By Nwabisa Mlandu
There has been some outrage with regard to the notion of cis-het men being excluded from feminist events. These events, such as informative talks, have been gaining momentum on campus, and entail the uplifting and empowering of femmes to fight social injustices that have arisen from this patriarchal society. Men have to abandon the learnings that have bestowed upon them deeply ingrained misogyny and patriarchy. However, their presence can be violent and disruptive to feminist spaces and has the ability to collapse these spaces. So it is viewed as being more harmful than helpful.
One might argue then, how are they supposed to gain this education on feminism if they are not included in these talks? Firstly, the process of unlearning maladaptive practices is an intricate but necessary one. However, that said, it is not the responsibility of the oppressed to teach men how not to be patriarchal. This shift in responsibility makes them accountable for their own actions, instead of relying on women to call them out. Several outlets are available for learning about feminism such as books, blogs, and journals. Secondly, some men delight in the misunderstanding of what feminism truly entails. Although there are different types of feminist theories that apply to different groups of femmes, the general consensus has to do with advocating for social and economical equality of women. This is essential in liberating womxn from the confines of an unjust society. Cis-het men have been the beneficiaries of such a society and continue to enjoy this privilege of male domination. It is then easier for them to view feminism as a smear campaign which threatens their masculinity.
Somehow men manage to see themselves as victims, which is not only selfish but illogical in the sense that they’re often the perpetrators of violence against femmes. This undermines the hard work and commitment of femmes to the struggle, as men haven’t experienced the hardships of being female, but feel the need to police womxn’s choices in life. They are conditioned to feel entitled to femmes, and see them as beings purely born for their pleasure. This is not only evident in romantic relations but is an ongoing crisis in family dynamics, where gender roles are often alive and well. No-one teaches the boy how to dress, act and perform household chores out of will. However, girls are subjected to this and their childhood entails them being groomed to be a wife to some man in the future, with marriage being their life goal. In cases like these, feminism talks provide a safe space for womxn to ensure they voice their injustices without fear of being ridiculed or their issues being taken lightly. As most of the time, the experiences of femmes are relative to each other and one finds it easier to open up and trust others with their issues. These are the only safe spaces for femmes, as men are often violent in expressing themselves and unreliable in advocating for our rights.
Men are not only dangerous to society but are equally self-destructive in their fear of having their masculinity questioned. In a world where one is more likely to be taken advantage of by an acquaintance than a stranger, it is essential that femmes create a strong network of feminists and use these safe spaces to share their experiences and educate each other. When these spaces are occupied by men, power dynamics come in to play and, through their male privilege, these spaces collapse leaving womxn with one less outlet.