Allied. Or, “Can Men Be Feminists?”

Feminism is a vastly interesting sport for those so inclined. That is to say, beyond why #INeedFeminism is the question of #WhoNeedsFeminism. Currently, and well before Jack Kilbride’s ill-advised New Matilda article, I was knee deep in it, more than usual, with thanks to one of my beloved online family who challenged me in a more practical space than I usually find my feminism inhabiting. Thankfully, my experience as a single white female has meant that my personal gripes with the Patriarchy tend to be minor and my feminism occupies a more mental than physical space.

Clementine Ford, my Aussie Feminist Badass love. Unfortunately, not for Jack Kilbride…

That’s really important for me to say. Because though I have, like every woman alive, been subject to real time real life physical sexism, misogyny and abuse I am aware that on a scale of 1 to 10 I’m pretty lucky. “Out there” are women tracking at 100 on that scale, and the opportunity to voice their experience has been taken away, so instead we count dead women, here on DtJ Facebook page, and @CountingDeadWomen. More importantly, as my reading has taken a turn towards considerations and effects of (and recourse for) online, texted-base sexism, misogyny and abuse, I realise how well crafted my online space is, I’m not Clementine Ford, I’m not writing generally to a mass readership. So even in that online space, my personal experience tracks at the low end of the scale.

But that’s not the point of feminism. One is not “more feminist” for having a greater set of scars and anecdotal personal evidence. The point is, as my mother would say, there but for the grace of God go I. I really appreciate Clementine Ford because I find she occupies a very similar space to me. Even her voice (manner or turn of phrase, etc.) is one I identify with, probably because culture, age, education etc. I understand that if tomorrow I started to write feminist critique for a mass readership, with my foul mouth and short temper, very quickly there would be men telling me I too needed to be raped to death. And I’d identify with Ford in all new ways.

I can stretch this logic out to other sections and experiences of female society. I’m a white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, pagan, educated woman. But I appreciate black, Indigenous, transgendered, LGBTQI, disabled, Muslim (or any other religious or ethnicity) and uneducated (yes, because I’m also a Marxist, and class considerations are as valid as any) female voices. The premise of feminism (or indeed any “ism”) is one of validity, in this case that female voices/experiences are valid and equal to male, and further, intersectionality suggests that because I am not black, Indigenous, trans etc., those voices are not invalidated.

The majority of the feminist thought I share, I have come to understand, is that of white, able-bodied, educated cis-gendered women. But black, Indigenous, disabled, etc etc are not outside my sphere, and I do share these voices as well. What I find is how I engage in these discussions or not, in contrast to, say the recent brouhaha (and the New Matilda page is swimming in it). I’m quieter and less talky in terms of the first, and more ranty in terms of the second. And I’m prone to qualify myself more in discussions of black, Indigenous, disabled, etc etc. Because I have nothing I can add, and these voices needs must have their time as valid as well. I can’t talk over them, because then I invalidate their voice, and that’s not what allyship is about.

That’s a great word. Allyship. And also “allied”. I like to use it. And I like to use it like this: I am a white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, pagan, educated, feminist woman, who is a black, Indigenous, LGBTQI, disabled, Muslim (or any other religious or ethnic minority oppressed by the dominant White Western Christian society I live in) and lower-socio-economic groups ALLIED. It’s an adjective heavy sentence, but for purposes of online discussion it’s a pretty clear one, the first half identifies what I am, which allows the reader to identify my bias, and the second half describes what I am not BUT PERSONALLY THINK IS VITAL AND VALID. You could also look at the sentence, augmented by “I am a heterosexual Australian….” as being in the first part the identification of MY PRIVILEGE, and the second part, my understanding of the groups who are impacted negatively by that same privilege. In fact, privilege and bias are linked, I simply chose to make them explicit. And there is a good reason why. Here’s a nifty definition from The Anti-Oppression Network in Canada:

an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person of privilege seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group of people

  • allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people
  • allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with
    • it is important to be intentional in how we frame the work we do,
      i.e. we are showing support for…, we are showing our commitment to ending [a system of oppression] by…, we are using our privilege to help by…

And that’s exactly when things get interesting. As early as last week in a comment thread on a friend’s Facebook post I wrote “… and I believe men can be feminists…” That’s how Jack Kilbride opened his Tuesday New Matilda article ‘Why Courageous Clementine Ford Is Not The Answer‘:

I am a man and I am a feminist.

I wholeheartedly condemn the actions of the men who have threatened and abused feminist writer Clementine Ford. I also commend the decision of one particular boss who opted to terminate the contract of Mathew Nolan after his embarrassing and disgusting remarks.

Then without a breath, and beginning immediately following the above with “[h]owever, while Clementine Ford is a great advocate of the feminist movement in this country, her strategy may be doing more harm than good”, he wrote an entire article about how Ford was doing feminism wrong.

In the plethora of online pieces that critiqued the article from a myriad of angles, I found myself questioning my hitherto held belief; “can men be feminists?”

It’s quite clear that in the very first place, a man telling women how to do feminism is going to piss off most female feminists, which Kilbride definitely did. The fact is, Kilbride has failed to check his male privilege; women being told how to do and what to do and how to behave by men is precisely the thing feminists are fighting against. My own knee-jerk response to the article prior to reading the deluge that followed was simple “oh go fuck yourself, Kilbride!” You can’t be a feminist and then assert and maintain male privilege. It’s not how feminism works! That’s anti-feminism. And the problem is to be found in that very small word “allied” that Kilbride has completely failed to use to contextualise his (anti)feminism.

Aicha Marhfour summed it up today in her article ‘Men Cannot Be Feminists, So Let’s Talk About Diversity Instead‘. It’s all really there in the headline, but what she goes on to say in the article really hit the nail on the head for me:

At best, all anyone can expect of a man is ‘allyship’, which means that he is the equivalent of the work experience kid.

The ally/work experience kid is here to learn, so takes notes and does little tasks when asked to. He doesn’t speak up and take over the meeting. He does not set the agenda. He is not here forever.

“He” has been setting the agenda for women a really long time, and feminism is a movement expressly created to stop “him” setting that agenda, so woman can set their own, and Ford is a woman, so shut up Kilbride. It’s that simple.

Yes, WOMEN can.

Yes, WOMEN can.

I immediately applied the same logic, much as Marhfour did, I could self-identify as Indigenous, and then go on to write that Indigenous people really just need to face the fact that they are genetically predisposed to alcoholism, and culturally unable to contextualise money, and so they need white people to restrict alcohol and control their money for them, for their own benefit (which I DO NOT actually believe at all) and in very short order, I’d be right where Kilbride is two days after his unfortunate article. As Marhour wrote, “A man may self-identify as a feminist, but it’s the same as me self-identifying as a billionaire’s kidnapped daughter and heiress to my family’s South American mining fortune. They’re both fantasies.” Much like my hypothetical imagined Indigenousness. I don’t get to set the agenda, I’m the voice that Indigenous people would like to stop setting the agenda.

Allyship is not an identity; it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. Allyship is not self-defined; our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with. Kilbride cannot be a feminist who seeks to impose his idea of how women should behave, and right now, he’s also a really shit ally. And if he had considered allyship thoroughly, instead of self-identifying as feminist, he would never have written that article.

In her response, ‘The New Feminism: Death By 1,000 Online Cuts‘ Tanya Levin put forward the view that the basis of the outpouring of criticism of Kilbride was that he is a man.  I don’t agree.  The problem with Kilbride’s article, and as pointed out by the vast majority of comments and responses (save the stupid, seriously, yes it’s everywhere, stay focused people) is the fact that Kilbride is in no position to dictate responses to things which he has never experienced. He may never have experienced them because he is a man, but as I pointed out above, for the most part neither have I. Since I, and many others like me, have managed the point of view that since I am not Clementine Ford nor have her experience of online threats etc., as a public figure in a public forum,  I have to allow Ford’s voice, experience, and responses to be entirely valid, what’s Kilbride’s excuse for saying it is not? One may posit that after this week, Kilbride is in a much better position to counter with experience, only women tend not to comment to men with “I hope someone rapes you till you die” style of physical and sexual threats of violence. So probably not so much. As one of the six responses New Matilda offered “to include a range of different perspectives on the issue” as Chris Graham wrote in his editorial on the issue ‘Still Not Sorry, But…‘ (srsly? Fuck me, Graham, I love NM but you are killing me right now!)  included this thought bubble

when I commented on the New Matilda website that the nasty vicious response doesn’t help for debate, I was told that there were no death threats. No there weren’t. But there was sustained aggression, vitriol and violence. Physical violence? Not that I saw, but enough derision, cruelty and degradation against someone’s opinion to drive free speech and debate way underground.

If the crowd had their way, Kilbride would be hanging and a cross burned on his front lawn.

New Matilda is still failing to channel the debate into a space dominated by any real reason. And sadly, that above lack of coherenceNicki Minaj - Speak your mind and logic jewel comes from a female feminist voice, and I fear for the movement where angry women commenting about privilege are equated to male threats of sexual and physical violence by other women, with a “won’t somebody think of the free speech” chaser! Women are allowed to think and express themselves aggressively, especially against opinion, which it was in the majority, and not, in fact, ad hominem, since Kilbride’s being a man is also his position in terms of feminism! Did she not get the memo?

And I’ve changed my view. Can men be feminists? No. Because inside that movement, male voices are not setting the agenda. The place in which male voices set the agenda is called patriarchy. Can men be feminist-allied? Yes, and if they are, they know that they should shut the fuck up and not tell Clementine Ford how to act and respond to threats of physical and sexual abuse because she has had an opinion, because they have no clue what that is actually like. A male feminist ally does not criticize, correct, determine, nor admonish the female voice, he instead holds it up as says “this is a woman’s voice, it is valid”. And that’s his entire job.

Because really, women got this.

Wonder Woman



Filed under Douche of the Week, Feminism, General Ranting, Politics & Society, Wrong Things

6 responses to “Allied. Or, “Can Men Be Feminists?”

  1. “(or any other religious or ethnic minority oppressed by the dominant White Western Christian society I live in)”

    The irony of emphasizing the evils of White Western. Just so we have the image clear: Mauritania (An Arab colonialist in Africa) abolished slavery only in 1981. As for the Quran:

    YUSUFALI: Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe.
    PICKTHAL: Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will, and send (good deeds) before you for your souls, and fear Allah, and know that ye will (one day) meet Him. Give glad tidings to believers, (O Muhammad).
    SHAKIR: Your wives are a tilth for you, so go into your tilth when you like, and do good beforehand for yourselves, and be careful (of your duty) to Allah, and know that you will meet Him, and give good news to the believers.

    “the fact that Kilbride is in no position to dictate responses to things which he has never experienced. ” – The debate jargon for this is ad homine. You do not respond to the argument. You attract attention to the person’s gender/background and try to discredit him. It’s the same thing people did to Anita Sarkeesian: “She said in this obscure video she’s not into video games, therefore everything she says about video games is wrong”.

    The idea that we understand ourselves better than everyone is a myth that’s been debunked. The Dunning-Krunger effect is one example and I think there were further experiments that proved it.

    Assuming that we have the perfect understanding of ourselves, and that no one should challenge us is arrogance, anti-science and anti-intellectualism. Just because you experienced something doesn’t mean you have 100% understanding of it. You just have a different understanding.

    Feminism needs to be criticized. Once something is not criticized and challenged, it becomes dogmatic. It stops questioning assumptions about society and tries to impose a different idea by force.

    It’s also ironic that somehow a man can’t comment on a female experience, while I have to hear about how privileged I am from women who don’t know who I am.

    Wonder Woman shouldn’t be your symbol. Brute force of superheroes is cool for action films, but brute force doesn’t prove you’re right. It didn’t prove the Patriarchy is idea and it won’t prove feminism is true if feminism will be “shut up, this is true”.


    • Dude. First, thanks for reading my two cents. And I reiterate, is is two cents, I am not an academic and don’t pretend to be. But the merits of any religion, let alone Islam, are not up for debate here. The point, and it is a broad one, within which there are many nuances that I’m not inclined to discuss in a post about something else entirely, is that I advocate for freedom of religious beliefs. And even if I concede your point about Islamic texts, it still doesn’t hold for all Islamic religious practices. One could do the very same thing for the Bible, the Torah, and many other religious books, and still would not change my advocacy of religious freedom generally, nor would it hold that all Christians, Jews etc., adhere to and follow those specific instances in the relevant text. Diversity and advocacy for minority religions which in this country Islam is, as I said in the post, is important.

      Ad hominem, in terms of critiques of men and male voices from a feminist perspective, is tricky. That I also grant you. But the point is, being aware of one’s own privilege does not mean you cease being a recipient of that privilege. The assertion that what Ford was subjected to is a particular kind of thing experienced by women specifically I think holds for the most part. Your point regarding my poor argument is based on my consideration Kilbride’s expereince. Unfortunately, as a writer on the subject with a platform (beyond, say, the individual ramblings on a blog, like me) calls his credentials into question. In the same way, one argues Andrew Bolt should stop talking about climate change, because he’s not in a position to offer his opinion, because, not a scientist. As I said in the post, his experience and credentials might be because he is a man, but the same can be said for me, I haven’t had these experiences. So I feel that we must look to those who have had them and see their experiences and responses as valid. At least, while the occurrences are somewhat limited in terms of the public arena.

      The argument that we don’t know ourselves is a ridiculous one. And I’m going to assume you are not suggesting that men know women better, because I’m nice like that. Ford is not operating inside a vacuum, feminism is a collective of various critical voices and individuals. So, that we have a situation which is an experience specific to women, it seems reasonable that women should be able to decide themselves how this issue is to be handled. And there are various thoughts in regards to that, inside the movement. Criticism of individuals inside the movement is certainly on the regular, and outside of it, well, obviously, we see that regularly too. We also have historical evidence to suggest that where women are not so influential and self-determining, we have men deciding, for example, it’s not actually illegal to rape your wife, or keep her in line with a hand upside the head, or that women can’t vote. And other things, seriously, it’s called history.

      And your Wonder Woman hate goes far beyond my gif happy symbols. She’s fictional, and magical, and belongs to a mythical race of beings. She proves nothing. She’s here nothing more than a strong woman fighting for the powers of good. Because make-believe stories, dude. Read a comic.

      Finally, this: “It’s also ironic that somehow a man can’t comment on a female experience while I have to hear about how privileged I am from women who don’t know who I am.” Entirely stand alone and I copy/paste now only to share the comedy of it again.


  2. ” But the merits of any religion, let alone Islam, are not up for debate here. ” – A religion is a collection of ideas and perspectives. If the idea of the Patriarchy can be questioned and challenged, so can religious ideas. We must not protect ideas because ideas are only useful/true depending on the challenges they face. We should protect people. Killing a flat-earther is wrong, but it doesn’t make him right. Religions are a problem in general because of their dogma.

    “In the same way, one argues Andrew Bolt should stop talking about climate change, because he’s not in a position to offer his opinion, because, not a scientist.” – We can dismiss Bolt’s arguments because he’s not a scientist, but a better alternative is to address them using scientific knowledge. Addressing an argument, no matter how stupid it is or how ignorant the person is, is more productive than dismissing it. An outsider may notice something you didn’t, or you may be able to teach an ignorant person.

    ” And I’m going to assume you are not suggesting that men know women better, because I’m nice like that.” – Of course not. Men have done it for a long time and that contributed nothing.

    ” We also have historical evidence to suggest that where women are not so influential and self-determining, we have men deciding, for example, it’s not actually illegal to rape your wife, or keep her in line with a hand upside the head, or that women can’t vote.” – The problem here is not that men had a voice but that women didn’t have a voice. This is a common problem with Male Privilege. The fact I’m having fun isn’t bad, because the fact I don’t fear rape doesn’t harm anyone. The fact women fear rape is a problem.

    Did Kilbride tell her what to do? Or did he simply challenged her views? Does he have any power to impose his views on her? Disagreements aren’t imposing your views on someone else. Feminists are fine with commenting on how males experience life (and they should keep doing that), so men should continue commenting on how women experience life. We need others to challenge us.

    I wish you’d explain why ‘we don’t really know ourselves’ is ridiculous. I pointed out a scientific concept that’s one proof of that.

    I did not hate Wonder Woman. I just pointed out that this gif of Brute Power isn’t what feminism should be. Brute Power is for people who hate challenges and questioning. It’s for people who want to impose a dogma. Violence is anti-rational. That’s why killing a flat-earther is wrong no matter what.


    • Because you wordier than I am! Which I would not have thought possible! Lol! By paragraph:

      1. Some of your points are entirely valid. Still not the subject of the post, and not a discussion I’m going to engage in here. When I do next write a post about the validity of any or all religions, I’ll be sure to watch for your comments!
      2. No, it is entirely reasonable to measure one’s time considering shite. I avoid it all costs. Bolt = Shite. Ain’t got no time for that.
      3. Indeed? So why now the argument for a male voice in feminism as valid? Strange point to make.
      4. “The fact women fear rape is a problem.” Wtactualf? No. The fact that men rape women is a problem.
      5. The problem is that he has been able to utilise a progressive, generally pro-feminist (and by extension, pro-female voices) platform to suggest that a woman should not be “messy”/aggressive (to sum up his general arguments in a word or two) when responding to threats of death, rape, physical violence and etc. Fuck that. I would probably argue the same if a woman said it, and indeed, had a go at the female voice who equated online debate by angry women with male physical and sexual violence. Women can be justifiably messy, angry, emotional and still not be irrational, illogical or criminal.
      6. Which was mostly valid. And the truth is it wasn’t really relevant to the initial post, but I engaged anyway. The fact is, Kilbride does not suggest he knows Ford, he suggests he knows and understands what the worst elements of male society require in order to become feminists. Good for him. Why he has to drag poor Ford into it when she is their victim is questionable. It’s like saying to the victim of an assault “it’s not helpful when you cry and accuse him and call him a monster who beat you. It’s not constructive in terms of his growth as a human being, you need to change your behaviour.” Maybe Kilbride should write for men’s mags, or groups. That might be more beneficial than telling Ford how she should have behaved/should behave in the future. Which he did. He did not, in fact, suggest she was incorrect about her feelings, but that she was incorrect in her behaviour, her response. This does not exhibit any profound knowledge of Ford that she does not have herself, or rather, has not given him explicitly in public forums.
      7. Violence is irrational. Thanks for taking the time to point that out to me, who knew? The gif is no more than a woman showing power. There is actually no violence done to any other thing/being/person in the gif. And PS, that same power is magical, so… You know, there’s only so far you can be offended by a mythical chick with magical power. Unless of course you’re stuck on the chick bit…


      • I hope I didn’t come off as patronizing or condescending. I’m not here to impose my views on anyone. I just love discussing ideas, listening to people’s response and compare them to my own.

        Pissing people off is boring. It’s more fun to write a wall of text and see people respond with a wall of their own. You get to feel like we’re ACTUALLY COMMUNICATING.

        1. True, it isn’t really the subject. I just said it because I find that criticism of Islam isn’t common enough (Trump’s “BAN MUSLIMS” is a panic-starter, not criticism). We’ll keep that for a later post.

        2. I don’t really understand what you meant. Can you rephrase?

        3. The purpose of a male voice is not to tell women how to behave because males are perfect. The purpose of it is the same purpose feminism has – to question and challenge, to prevent an idea from becoming dogmatic. Once something becomes dogmatic.

        4. Both things are problems. I don’t want women to fear rape. The solution to this is, of course, to take actions against rapists.

        5. If this is his argument then I agree with you. It’s reasonable to respond to threats with aggression, especially when these are trolls who just threat with rape. They’re not coming to discuss but want violence. If someone came to be with a knife I’d shoot him with a bazooka.

        6. “He did not, in fact, suggest she was incorrect about her feelings, but that she was incorrect in her behaviour, her response. ” – If our behavior won’t be criticized, how will we learn? Keep in mind I’m not defending Kilbride. I’m talking generally. Our behavior should be criticized, everyone’s. Even if you went through a hardship, it doesn’t automatically mean your behavior is right. Just because I suffered traumatic bullying in school doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to shoot it up, or to block myself from any physical contact. That said, when we deal with behaviors of people who have suffered something traumatic we need to be more cautious.

        7. “Power to the one who doesn’t want it” as they say. I’m all for aestheticized violence and girls with swords and/or bombs. But they don’t make good symbols for an intellectual movement.


      • I’m happy to discuss with you, I really did laugh at you being wordy, it’s not bad, I am! Just unusual.
        Yes, for 2. I think it is reasonable that a person does not engage every Stupid he/she happens to come across in life. Some things are just dumb, and other things are just uninteresting. In the case of Andrew Bolt, my example, he is one of those I would not bother to listen to or argue with. Whilst your point about educating and changing minds might be valid, one does not need to take on educating the world always. Sometimes it is advisable to stick your fingers in your ears and sing “lalalalalala…” It’s the path to longevity.
        In terms of 3. I think that we can assume this is rather case specific, and Ford’s behaviour is hardly dogmatic. It’s not written into any script. In fact in terms of online abuse, there really is no script, Ford, like many other prominent online feminists, is winging it, no doubt for her own safety, sanity and justice, and the sake for countless other women who suffer silently, or have no idea how to deal with horrific online abuse.
        5. Yes, it is reasonable, and given the pure violence and real threats and VOLUME that women like Ford receive, as far as I’m concerned her behaviour to date has been nothing but stellar. She is certainly not a lay down and take it girl, and she’s prone to a curse word, for me that’s part of her charm. But she’s not a crazy woman, which alone is astounding given what she deals with. And this goes to 6. as well. Kilbride chose to point out HER behaviour in this when Ford is the one who is clear of criminal behaviour whilst many she suffers are arguably not. But justice online is hard to come by. Consequences have effects. Naming and shaming may not be everyone’s bag, granted, but Ford’s point I think is that public is what public does, and if she steers one woman clear of a one of these men by exposing their nature, then, arguably, Ford’s the champion. Exposure of the emails she gets is exposing entrenched problems and lubricating the discourse so women feel more inclined to speak out. And that too is a service. I feel here two things need pointing out. Firstly, Ford has a style, a manner. And it’s not everyone’s cup of tea maybe, but an aggressive, blunt, curse peppered style does not equate to violence or even irrationality. Secondly, what seems to have really stuck in everyone’s craw, is the fact a man lost his job. He made a public comment, and Ford follows up. That public comment was alongside a publicly listed employer. That employer was made aware. That employer didn’t like the association and fired the offender. There has been much blaming of Ford. But she didn’t write a public comment of that nature alongside a publicly listed employer, HE DID. Consequences mean things in the short term. And for Ford, what other recourse is there? The laws regarding online abuse are not so cut and dry, nor so easy. Criticising her on this score suggest that Kilbride really has no clue how the world works, and certainly, no clue how the world works for women abused online. Which is to say it doesn’t work in her favour at all. And if he is taking umbrage with her unladylikeness, he needs to feck off and get a hobby.
        In terms of Wonder Woman, thankfully, here, she is just a visual metaphor for the power of women. She’s not a symbol of the movement. Because you are right, such figures as I’ve tried to suggest are problematic as political symbols. Which is why I think this gif in particular has been cut so there is no second party. Whilst strength and power is explicit, violence is only implicit. One might infer she is enacting physical violence as the aggressor, but equally, we may infer she is defending herself in equal measure to a violent, unprovoked attack on her person. Which makes her a fitting visual metaphor for women able to fight online abuse without men explaining it to them/saving them, ala Kilbride. If we look only at the explicit content, she is rather similar to the “We can do it!” woman, who is flexing her physical muscles in an aggressive stance. Obviously, she has implied content as well, her clothing is symbolic of “the worker”, and the era and social circumstances that gave rise to the image. But without that knowledge, one might see that image as one of a bully, an aggressor. Similarly, without the surrounding context of the Wonder Woman mythos, one might imagine that with all that power she has just created/birthed a magical unicorn.


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