Despite all the pitfalls, contradictions and uncertainties that masculinities work brings with it, we think that it is part of feminist practice to deal with (one's own) masculinity. However, it should not stop there! And because the question of where one sees oneself in feminist struggles, especially as a cis¹ man, is once again such a sensitive topic, we want to give some ideas on feminist practice at the end of this month. The focus here is on more "structural" actions that happen more in the background, are invisible and may not immediately garner praise and recognition. Things that actually require big decisions, work, time and courage, and that we feel often get short shrift in addressing masculinities.
- Making feminist life choices
- Many images of what our lives should look like are shaped by patriarchal² ideas. Especially in areas such as career and family planning, it is therefore important to step back or take on roles that patriarchy did not foresee for us.
- Making feminist issues political
- Feminist positions should be incorporated wherever you participate in politics. For those who can vote, this applies to voting, but also to bringing feminist perspectives into local politics, political groups or emails to MPs.
- Taking on educational work in the private sphere
- Feminist education work does not only happen in workshops. Even though it is said again and again: educate yourself about queer/feminist issues and talk about it with those around you, make your best friend aware of misbehaviour and criticise your uncle when he when he makes sexist jokes. Bring feminist issues also into the spaces where it is not on the agenda.
- Education and role modelling
- Images of heteronormativity³ and the construction of masculinity and femininity take place a lot - especially unconsciously - in upbringing. Educate yourself about internalised unequal treatment of children based on gender and become aware of your role modeling as a parent/caregiver.
- Sharing resources
- Money is a valuable resource in our society that many activists do not have. Those who have money can use it to support feminist projects and struggles.
- Power sharing
- Those who hold positions of power (at work, in political groups, in associations,...) can actively take a back seat and leave space for feminist voices and ideas.
- "Become active"
- Especially when it comes to doing feminist activism, it is important not to take away space from those who are affected by sexism and have been fighting on the frontline for a long time. But: there are many less visible tasks that also need to be done. Actively ask where you can get involved.
- Institutionalise feminism
- In clubs, at work, in political groups or in the community, there are different ways to establish a feminist practice. This can mean, for example, thinking about how to make spaces safer for people who are affected by patriarchal violence. A first step can be to raise awareness about issues like sexualised violence (and that it can happen anywhere!) or to advocate for the establishment of anonymous counselling centres. Often this only happens after something has happened, and usually there is too much work for those who have experienced patriarchal violence themselves or have been fighting against it for a long time.
- Get creative
- There is no prescribed concept of what feminist practice looks like. So get creative, but be sure to keep in touch with those who are affected by sexism.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, nor is it meant to be. It is not a guide or checklist on how to be a real feminist or a real critical man. We can't and don't want to provide that here.
And one thing is true: you will make mistakes and you will not be able to do it perfectly. That shouldn't be the goal. It's about admitting mistakes, remaining able to criticise and above all: staying with it. Critical faculties don't let you swim in the self-image of a good feminist, but ensure a deep and honest examination of yourself and your mistakes and give you the opportunity to always learn more.
ℹ️ Explanation of terms:
¹¹Cisgender/cis-gender: For cisgender people, gender identity corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth based on the social classification of their genitalia.
²Patriarchy: Social order that gives men a privileged position in society and the family.
³Heteronormativity: Culture and social structure that assumes that it is 'normal' and desirable to belong to one of the two normalised genders (male or female) without any doubt according to biologically defined physical characteristics and to desire the other of these two genders, to live with them in love relationships and sexuality, to father children in the long term and to live together in a family, thereby also fulfilling gender norms on the behavioural and work division level, in relation to intimacy and sexuality, etc. to fulfil gender norms. This normativity is justified by the fact that the meaning of gender and sexuality is biological procreation (alternatively: willed by God). All those who do not fit into these templates are discriminated against in a heteronormative society.
⁴Sexualised violence: You can read what we mean when we write about sexualised violence in our first text in July 2022.