On Thursday, December 17th, the young men of IMPACT! convened our first men's allies' caucus, as part of our organizational commitment to actively fight oppression. 12 were in attendance for two hour living room conversation. We discussed how men are socialized to act. Some issues that came up were: being told to hide emotions, to be strong and in control, to not act "feminine" or be close with your mother, and to objectify women. We talked about what these lessons lead to in our society- high rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among young men; an inability to connect with other men; sexual assault and violence against women, and much more. We also discussed how heterosexism and homophobia are used to re-inforce these gender stereotypes (if men step out of their assigned roles, they are labelled as a homosexual, which pressures them into acting the "correct" way).
We also discussed male privilege- the ways in which men are systematically granted privileges and benefits that are simultaneously denied to women, either overtly or covertly, such as the right to walk alone at night without fearing for your safety. Men are also paid more, listened to more, and are represented in the media as dominant, in charge, professional, etc.
Lastly, we talked about what it meant to be an ally to women. We discussed the importance of talking about these issues not only with activist men, but with all other men in our lives. We also mentioned that accountability is key in being a good ally. It is important to have discussions as men challenging sexism, but we must also seek to always be accountable with our actions.
In conclusion, sexism hurts verybody. While women no doubt feel the brunt of male supremacy, men are not protected from its corrupting and degrading effects. Challenging male supremacy is one way in which we, as men, reclaim our own humanity and re-connect with our brothers and sisters who have been harmed by these systems of oppression. No man or woman will ever be free while patriarchy surrounds us. It is our duty, and it is in our interests, to fight sexism wherever it appears- in ourselves, at school, in our family, our social movements, our community, and our jobs.
IMPACT! will organize men's allies' caucuses monthly. They are open to all. These will co-incide with bi-weekly women's caucuses (sometimes held at different times, always at different locations).