I'm flying blind.
It's an important realistion - and by no means new or ground breaking - for any male feminist to understand that they are not a woman and do not understand the life experience of a woman. I do not understand what it is like to live under systemic oppression, I have not been sexually assaulted and I face a very low chance of that happening to me in my life, let alone every day I wake up.
Not understanding these things intimately means, of course, that I must listen, I must be empathetic, I must trust and believe women when they speak about their experiences and highlight the problems they face as a woman. Feminism is not merely academic, it must be practical, it must push a cause forward, it must work to solve problems and the way for non-lady feminists to help is to be co-pilot of the cause, following the lead of women who know what the problem is and what needs to be done.
Again, nothing ground breaking, nothing revolutionary. Listening to women is "Being a Feminist 101."
But there is a practical issue.
Sometimes, even often, women don't want to talk. No, scratch that. Women often feel that they cannot talk, or that talking is pointless, or that talking is dangerous. I'm not proud of how vitriolic I've been in recent discussion, but do you know what consequences I faced for being so aggressive towards men who I saw as being a problem?
In fact, I was called a smart guy.
There's no doubt that if a woman said the things I said, the way I said them, publicly and loudly and aimed directly at a group of men, she'd have risked dismissal, patronising, invalidation at best, rape threats and actual physical reprisal.
This is the reality of feminism today. Generally, the worst a man can expect is being called a "cuck" or maybe he'll just get complimented. It's not unreasonable for a woman to expect rape threats or any number of far more personal attacks.
This is why I never expect or ask a woman to speak up. This is why I do, even when no women will. This is one more reason men MUST be feminists. But I've talked about the use of privilege as an ally, before. Go look through the blog's archives for an explanation of that. That's not why we're here.
Recapping: Male feminists can only fly blind. Male feminists must be copilots of the cause because we're flying blind. In the absence of a woman willing to speak up, a man must take the lead.
That's a hell of a recipe for a screw up.
Fortunately, if you're doing a good job listening and staying informed on the evolving philosophy of feminism and if you're letting a lady lead when she's willing to, then you're probably not going to go to astray or do wrong by anybody.
But just to be sure, I have a request. See, this blog is not just for male feminists, it's not just a reminder of the basic best practice for feminist advocacy. This blog is also for women. It's to say "We know we can't fully grasp what it's like to be you, but we're doing our best to help in spite of those limitations." It is also to to ask - having established the biggest challenge of being a male feminist - that if you see a man fighting the good fight, let him know he's on the right track and that he's actually helping.
Just to be clear, I'm not asking for women to thank men. I never will ask a woman to thank me for being a feminist. I'm not asking for validation or ego stroking or congratulations or appreciation of any kind, I'm just asking you to help us keep flying straight.