G.D. just shared this beautiful personal essay by Byron Hurt at The Root:
Like most guys, I had bought into the stereotype that all feminists were white, lesbian, unattractive male bashers who hated all men. But after reading the work of these black feminists, I realized that this was far from the truth. After digging into their work, I came to really respect the intelligence, courage and honesty of these women.
Feminists did not hate men. In fact, they loved men. But just as my father had silenced my mother during their arguments to avoid hearing her gripes, men silenced feminists by belittling them in order to dodge hearing the truth about who we are.
I learned that feminists offered an important critique about a male-dominated society that routinely, and globally, treated women like second-class citizens. They spoke the truth, and even though I was a man, their truth spoke to me. Through feminism, I developed a language that helped me better articulate things that I had experienced growing up as a male.
First, we all lack perspective, and we’re all thus comprised of biases. We are all, per se, not other people. The problem with being a man and lacking such perspective on what it means to live as a woman, here or anywhere else in the world, is the temptation to define what is broadly, truly male experience as a sort of default perspective on, well, anything. This is not just a question of perspective so much as it’s a question of privilege; it is nothing for me to think of street harassment, for instance, as a niche or trivial issue, because I have for 23 years of my life lived free from that worry. In the most selfish sense, it does not concern me. That is how privilege works. That is how privilege inflames apathy.
I spent much of my childhood growing up in the care of my mother and my sister. You would think that those formative stages, under those circumstances, would have afforded me much necessary perspective on women, but it didn’t really; I was a child, so I thought like a child, and so it was easy to draw stupid conclusions or otherwise forgo the insights that fully forged Hurt only years after hanging so close to his mom.
In fact, to this day I draw stupid conclusions about women and much of the rest of humanity. (Of course, I am in many ways still a child.) I am comfortable admitting when I cannot fathom or tolerate a given argument about gender made against me — rather, made against my perspective: straight, black male. But in countering others’ arguments and observations, even when I feel most sincerely that I am correct, I am made insecure, suspicious that maybe I’m just not trying hard enough to think beyond myself. This insecurity is, importantly, my own problem, and the need to try harder is a healthy problem to confront. I believe this shows that even the best of intellectual intentions, even the best efforts toward empathy, are often strained by whatever your perspective in the grand scheme.
What I mean here overall is, the infrastructures of privilege that societies erect are often ugly, and so we look away when convenient. It’s easy to overlook where we stand in these hierarchies — except, of course, when we’re eyeing through cracks in the ceiling to see who looms above us. But you’ve got to look out below. Take care to look for a mirror as well, I remind myself.