There are times I feel foreign in my own skin. Moments in which my sense of self becomes detached from the physical realm and I feel like an empty husk. These periods of disassociation tend to be brought on by the external environment. Maybe it starts with a billboard I see along the roadside, a book sitting on the table in the kitchen, or a movie some friends are watching in the next room. Suddenly it becomes clear that the person being depicted in these mediums is denied the dynamic beauty which makes us all uniquely human. People are delightfully complex; when we are fed oversimplified and highly stereotyped versions of ourselves it becomes debilitating. Women may be reduced to being defined by their bodies which are highly sexualized as tools of enticement.
This imagery affects the way I feel about myself and my body, it also affects the way I am perceived by others. In many ways I have rejected femininity as an attempt to protect myself. The more “pretty” or “feminine” I look, the more I feel harassed in public which can make me feel less visible as a human being.
”The thing about patriarchy is that individual men, gay and straight, are often really wonderful people whom you love deeply, but they have internalized some really poisonous shit. so every once in a while they say or do something that really shakes you because you’re no longer totally certain they see you as a human being, and you feel totally disempowered to explain that to them.”
~Womens thread: the thread for women – wddp.org – Page 47
Men and masculine folks make fabulous allies and I believe that the role of an ally is invaluable. Being an ally is no easy task and there are times when there appears to be some confusion regarding the role of an ally. As there are inherent privileges granted to men which makes awareness and understanding of feminism more difficult, I feel that it would be more appropriate to use the terms ally or profeminsit for a male identified supporter.
There have been instances in which the terms feminist and ally have been co-opted. I have encountered men who proclaim themselves as feminists in response to being called out. If a person engages in actions which are harmful to me as a woman, they cannot absolve themselves of criticism by saying “I am a feminist/ally.” An ally should not use such terms as a means of insulating themselves from having to consider their male privilege. “If “ally” is simply a position that can be self-proclaimed, it can and WILL be used as an excuse, distraction and absolution as people perpetuate their pre-existing biases and act COUNTER to the movement forward that ultimately benefits that group.”
Here are some resources on being an ally:
On Being an Ally
The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally
I would like to highlight this piece: “Don’t expect a pass into safe spaces because you call yourself an ally. You’re not entitled to access as a result of not being an asshole. Sometimes it just isn’t going to be about you or what you think you should happen. Your privilege didn’t fall away when you became an ally, and there are intra-community conversations that need to take place away from the gaze of the privileged.”
Women’s space is difficult to come by. To me women’s space is sacred and precious, but more than that it is essential for healthy community. Women’s space is not only needed for healing, but to build relationships, to laugh, celebrate joy, and to grow. My experience in attempting to create or maintain these spaces has been very challenging and even painful at times.
Finding a supportive women’s space with folks I could connect and relate to has been an ongoing challenge. A number of times I have created women’s groups with minimal success. As a queer identified individual I have worked to make these spaces inclusive and accessible to gender variant and trans folks. The LGBTQI community has been a place of great healing for me already, so to bring that dynamic to a women’s group creates more opportunities for much needed growth and exploration. Ultimately the only restriction I have put on any of my women’s groups was to request that cisgendered men not attend.
This brings up yet another crucial aspect of reconstructing a healthy sense of self for women and feminine folks; recognizing the need for and setting healthy boundaries within our interpersonal lives and communities. Women are socialized to put other’s desires before their own, and taught that social niceties are to come before needs. Creating a safe space for women is not about being accommodating, it’s about asserting our needs.
So women and feminine folks need to be in control of their healing processes and spaces, with boundaries and parameters that they can define, and be allowed to explore their issues and needs in a safe and supportive environment. An ally, profeminist, or friend would hopefully respect this. If a person is in a place in which they do not want to discuss their privilege, then they certainly should not be seeking to be included in a support group for people who need to processes their experiences of oppression. These groups are created with the intention of allowing a safe space for folks from an oppressed community to gather and have their own time, to be fully inclusive to the point of allowing members of the privileged group to engage would completely defeat the purpose.
Sometimes people need space to go through their own processes. Asking for such space is not an attack nor is it out of disrespect. It is simply a part of the healing process for some folks. After all it is man’s world, is it so much for some women to ask for a little space to heal?