A Letter to Male Activists

19 Mar

This letter arose from a specific set of experiences within the activist community but has wider political implications. We are aware of the fact that many men will find it difficult to read. However, we publish it in the hope it will provoke some critical self-reflection among those who need it.

To so-called Male “Feminists”,

We are writing this as we can no longer refrain from commenting on the problematic views and behaviours you exhibit. We hope you will read, listen and respect these comments.

You claim to be “leftist,” “revolutionary”, “conscious” and “feminist.”  You may even claim to study the subject of female oppression both academically and interpersonally.  But the acts of oppression you have perpetrated on the women around you do not support these claims. Being the compassionate sistas we are, we made the effort (and it takes A LOT of emotional and psychological effort) to talk with you about your sexist behaviour.  And time and time again, you’ve shocked us with the level of violence and force, verbal and physical, that you employ against us in a desperate attempt to silence our challenge to your male activist egos.

Whether drunk, stoned or sober, in responding to us with aggression, you were acting out your social conditioning.  While masculinity is synonymous with aggression and strength, femininity is equated with submission, subservience and vulnerability.  We are socialised into these roles of male and female, and they profoundly affect our sense of ourselves and how we interact with each other on a personal level.  Therefore if men and women do not actively challenge their own sexist and oppressive or self-oppressive tendencies, over the course of our interactions a relationship of dominance will inevitably arise.   But you fail to see that your masculine identity is formed on this social construct.  This conditioning started the day you are born when the doctor declared “It’s a boy!” and continued, encouraged by parents, teachers, and the world around you, which told you that boys can run faster, jump higher and will eventually grow up to be smarter, bigger and better than girls.  While baby boys are cherished the world over, mothers in some of the most densely populated places on the planet abort female foetuses and drown girl babies in milk. We point to the West’s hypocrisy in the face of its own insidious misogyny and reject imperialism’s attempt to hijack “female liberation” to justify illegal wars and military occupations. Femicide also survives in the “liberated” West where the majority of women who are murdered are killed by a current or former male partner, where one in three women will be beaten or raped by a man in her lifetime, where the Eurocentric white male perspective and the hierarchy of power that values men over women and light skin over dark are normalised with a system of reward and punishment. This is the all-important context to which we are continually referring, and which you continually choose to ignore.

We have watched you attempt to intimidate us with volume and tone, physicality and body language. Instead of listening respectfully to our experience of oppression, you consistently attempt to redefine yourself as the victim, when it is you who is in fact the perpetrator.  You have tried to make us insecure and unconfident by patronising us and undermining our intelligence. But it is not that we have misunderstood you; it is that we do not agree.  You should know your attempts to silence us will not be successful; rather, they will simply invite further critique, and further criticism will in turn infuriate you.  Perhaps you are furious because you are unaccustomed to intelligent women who are not afraid to point out when you are wrong.  Perhaps there are not many of us women who go out of our way, even sometimes risking personal safety, to be recognised as equals by men.  Perhaps this is why you desperately draw upon unlikely examples and unbelievable hypothetical situations to support your badly structured arguments, why you insist what you believe about sexism is based on a book you read, or a class you took, why you claim to have reason, logic and science on your side.  Yet although your employment of imaginary scenarios and patriarchal dichotomies peeves us, these arguments are easily destroyed. The most offensive and astounding line of argument appears when you routinely inform us that you are not sexist, that you “respect women”.  Well, as the women you are claiming to respect, let us tell you this: it is not up to you to determine whether or not you or other men are sexist. If we are offended by a sexist comment, act, film, song or cultural product, you have absolutely no grounds to tell us why we should not be.  As the victims of sexism, we define, describe and delineate it.  In preventing us from doing so, you make a psychologically and politically difficult task almost impossible.

Simply asserting that you are a “feminist” does not make it true. In fact, by calling yourself a feminist in the face of criticism of your attitudes and those of other men, you not only fail to actively reject and challenge the sexism within yourself and society, you also deflect our critique of your behaviour and silence our already marginalised and seldom heard voices.  If you truly wish to join the fight for female liberation then you must listen to us when we are detailing our experience of your and other males’ oppressive behaviour – denying its existence does not make it go away.  You must engage with our perspective and embark on a long and arduous journey of self-criticism, analysis and reflection.  In doing so, you will see what has been clear to us all along: that your denial and refusal to self-criticise is a direct product and reflection of the power structure to which you are opposed, in which (predominately male) heads of nations, bankers and CEOs also deny culpability for systematic violence and oppression, while (male-dominated) police and prison systems protect and maintain this system. While we will continue to challenge this macro-oppression, we will no longer remain silent in the face of your oppression of us, your fellow female activists.

In closing, we ask you to listen.  Listen to us when we speak, listen to our criticisms, listen to our experiences.  Stop defending sexism, stop defending men, stop defending yourself.  Do not interrupt women when they speak and stop immediately disagreeing with us.  When it comes to sexism, you are not under attack, women are.  We are under attack from this patriarchal male power structure all day, every day, and we need activist spaces to be safe and respectful places in which women are treated as equals.  You will not win without us, so it is in your interests to work with us as equals.  You can create these spaces of equality by actively challenging sexist gender roles, by taking over the chores and actions typically still carried out by women: washing up, cooking, making tea, cleaning, tidying up, looking after children, doing the food shopping, providing emotional support, washing and drying clothes, emptying bins, sorting recycling, listening to people, caring for the sick, etc. Make sure the male to female ratio of speakers, facilitators, participants or chairs is always 50/50.  Take the minutes at meetings, type up e-mail lists and take over the other menial administrative tasks still disproportionately done by women. Become aware of what the women around you are doing, feeling and experiencing and help and assist them however you can. Notice the male-female dynamics in meetings, on demonstrations and in conversations and actively address this imbalance. Do not attribute the hard work and ideas of the women in your organisation to men; stop taking the women in your organisation for granted. Incorporate an awareness of gender and feminism into your everyday life; for if you want to bring about revolutionary change, you must begin with yourself.


Sisters of Resistance

50 Responses to “A Letter to Male Activists”

  1. Samih March 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Agree one hundred percent.

  2. tony March 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! …….i best stop saying WOW an just say……for those this letter…this tool for self help is aimed at….please take heed, this is a spot on piece of truth…..read it an treat it as such, use this 2 recognise yourself an learn from it, feminist is just a word…..if your a male-feminist……live as one……truly try to feel an empathise with the everyday struggle women go through just 2 be heard or taken seriously.
    if any man reads this an feels he being ‘attacked’ then he needs 2 look at himself an not the authors of this sweet piece of writing.
    the truth hurts sometimes….is you dont want this 2 hurt you again an in the future…..take a more balanced view of your role and the role of females…..because women only have ‘set’ role because of men really! and from what ive read it seems the men this is aimed at dont seem to have even basic manners when it comes to women such as listening, not speaking over people, treating women equally….basic manners in my book!!
    if you dont recognise yourself in this, but others do…..please listen to their constructive criticism it will help you to be a more rounded individual.
    this is a very good productive, valuable piece of writing, for anyone, but especially 2 those it may concern.
    im well impressed, (not that impressing me is a mark of its strength an truth lol)
    hope it strikes a more than a few chords with one an many!!!
    WELL DONE TO THE SISTA’S……….. tell dem ignorant **********!!!!

  3. Conor March 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    An interesting piece. Followed by:

    Ads by Google
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    9 Dangerous Mistakes Women Make That Men Find Totally Unattractive


    • sistaresista March 21, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

      Yes we noticed that to. The ironies of targeted advertising…

  4. sistaresista March 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Responses we have received from truly feminist men🙂

    1. The men who’ve replied to this by denying the accusations and attacking the authors as sexist have no place calling themselves activists.

    If you can’t understand the issue here, despite it being clearly explained, I don’t see how can understand issues of racism & white privilege, queerphobia & straight privilege, classism & class privilege, etc.

    It’s no wonder the activist scene is mostly made out of able bodied, straight, white, middle class men – everyone else is put off.


    2.Thanks for writing this – was really helpful to read something that’s sets this stuff out clearly. Also helps me to understand why there are so few women in many groups I’ve been part of!


    3. As a man I can say that I find this piece very accurate in terms of how men in general (not necessarily all of us, but most of us, to the extent that we’ve been socialised effectively into gender roles) tend to respond to feminist criticisms.

    People seem to forget the asymmetry in visibility of different voices/experiences. We all know about this in other cases: think of the media and public awareness of police viewpoints, and how this relates to activist viewpoints. Most people, even if they aren’t police, are familiar with the police viewpoint through overexposure. Everyone, activists included, has to be aware of how police think and act, because of the threat they pose if we aren’t. The only people aware of the activist viewpoint are activists. All oppressive discourses seem at times to work this way – gender, “race”, North-South, rich-poor. The trick is recognising we don’t know, and “unlearning privilege as loss” as it’s known in postcolonial theory – recognising that our experience has been impoverished through the separation from the other which is an effect of our own privilege and visibility (along this particular line of oppression, not necessarily the other lines). I’m sure most of us realise we don’t know what it’s like to experience the world like an Amazonian, or a schizophrenic person, or a prisoner – unless we happen to be an Amazonian, a schizophrenic person, or an (ex-)prisoner, or unless we’ve spent a lot of time listening to people who are. It might be harder to recognise that this also applies to women’s specific experiences of patriarchy, because we think we “know” women, we’re around them all the time, they’re our relatives and friends and comrades, and they seem to have more visibility. But the standard account of what women experience actually depicts women as men who happen to lack penises so to speak. Women don’t say what they really think to (most) men out of fear or out of being silenced or having been conditioned not to, and the voices/images we see as the voices of women are most often male-oriented voices and images directed at our own gaze, or sanitised for it. Hence the importance of learning to listen, and hence why this is important for ALL men and not just a subset of outright abusers. Being a feminist or pro-feminist isn’t just about taking a textbook set of anti-discrimination positions, or showing an external “political correctness” with no internal engagement, it’s about being aware of and open to another set of voices which are usually silenced, realising these silenced voices are there and doing what we can to help them, tentatively, to emerge.

    Regarding the critics:

    1. Patriarchy is structural. Get away from thinking of “sexism” as individual prejudice. Patriarchy oppresses men as well as women, BUT overwhelmingly oppresses women by subordinating them to men. If a woman is “sexist”, this isn’t patriarchy, so it’s not the same problem.

    2. The text is addressed to generic men, because a lot of men even in activism DO act like this, and it’s meant to make these men think. The fact that some people are thinking, “this is directed at me and it’s not fair!” instead of “I know men who are like this, but it’s not aimed at me” (which might or might not be denial if you thought this), I think shows that it hit the target very well. If you don’t do these things – responding to critique with aggression,

    3. Affirmative action / positive discrimination is always controversial, but there are clear structural (NOT competence or personal preference) issues in why women don’t participate more actively at meetings, and it isn’t like the problem is a 60-40 imbalance, it’s an imbalance where (say) 10% of speakers, panellists, chairs etc are women. I’ve experienced this in university classes too, i.e. men seem to have been conditioned to think they have to speak even if they have nothing to say, and women seem to be conditioned to think they should only speak if they’re completely certain they have something important to say. It has real effects on the visibility of different voices and is self-reinforcing. If you really don’t think that affirmative action is the way to solve it, let’s see some other proposals for how to deal with it, or at least a sense that you recognise the issue.

    • n3hima July 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

      First off, I understand and agree with everything you’ve said. The only thing which upsets me is the first line ‘To so-called Male “Feminists”’. Even though I think feminism is something to aspire to and hold dear rather than something I can be, I find the first line upsetting. I don’t think that all the truly feminist (or feminist-aspiring) males should be lumped in with the manarchists.

      I realise that was not the intention of the phrase, but don’t you think it would be better to be clearer?

      • sistaresista July 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

        Thanks for your comment. A number of “truly feminist” and “feminist-aspiring” males in our inner circle understand have read this letter in detail, have identified that it is not they to whom we are speaking, fully agree with us, and have not taken offense. We did in fact clarify that the letter is not directed to males who actually work to unlearn sexism and practice feminism by the use of the qualifier “so-called.” If you note the use of this word, you should see that we have not in any way “lumped” truly feminist males together with manarchists.

        If you do in fact agree with what we’ve said, and realise that that was not the intention of the phrase, then it’s quite curious that it has “upset” you. Implicit in your emotional response there is a challenge to you to stop seeing yourself as a victim and instead see the oppression you perpetuate by once again putting yourself and other men like you in the centre of the conversation. For if after reading our entire letter, your only response is to express concern for the “poor men” “trying to be feminists” who might be offended, it is clear that you were not listening, and thus have really have not heard what we have said — at all.

  5. 1rudegirl March 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm #


    nice. I’ve written a post about this on my blog, hope you don’t mind. Thanks for this.


    • sistaresista March 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

      We don’t mind at all!

      Thank you

      Checking out your blog now

  6. sistaresista March 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Some more comments from the Indymedia ‘debate’:

    1) What the original post describes is depressingly familiar to me…

    21.03.2011 21:36
    … and so are all the bullshit responses that ‘men are oppressed too’, or the ones picking apart the post word by word rather than trying to understand the ideas behind it.

    It’s possible for some people to discriminate against men, but discrimination against women is systematic, institutional, and inescapable from birth until death.

    In my experience groups that preach solidarity and mutual aid don’t offer any mutual aid to victims of sexism, and don’t want to hear about issues like objectification, domestic violence or sexual assault. So why should I want to be in any group that isn’t interested in any of the struggles I face in my day to day life?

    anarchism is a crock of shit

    2)Defensiveness is unhelpful

    21.03.2011 21:26
    To everyone who’s left negative comments on this, or is thinking of doing so, let me just point a few things out for you:
    1) You are not perfect. I hope we can agree on that much.
    2) Because you are not perfect, it stands to reason that you have shit you need to work on.
    3) Because you grew up in a patriarchal society, some of the shit you need to work on will involve your attitudes to gender. This is not an attack on you specifically – I’m sure the women who wrote this piece will have some internalised patriarchal ideas and attitudes they’ve not got rid of yet. I know I definitely do. (I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I first saw this article I was actually worried it might be specifically written about me, and had to check who the authors were to be sure I didn’t know them. I’m not proud of that, but I can admit it, because hiding stuff doesn’t help anyone.)
    4) This piece isn’t perfect either. There are things that can be justifiably criticised about it. But, by just paying attention to those aspects of it that can be easily criticised and dismissing it based on that, you guarantee that you will not learn anything from it. Instead of concentrating on the bits you think are weak, and using them as an excuse to dismiss the whole, why not pay attention to the parts you might learn something from? It’s up to you, but there’s no way that dismissing or attacking this article will help you become a more sorted person. Thinking carefully about what it’s saying and how it might apply to you potentially might.

    Someone who has a lot to learn

  7. sistaresista March 22, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    In response to a comment attempt:

    Dear Joseph,

    Thank you for visiting our blog and reading our article “A letter to male activists”

    Unfortunately, we do not agree that we need your “advice.” We have looked at your suggested article, and firstly, it is a completely decontextualised, apolitical piece of writing which could not be more inappropriate here. Secondly, the “say I’ve made the same mistake myself” piece of advice, if you actually listen to the letter instead of trying to tell us what we should have done, appears when we say that we are all conditioned.

    At the end of the letter we ask you to listen to us. Instead you have decided to give us “advice” as if we are the ones that need to change. We notice that you did not defend us on the vicious, offensive and hurtful indymedia thread but instead joined in with those attacking us.

    I hope this email makes it clear why your comment will not be appearing on our blog.

    Thanks again,

    Sisters of Resistance

    • sistaresista March 22, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      I can’t believe he linked us to an article entitled “How to Criticise People Without Causing Offence.”

      You like our letter, but you want it in a tone that’s “less offensive” meaning more “ladylike” and therefore more palatable, eh? To whom? To the “sympathetic” men you are worried we might scare off with our direct address? If they are anything like you, it would take much more effort than just one letter to get them to start thinking as critically as they would need in order to see eye to eye with us.

      Sorry, Joseph. You want us to lessen our offense factor? Then first figure out how to diminish the offense factor of the global society that organises in its oppression of women. Maybe then we can talk.

      • 1rudegirl March 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

        oh yeah, women aren’t allowed to express anger. If you say something critical you’re understood as excessively aggressive- it’s either that or you’re considered to be ‘whining/crying’. There’s really no place for women to be expressing negative emotions without being stereotyped as either bitches or pathetic feminine wimps./blah

        http://www.danspalding.com/articles/stfu.html -this is quite good

  8. 1rudegirl March 22, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    can’t believe they are now accusing you/any commenters who are in agreement with you of being a one-man troll. They literally don’t think this exists, at all. Unbelievable. Sexism don’t exist, much less women with something to say about it. It’s just an elaborate internet scam to wind men up.

    • sistaresista March 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

      Exactly. It’s almost laughable that instead of looking at every item on the list of suggested ways to address the imbalance as symptomatic of a larger problem, many wanna-be commenters have tried to defend their sexism with something as miniscule as: “I always take out the bins.” What about everything else we’ve mentioned?

      They accuse us of conveniently ignoring nebulous concepts like like “nature” and “hormones” when they conveniently ignore concrete critiques such as: “Do not attribute the hard work and ideas of the women in your organisation to men.” A feminist/activist man deserving of the title might draft a thoughtful response to that statement alone, instead of claiming revolutionary ideals (one even told us he scored “VERY highly” on the RDAF so we could “get an idea of his character based on our values”!?!), then attacking us for “ignoring” hormones.

      • 1rudegirl March 22, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

        yeah it’s really sad that people with pretty in depth understanding of a lot of things (capitalism, class struggle) really have not got the first clue about feminist analysis whatsoever. And clearly don’t think they have any responsibility to do any READING. Like sexist oppression basically boils down to who takes out the bins.

        Also why is it that you can talk social analysis 24/7 until you mention sexism then all of a sudden it’s ‘well it’s wrong to generalise because it hurts the individual’. That’s what fucking social commentary IS.
        I mean, I never heard anyone wringing their hands about the possibility that there are some bankers who are just motivated by a love of maths and aren’t out to make loads of money and shit on the rest of us.

      • sistaresista March 23, 2011 at 1:45 am #

        Love the idea of people arguing bankers just like maths but aren’t greedy hahahaha can you imagine? Such a good point! And also about social commentary! Well said! Yea I’ve got a feeling it was a mixture of trolls and idiots. We got over 100 hits from indymedia in the end and only one mildly rude comment on our blog so… I hope the other activist men who visited went away with something to think about!!

    • sistaresista March 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

      Indymedia have now deleted those comments saying how we are not real and are just an elaborate hoax made up by a man! Haha. Those comments genuinely made me laugh! LOL

      Have you seen the latest comment? Thought it was quite good. Also made me laugh:

      Dear angry women activists,

      22.03.2011 19:33
      Why do you have to be so mean to us men? OK, so you are pissed off about the whole sexism thing, but don’t you understand that when you get angry about sexism, your anger makes us men feel bad? And as men, our delicate feelings are the most important things in the whole universe. So if you want to talk about sexism you should be really NICE about it and try really really hard not to say anything that will make us sad.


      Entitled men activists

      • 1rudegirl March 22, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

        lol yeah I really liked that one. Spot on.

      • sistaresista March 23, 2011 at 1:52 am #

        From the Indymedia comments:

        A point proved

        23.03.2011 00:32
        As a man this made an uncomfortable, but challenging read, which I feel is the right response. I can see the points you make are valid and cogent, much as I might squirm a little reading it. Which to me shows you have hit the nail on the head.
        I haven’t read all the many comments, but I’m disappointed by the reaction of the men, which certainly goes to prove what you are saying true. Rest assured, to some of us, the point got home.


        I liked this piece.

        23.03.2011 10:21
        I would also like to say that as a male activist/anarchist (and i would say feminist too) i initially found this quite an uncomfortable read, but having gone away and mulled it over i would argue that this was the whole point and i think this article is a really excellent springboard into a wider debate. Its never nice to think that as a self professed anarchist/communist/progressive activist that you could possibly be exhibiting the same behaviour as a fucked up, patriarchal society, but these roles can, and do reassert themselves amongst our movement and i think it would ultimately be a very cowardly thing to not acknowledge that. We need to be able to criticise these behaviours in our groups and in ourselves, because ultimately they have been very deeply engrained through a huge amount of social conditioning and do occasionally emerge, whether consciously or not. Dismantling patriarchy is a process, and just saying one day ‘I am an anarchist’ or ‘I am a feminist’ does not automatically remove those attitudes from us.

        The other criticism seems to be ‘i kind of agree but you shouldn’t be so direct about saying it’. Why? Does it not seem that this attitude forms part of the patriarchal attitude towards women, that they cannot be direct and to the point, and instead have to make their points in deferential, roundabout ways. If a man wrote a direct, to the point, critical piece it would no doubt be praised as concise, articulate and passionate, but if a woman does it, its somehow rude. I can’t help but be reminded of a section of the documentary ‘live nude girls unite!’ when a woman worker is told by her boss that if she wants to demand something she should not assert it, but ask for it ‘coyly’.

        Sheffield Anarchist


        23.03.2011 10:26
        thats amazing ….so powerful and so true…

        thanks reii…


        CJ and other ‘sympathetic’ male feminists

        23.03.2011 12:56
        Men who describe themselves as feminists need to be conscious of their own sexism and the patriarchal structures they benefit from on a daily basis. Likewise white activists who perceive themselves as anti-racist will invariably still be racist and the need to be challenged and challenge themselves still exists. However, its a common response for white activists who are asked to look at their own race privilege to want to avoid their own culpability,deny, get angry, act defensively and divert onto issues of their own perceived prejudicial treatment they themselves equate wrongly with the historical and societal weight of racist oppression. As a privileged group however, accepting criticism is part of education about oppressive behaviours. Being made aware of injustices by those on the receiving end of oppression and therefore being able to look at yourself is part of being a male feminist. Otherwise its all just words isn’t it? Those already dealing with everyday oppression are not responsible for, or just there to ‘bridge the divisions’ for you. That’s like asking for those oppressed to ease the path of those who oppress them and in this case thats something all men, whether sympathetic or not, need to deal with. Its up to those who already have privilege (though yes privilege can be complex issue, yet that doesn’t negate the existence of sexism!) to work towards making both your own understanding, the community you are part of and the society a more acceptable one. And by the way its never just ‘one event’ such articles are relating to but whole lives, whole communities and societies which are infected by patriarchal injustices in the same way that racism works. Therefore, in my experience such articles are often written within the context of having such issues repeatedly brought up, not only after everyday dealings with such oppression on both a personal and societal level, but within radical/activist spaces which are often ignored and belittled. Therefore they are justifiably written with a certain frustration only those who have repeatedly banged their heads against a supposedly supportive and sympathetic brick wall may truly sympathise with….and perhaps you should try to understand that.


        Liberal or Radical?

        23.03.2011 14:50
        In the spirit of adding to the information available to the men and women who have been offended by the original post I would like to make a distinction between Feminism as bandied by the media and liberal political activism and Radical Feminism which is a more whole society, anti-oppression, ‘way of life’ kind of thing.

        Liberal feminism wants equality. It wants men and women to engage equally in our consumer capitalist society, to have the right to be equally exploited by a system that wants them both to maximize its profits regardless of the fairness of that transaction. It wants women to be able to fight in armies as the equals of men, work long unpaid hours exploiting others in management, etc, you get the gist.

        Radical feminism says, patriarchy oppresses everyone. Why would women want equality with the shit deal of men in the lower orders of the patriarchal hierarchy. High suicide rates amongst young men. More chance of dieing violently. Shorter life expectancy. Dislocation from a healthy emotional life. Economic forces that try and keep men from being nurturers, etc.

        Radial feminists don’t say, ‘Yes BUT, what about all the shit women suffer at the hands of men. Fuck the men!’ Which has been the kind of thinking I’ve read in reverse from men up thread!

        Radical feminism proposes that as we are all oppressed we all need liberating. Women need to take responsibility for their own liberation. That includes asking for solidarity and co-operation from their male allies. It is evident that the point made in the original post; that there are surprisingly many non allies amongst the radical political community, has more than a little truth from the content and tone of many of the responses to it.

        Equally men need to take responsibility for their own liberation. Asking for solidarity in this process from feminist allies is admirable. Seeing the oppressive behaviour of other men as their responsibility is also helpful, much as many white people take responsibility for challenging racist behaviour even when it’s not their own. Making women responsible for making change amongst men is not going to get men what they need or liberate women who find themselves at the sharp end of patriarchy from men who are used as it’s tools.

        Anyone seriously interested in engaging with the proposition that both men and women get a shit deal from patriarchy and that men need to be allies in the process of liberating women and leaders in the process of liberating themselves from patriarchal oppression might find ‘The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy’ by Allen G. Johnson, a valuable resource. Alternatively they could just listen more and be less defensive.


        More material for anyone interested in the experiences of women activists

        23.03.2011 18:51

        Read it and weep sisters.


  9. Some male activists in Nottingham March 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm #


    • sistaresista March 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Content of the above link:

      Dear Sisters

      Thank you for ignoring society’s and the activist scene’s expectations and calling out male privilege and sexist behaviour. We recognise the behaviours that you describe and the consequent oppression of women that they result in. We are sad to say that we recognise many of these behaviours as ones that we ourselves have perpetrated. Although we recognise that this is not just about us, we are deeply sorry for any actions of our own that have had the effect of oppressing women and upholding patriarchy.

      Recognising the widespread complicity in sexist behaviour that exists within our community, a group of men in Nottingham started meeting regularly in Autumn last year, to attempt to deal with our shit, be conscious of patriarchal behaviour and to be better allies of the women in our lives and community. Working from the basis that it is our own responsibility to do this work, not the responsibility of women, we have tried to challenge our own assumptions and behaviours and support each other to change. We have discussed a wide range of issues that have come up for us, including consent in relationships, gender dynamics in meetings, who does domestic tasks in our homes and aggression. We have sought to pick through our own personal histories to identify how and where we learnt our patriarchal behaviour, thus better enabling us to unlearn and hopefully end these behaviours. We have tried to educate ourselves using the experiences of women, to identify our own failures to live up to our anarchist and anti-sexist ideals regarding gender, and to find ways to start changing our mindset and our relationships with the women we know for the better. We are trying to learn from the women we know as to how we need to change, asking them to challenge us on our bullshit without us responding with defensiveness, fear or hostility.

      This is not an attempt to show what great anti-sexists we are – we know that we have many failings and that unpicking patriarchal thinking takes a long time. We write out of solidarity with you and to show that, despite the hostility and denial from some men, this is not the whole picture. Whilst it absolutely should not be left to women to criticise us, and face the aggressive response that inevitably follows, we try to use that criticism to challenge ourselves. We have found your suggestions for overcoming patriarchal behaviour a useful tool in helping us to progress.

      We see our men’s group as a very small contribution to the fight against patriarchy and recognise its limitations- as men we are likely to be blinded or ignorant to some of our sexist behaviour. We would like to contribute towards the creation of spaces with women in which the issues including those raised by the Sisters of Resistance can be discussed amongst women and men, with the aim of challenging patriarchal thought and action rather than seeking to justify the status quo. We strongly believe that patriarchy is entwined with capitalist society, and that if we wish to build communities of resistance then all the abuses and hierarchies prevalent within the dominant society must be challenged with equal determination. We would also be very willing to participate in the initiatives of others around these issues.

      We have had enough of men’s denial and excuses – let’s work together to bring down the patriarchy!

  10. Sam Cook (@sam_cook) October 19, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    Thank you, although it will likely cause some serious, recursive paranoia about how I act from now on that’s nothing too new.

    An excellent article, hard to read as it is agressive but equally that helps make the point (no this is not an argument that it shouldn’t be agressive just a comment that it being agressive make it hard to read).

    I should sleep.

    • Sista Resista November 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

      You’re welcome. Cultivating regular practices of mindfulness and meditation, as well as moving meditation such as yoga and tai chi, has helped us to overcome our own paranoia that has developed over years of being object and not subjects in mainstream society as women, as working class, and as ethnic minority/immigrant/people of colour. We highly recommend it and hope that you try it and that it works for you.

      Yes, the article is aggressive in some respects. However, we must point out that it is not nearly as aggressive as the patriarchal society that has demanded its writing through systemic violence, discrimination and exclusion. The tone of the article is both justified and necessary; we have attempted to ensure that the form reflected content. But come on, man. The most emphatic demand of the letter is that you LISTEN. And how aggressive is that, really?

  11. Arthur November 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    As a male feminist ally, the majority of my feminist education has come from reading and conversing with the voices of feminists who do not have male privilege. This has led to some gaps in my feminist knowledge, the biggest one being history, but it has its advantages too. Namely, I know the importance of having an awareness of my own privilege (I periodically re-read the “Unpacking White/Male Privilege dual articles, attempting to so with care) and I realize just how widespread a lack of such awareness is even among men who consider themselves feminist.

    Any male ally who feels uncomfortable reading this article, or even surprised, lacks a very basic grasp of the realities of life as a feminist woman in Liberal/Progressive communities. The Occupy movement has truly solidified my understanding that men who would like to think of themselves as feminist by and large are really, really shitty at it. And that sexism and racism are just as bad an epidemic in Liberal/Progressive communities as they are everywhere else. If you are not already aware that privileged people claiming to be allies are almost all really bad at it and refuse to admit that they are, then you don’t spend enough time listening to the voices of the oppressed people who are involved in anti-oppression movements like feminism.

    • Sista Resista November 20, 2011 at 1:39 am #

      So true, we fully agree. Thanks very much for your comments and helpful advice to male and other privileged allies.

      Sista Resista

  12. Sista Resista January 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    We also recently found this essay on the same subject, published in 2006, and would like to post it here as an additional resource.


  13. M.K. Hajdin (Exiled Star) June 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    This is the best post I have read in a long while. I have only one minor issue:
    Feminism is not about achieving “equality”. It’s about ending gender oppression.

    “Equality” is problematic, because it does not relieve the effects of the systematic deprivation of women throughout history, nor does it address the the fact that women are greatly disadvantaged when it comes to things like child care.

    “No maternity provision in the workplace would be a result of (1) equality of treatment. However, women are more likely to be primary care-givers, this would mean a lack of (2) equality of opportunity for women. One result of this if that men and women do not share (3) equality of consequences when having children. Equality-based legislation has been ineffective in providing equal consequences in the workplace.”

    From http://fortyshadesofgrey.blogspot.com/2011/03/introduction-to-feminist-jurisprudence.html

  14. M.K. Hajdin (Exiled Star) June 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Reblogged this on Exiled Stardust and commented:
    Here’s one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time, though I want to point out that freedom from gender oppression, not “equality”, is the goal of feminism.

  15. M.K. Hajdin (Exiled Star) June 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    One more comment about the comments: “Asking for solidarity in this process from feminist allies is admirable. ”

    I don’t see it that way. I see it as men expecting women to soothe their injured egos. Women are too busy dealing with their own oppression to be caretakers of male self-esteem.

  16. Sara June 27, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    stumbled upon this by accident.. This spoke to my heart and my disillusionment with activism after a few years of domination by self-prescribed “activist” able bodied men.. In my own struggle with my intersectionalities, I see the same arguments to people who refuse to acknowledge their white privilege, their English mother tongue, and their white able bodies..

    This is one of the most refreshing responses I ever read.. It is not for the oppressor to tell us when our feelings of marginalization are legitimate.. bull’s eye!

    • Sista Resista August 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Sara,

      Glad you found this post and that it resonated with you. Thanks for pointing out how it can also be addressed to those who are dominant in other ways besides gender. Feel free to re-post, adapt and share as needed within your communities. Take care and all the best.

      Sisterly solidarity,

  17. mbownkai September 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Reblogged this on be peace.

  18. Seth October 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Well, a silver lining of all the bullshit defensiveness manarchists, brocialists, commanists, brogressives, etc put up is that at least you’re getting at their privilege (they wouldn’t be acting like spoiled children who are forced to share so throw a hissy fit about it if you weren’t checking/challenging their selfish dominance at least somewhat successfully).

    So–though it’s unfortunate that they choose to react this way–good on you, for at least getting the ball on this rolling again.

    (As a positive side-note, I’ve found that community-/culture-based organizing spaces–like Mecha–are a lot less male-dominated or filled with privilege than spaces that are just political).

  19. Maria October 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Thank you,

    I think this is an excellent observation.

    Our feminist circles have switched to directly excluding men as our debates have resulted in realising a truly feminist man is not possible, at least not for another ten years at least.

    There are still to many women out in the streets and particularly nightclubs who particularly choose men by their patriarchality and aggressiveness, giving the by standing non-supressive males a strong feeling of losing a competition.

    But I strongly believe men are very adaptable. If all women conspired to never give a chance to aggressive males again, patriarchic structures would wither down very fast.

    So sisters, this is way to go!

  20. Ankhesen Mié November 28, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    You can create these spaces of equality by actively challenging sexist gender roles, by taking over the chores and actions typically still carried out by women: washing up, cooking, making tea, cleaning, tidying up, looking after children, doing the food shopping, providing emotional support, washing and drying clothes, emptying bins, sorting recycling, listening to people, caring for the sick, etc.

    Makes me wish I’d said something like this before…oh wait…..

  21. vpski September 17, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    This article is now four years old. Some things change slowly.

    I liked the procedures popularized by the Occupy Movement. Dominant white men need to wait at the end of the line (progressive stack), then step up and step back. Can I wash the dishes? A couple thousand years of women and ethnic minorities running the show would probably be an improvement.

  22. slagroomwolken September 22, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this. I need to remind myself daily, that my experience is actually real, that I am not being oversensitive, irrational, as I am made to feel pretty much structurally when voicing my experience or disagreeing with something. Especially in activist groups, I have felt so delegitimated and silenced by manarchists, which has made me lose more confidence than I gained. People claiming to be fighting against patriarchy while actually (actively) reproducing it’s structures are worse than people who just don’t know. Sometimes I’m torn between whether I should just leave these groups as it costs me so much emotional labour trying to explain feminism 101 to manarchists – who keep on not taking it serious, who focus on their hurt feelings and blaming call-outs – , or to actually keep on trying. Because in the end, these are obstacles I’ll have to learn to deal with in any kind of public space. In any case, thanks for writing this (even if this is 4 years after the original post, it is extremely relevant for me).

    Love and solidarity!


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