The following is something I posted in response to a series of postings by one A__W__ on a women's studies moderated email list, after she stated that she viewed men's attempts to participate in WS to be inappropriate and detrimental to women's voice.


I would like to speak 43 % on behalf of A__ W___'s position, altho not of A___ herself (& I have this inclination to think that being defended by a man wouldn't be on her political wish list if you know what I mean? so this is not about her...) --

Consider that this is a Women's Studies list; and that Women's Studies is considered to be different from the patriarchal Study of Women (by men, who were always the Ones Who Study): WS is women studying, and it tends to focus on women studying women, although not exclusively (men are considered valid subjects for women to study from their own point of view, which changes the view of men). Okay, I think part of what Antje was driving at was that men's participation is invariably the participation of men who have had men's experiences and those experiences make what we see and how we interpret it different...and problematic for the WS enterprise of "What would you get if you started studying the world from women's perspective and out of women's experience instead?" If I have misconstrued her meaning, it is nevertheless a common feminist concern about men within feminism, within feminist theory courses, etc.

Having said's the 57 % or so of what I have to say that is not supportive of that position, plus the bottom line if there is one (as I see it, of course) -- WS has been allowed, if just barely, into the academic setting in a way that "Feminist Theory, Tactics, and Implementation" most likely would not have been; in other words, I'll bet even the most cautiously construed Women's Studies program is often accused of being a political program rather than an academic field of study. But feminism itself tends to deny the validity of that split: in other words, LET'S HOPE THEY ARE RIGHT AND THAT WOMEN'S STUDIES IS FEMINIST PRACTICE as well as, or as that which includes, the study by women of women and the world in which they live. Well, what that happens to have to do with men on the list, in feminism, and so forth is that the responsibility for ending patriarchy is mine, because I am in and of it and my activities and interactions can either help maintain it, engage it critically, end it, etc...and, in fact, I'm sure that at various times and in various ways mine do a little of both. As a man it would be awfully hard to avoid participating in things that maintain my own social location as privileged, whereas figuring out how to be a feminist (if we still call it that when it's a male's participatory activities we're referring to) or a whatchamacallme (if we don't call it that) who's doing or trying to do effective things to end patriarchy is not easy or obvious. NOT LISTENING to women sounds like a bad idea. Listening as a non-participant and obeying direct instructions without trying to figure things out on my own also sounds like a bad idea (then women are still taking responsibility for men's responsibilities). Well, it seems to me that in any feminist forum it would be useful to have separatist spaces that privilege women's voices, and to have other spaces that are clearly not separatist and in which the usefulness of engaging us menfolk, asking us to take feminist theory seriously, and respond back to you thoughtfully and as responsible participants is assumed. I don't even know about that, because maybe there is much to be gained by the ambivalence of having men located as participants-but-not-really, to semi-marginalize us. But I do think that such specialization would occasionally make sense.

How do you construct issues of separatism / men's participation and so forth in your classrooms? Do you think that the current confused and ambivalent concern about "Gender Studies" versus men in "Women's Studies" versus men ignoring and not being in ANY version of such things is a healthy and useful ambivalence, or should we try to reconcile it in theory and practice? Would specializing the forums as I mentioned be good by clarifying, or bad by dividing up a process that might be better left unified? And are any of these issues in some way reconcilable for purposes of this list so as to lessen the likelihood of tensions when one person's sense and expression of anger at male over-participation is another person's sense that a man who is trying to work with women against patriarchy has been unduly flamed?

(It is even decently likely that some folks could be annoyed that I am asking you to direct your attention to these matters, because once again here's a man whose posting could be viewed as a deflection of female attention from where it might otherwise be going. Please don't hate me personally for that; I get your point...)


Here also is my reply to some people on the women's studies list that worried that women who were intolerant of men on the list would drive men away from feminism...