We were asked to focus on three questions related to men and feminism: first, what leads us to teach feminism; second and third, can or should a man teach courses or topics on feminism. While my short answer to each question is “yes,” I have carefully examined my ideological history and experiences teaching women’s studies to be more certain of my response. Not all of the varied aims of women’s studies and feminist activism are directed toward the sensibilities and status of men, nor should they be, but men are still an important audience for feminist discourse and should play a more active role in teaching feminism.
Thinking about the first question – what leads me to teach feminism – the answer stems from my belief that alliances matter in the struggle for progressive social change, and that allies must be enlisted to support the aims of ending sex and gender discrimination. The histories of justice-seeking movements in the United States can help to illustrate why alliance building is necessary as a follow up to and a complement to the concentrated efforts of a dedicated base of activists, such as suffragists in the 19th century, young black students involved in sit-ins in the early 1960s, or protestors against the second Gulf War in our time. Social movements often follow a trajectory that begins with radical activists confronting oppression with direct action, even when a cause appears unpopular. If the efforts of an activist base are successful in calling attention to unjust social practices, a sizable minority or even a majority of the wider population may decide that they have a stake in the movement’s success, making possible such historic legislative achie...
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...gues in the women’s studies program and other contexts has enriched my life far beyond the classroom. In my future work, I will encourage others to learn from the history of feminism and to apply feminist pedagogy in the classroom. My experiences being the only African American (and sometimes the only male) in many professional and personal settings have reinforced my conviction that the best hope for future progressive change is to build alliances that celebrate human commonality, and demonstrate for our students that (as June Jordan has written) “freedom is indivisible.” While we all can benefit from the comfort and even the catharsis that single-sex and single-race settings can provide, our students and our society are best served by cooperative, feminist-inspired work by women and men to challenge sexism, racism, and every other threat to freedom and justice.
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