i think the argument that men should identify as pro-feminist rather than feminist stems from the notion of what academics call epistemic privilege i.e. in this case, men ought not identify as feminists as they cannot know how it is to experience oppression 'as a woman'.
however i think this is problematic because it a) ignores the way in which patriarchy is also a system that includes relations of power between men, most obviously in the oppression of 'feminised' men. b) overstates the assumption that 'men' cannot empathise and learn about the experiential knowledge of 'women' (even though to homogenise this would be to ignore 30 years of feminist scholarship) c) overstates the value of separatism as a means to radical coalition building d) risks homogenising 'men'
London Profeminist Hi! As you may already know there are many and different opinions on the issue of this distinction. If we wanted to give a reason for our choice, we would say that the LPMG chooses to identify itself as ‘pro-feminist’ instead of ‘feminist’ cause ‘we don’t need and we don’t want to steal the word from the feminist movement’. This is the opinion of many feminists also and we respect that. Of course, the feminist (or anti-sexist, anti-patriarchist) struggle aims to liberate men also from patriarchy and this is very much where our words and actions tend to contribute. However, it is always good to remind people that the structural inequalities and hierarchies still exist and that being a man in a patriarchal society is in no way the same with being a woman (most of all, in terms of experiences). Men can empathize with let’s say the victims of patriarchy, however we should not ever forget that this empathy is a choice (while oppression isn’t) that is made by men who nevertheless still preserve their privileges in this society.
Truly, you see a methodological problem there (eg. homogenizing men) since 30 years of feminist scholarship (and most importantly feminist struggles) were enough to change the way some men think about their masculinities. However let’s not forget the previous 2,000 years or so of massive gender oppression… To empathize, after all, does not mean to say that we have the same experiences as women have. It does not mean to try to eliminate the difference among us and women. It is not a matter of competition of victimhood; it is a matter of respect and giving space to the ‘other’.
And a last thing: the risk of homogenizing all (wo)men is visible in all kinds of gender politics, however many times this is a risk someone must take in order to ‘do politics’ and – let’s say – make a specific demand, no matter how much the academics dislike it. Generalization and homogenization are often strategic steps of this kind of politics and as far as I am concerned they are not false since patriarchy itself is a great, big, awful and violent generalization.
London Profeminist FROM DAVE in the LPMG (but not necessarily representing the views of LPMG!!!)...
"We are certainly not a 'separatist' group: in the context of gender politics, separatism means primarily women's groups who literally try to have nothing whatever to do with men in their lives. That would make no sense whatever for a pro-feminist men's group.
Although there is nowadays a greater emphasis in gender politics on men and women working together and on try to abolish gender roles, collapsing the distinctions too quickly is not helpful, and any decision to do so must rest with women. In my view the postmodern and queer emphasis on dismantling gender identities runs many risks. One is that if the people concerned have not done the work on themselves (and that work is big) it all becomes a pretence. A second risk, which I have often observed happening is that these politics collapse into well-meaning (radical) liberalism."
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