we'll talk about privilege. What about your idiot privilege? It would seem you're so used to people not calling you out for being an absolute fucking moron that you've become blind to how your asshat actions affect others.
So no, after us reaching out to you, you decided to insult me, and, more importantly, my moderators with your bullshit, half-hearted, tongue-in-cheek apology.
Supposedly, you're an outstanding feminist but have no problem telling my women moderators how they're supposed to think and feel.
Please accept my invitation of hide-and-go-fuck-yourself.
And one more thing: If I ever see your name on my page again, I will report you for harassment and block you.
Feel free to relay this message to the 1% of women feminists out there who foam at the mouth and put their bullshit on everyone else who disagrees with them.
These messages, of course, were responded to as an individual responding to a critic who questioned his belief in the cause. And Clymer gets a lot of those messages.
During our interview, Charles said, "To say that men can't be feminist leaders is eliminating half our potential talent in this movement but also losing an opportunity to attract more men into the fight for women's rights. Sadly, many men need to see other men in feminism to feel comfortable."
In the end, it's up to you to decide. Charles Clymer, feminist hero, villain, or just some guy on the internet? But when you do decide, think on the macro level. What do these in-fights say about feminism as a whole, and how does your decision on this microcosm play into your feelings about the movement on the whole?
There's much more to this story. See it here at Tales of an Unlikely Mother.