Why Men Should Teach Feminism
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
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A third phase in the trajectory of justice-seeking movements can occur after legislative and legal landmarks. During this third phase, activists and their allies must continue their efforts to implement change, a challenging task even in the wake of earlier successes. History shows that much of the public will continue to resist change long after progressive movements have made achievements that seem to hold so much promise. Thus, half a century after the Brown vs. Board decision, and thirty years after Roe vs. Wade, large segments of the population remain hostile to policies of desegregation and reproductive freedom, and we are seeing the steady resegregation of American society and persistent efforts to overturn a woman’s right to choose. In such a climate, the question arises of how wide and how deep is public support for the core and consensus aim of feminism: to insure the full participation of women in the governance and everyday life of the nation. If we agree that the core humanity of every individual should be respected and nurtured in private and public life, then it follows that the work of men as well as women is necessary to insure progress toward that goal. And, progress must be made even though a large portion of the population lacks the knowledge of and commitment to the aims of feminism.