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Feminism’s nervous embrace: male allies

The stated agenda of many feminist groups is, plainly put, to empower women. Due to unbalanced gender dynamics, wherein most participants are female, attitudes towards men and male allies have been often contradictory and sometimes strained. Never of a sufficient quantity to band together in solidarity, the presence of self-identified male feminists is often short-lived. Without much of an infrastructure in place to determine role and need, male allies have to blaze their own trail, alone. Some feel comfortable in this role, many others do not.

In great contrast, one observes the wealth of resources and guidance provided women. An entire field of study has taken hold over the past several decades. Books, authors, films, and pedagogy are earmarked and dedicated to essential outreach. Though not nearly as prominent in areas with less concentrated wealth, bereft of a nearby elite academic institution, these opportunities for education do exist. Studies of masculinity and men, are very rare, even rarer still. Men who would devote themselves to the causes upon which Feminism places much emphasis have to be their own advocates.

Groups and notable feminist thinkers have taken positions along a continuum on this topic, often unable to reach consensus. Some groups, namely radical feminists, a generation prior to ours, barred men from participating altogether. Others have welcomed them, albeit tentatively and nervously. Many aren’t quite sure how to engage male allies in conversation or to incorporate them fully into planning or drafting a discourse. When men ...

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