This is the second post out of four concerning the continued importance and relevance of feminism. All four will be about different aspects of feminism and all will be from different voices. Read the introduction to the series here.
Jason Brown is another friend and colleague of mine from my time at Biola University. During his time at Biola he constantly strived to promote gender equality and affirmation of LGBTQ students, not an easy task at the school. However, much like Sara in our last post, he didn’t let his settings get in the way of loving and listening to all.
“…the gender of object choice, emerged from the turn of the century, and has remained, as the dimension denoted by the now ubiquitous category of ‘sexual orientation.’ […] in Foucault’s words ‘the homosexual was now a species.’ So, as a result, is the heterosexual, and between these species the human species has come more and more divided…”
From Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s The Epistemology of the Closet
Male feminists seem like an anomaly to a lot of people. But in spite of the seemingly contradictory notion of being a male feminist, feminism has fundamentally shaped the way I see the world, others, and myself. And not only has it helped me understand female oppression—it has opened my eyes to a range of other realities, even about myself, that I didn’t understand before reading feminism.
One of those realities is queerness. Feminist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick began my journey from feminism towards accepting myself as a queer person. In her book, The Epistemology of the Closet, she uncovers the complexity of human sexuality and gender, which helped me realize essential elements of my human experience. I found that sexuality could not be solved by formulas for suppression or denial. In conservative Christian circles, pastors and parishioners placed pressure on LGBTQ individuals, including myself, to conform our sexualities into heterosexual norms. “Being a man,” and “having one woman” created a kind of closet in me that held my sexuality and gender expression in a state of repression and avoidance. However an awareness of sexuality and romance started by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick brought me to greater acceptance of myself as queer. Ultimately, it led to me to embracing LGBTQ communities and acknowledging their importance to realms of gender and sexuality.
What makes feminism so vital is that—in and of itself—it is a theory that sheds light on the oppression experienced by everyone in our system of patriarchy that monopolizes power: A white, straight male dominated system alienates all types of people that do not fit that description. Black feminists have fought in the trenches for women’s equality while simultaneously taking bullets for being black. Lesbian feminists tackle issues of women’s rights in midst of a world that marginalizes these women for their sexual orientation.
It gives voice to each of these people. It’s a language that understands oppression in its many forms is rooted in gender-based inequality. Feminism treats these ills by deconstructing the broken parts. The result is a body of literature that speaks to the problems women face. And problems the LGBTQ community face as well.
As a male, I wouldn’t have understood these realities without feminist theory. I’m not anti-male by being a feminist, I’m simply pro-women, and I’m able to listen to voices I wouldn’t have been able to understand before becoming a feminist.
Feminism also birthed queerness, both for me and for the budding field that is becoming queer theory.
If you are interested in the intersection of feminist and queer theory check out the writings of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Adrienne Rich (who is also a great poet), or Jack Halberstram works ( The Queer Art of Failure is a personal favorite).
Keep your eyes open for next weeks post. It is stunning.