This is part of a long series of posts, which will be known as Feminist Fridays. Because individuality is at the heart of feminism, I’m going to open up this space to different people each week to share with us a little portion of their unique journey.
That’s right, that’s right, today’s the day that we let a man take the mic! So, I interviewed my friend Mitchell to get his thoughts on Feminism and mansplaining and privilege and all kinds of other things!
Now, one thing that I want you to know is that Mitchell is the funniest thing on my whole internet, if I’m being completely honest. I don’t bring that up because otherwise you won’t know—you’ll know, okay? I’m saying it to let you know why I chose this interviewee. Because in order to have brilliant comedic insight, one must be really smart and one must also posses real self-awareness.
And finally I want to say that even though I don’t open up this space to all that many men, Mitchell doesn’t speak for all men at all. In fact, he doesn’t even represent most men that I even know. But he represents the type of man that I am happy to have on my team. And that is why I asked him to speak to us, today.
So here, we go. First things first, I asked him to share a quick bio to start things off:
Mitchell Hargrave is 33 years old and lives with his brother and two dogs in Hutchinson, KS. He is a web developer, a Pisces (whatever that means), and a consummate curmudgeon. He likes short walks to the bar and long naps in the recliner.
Here’s what the critics have to say:
“The most trusted voice on MySpace.”
“What can I say about Mitchell that hasn’t already been stated in the court documents?”
“An exgirlfriend gave me a cat once and I named it after Mitchell. God I hate cats.”
So! Do you consider yourself a feminist?
If you don’t like that word, how should I say it? Some people are fine with a man being a feminist but then some take big issue. Maybe “Feminist Ally” is better?
I do consider myself a feminist, though it’s not a title I regularly self-apply. Mostly because I spend a lot of time online and have seen discussions about many progressive causes devolve to people attempting to deny each other’s bona fides rather than dealing with actual issues.
We progressives eat our own on things like this sometimes, and it’s counterproductive. There may be a reader or two who come into this post thinking “A male feminist? I’ll be the judge of that!” That’s cool, I guess, but I’m not going to expend a lot of energy trying to prove myself. Those people could call me a feminist ally if they want, and I’d say it’s fine. I do it myself a lot just to make things easier so I can stay on topic of actual issues.
I do my best to stay aware of my privilege. I stay mindful of my own words and behavior, and will do my best to correct when I act out of line. I defer to women about their experiences and don’t deny or diminish them.
What has influenced you in your desires for equality?
I’ve always had progressive leanings, and as I became more politically-involved a decade or so ago, I found a feminist blog by way of some other political topic. I don’t remember the name of the blog now, but it became part of my regular reading, and it just kind of flipped a switch about a perspective I hadn’t fully considered. Once I became conscious of that perspective, it made it easier to see inequality and appreciate efforts to fix it. I also became more able to filter my own words and actions through that perspective.
What do you have to say to other men/ people who don’t feel that feminism is necessary?
I would tell them that they’re wrong, and that it’s incredibly arrogant to assume that you could possibly know about an issue better than the people it affects.
I think one reason some people fight change is because accepting the need for change means admitting that there’s a problem, and admitting that there’s a problem could potentially mean admitting some personal culpability. I could see how it would totally rock a guy’s world if he regularly catcalls women (I truly can’t believe that’s still a thing. WHY!?), then is made aware of the fact that it’s a horrendous thing to do. That’s when they get hit with the choice of contributing to progress or being belligerently against it so they don’t have to confront their own actions.
Do you find that you are taken more seriously, when speaking on feminist issues than your female counterparts? I can’t think of any specific situations off-hand in which that’s happened during a discussion I’ve been part of, but I’m sure it has. I’ve certainly seen it many times, though. There’s that and the weird variation of “mansplaining,” in which a man–rather than disagreeing–will explain a woman’s exact point back to her as though he’s somehow made it more legitimate.
For the people who don’t know what that means–can you define “mansplain”?
And I’m wondering if you can offer tips to other men about how to avoid it.
Firstly, I’ll acknowledge the slight irony of a man explaining “mansplaining.”
Best as I can say, it’s when a man responds to a woman on any topic with the subtext that their opinion is more valid purely because of the fact that they are a man. This can come from a position of disagreement or agreement.
My tips would be to not try to argue against things you couldn’t possibly know and to ask yourself if what you’re about to say is just a rephrasing of what the person you’re talking to said. If either of those apply, you should probably just keep your mouth shut.
How does feminism play out in your day-to-day life? How do you put it into practice?
There’s the general fact that I just know that I’m not entitled to anything from or over women by sheer virtue of having a penis. When you make a conscious effort to keep that in mind, it eventually becomes a natural filter. I also have a really crude sense of humor and a weakness for telling a joke before I’ve necessarily thought it all the way through. Occasionally, I find myself apologizing for something that was maybe ill-conceived, but I’ll often do that without the need for prompting from somebody else. Nobody’s perfect.
Beyond that, I have a strong interest in politics, so I’m regularly posting and ranting about politicians’ infuriating preoccupation with legislating women’s bodies. The cognitive dissonance involved in thinking abortion should be illegal and also that contraception doesn’t need to be more available is pretty infuriating. That people in power (most of whom aren’t even directly affected) can hold two opinions that are not only completely wrong one their own, but totally contradictory when held together without EVERYBODY calling them on their bullshit is sickening. There’s entirely too much stuff like that.
How does it feel to be hailed as a hero?
Other than the time I lifted that bus off a person, I don’t know that I’ve ever been hailed as a hero.
Truthfully, this is the most I’ve ever discussed myself as a feminist. That’s how I prefer to keep it, because it’s not about me.
It’s really easy to approach any issue of inequality from a place of privilege. It’s mostly a matter of getting over yourself and not looking at it as a personal indictment every time it’s discussed. If something applies to you, nobody is asking you to make some grandiose apology over it unless it’s particularly egregious. Just internalize it and work on changing that behavior.
And if you’re only doing it as an attempt to win brownie points and get laid, everybody can tell. It’s gross and counter-intuitive. If that were my goal, my overall lack of success would have led me to stop a loooooong time ago.
I don’t even know that I’m that great of a feminist. I’m mostly just a guy who gets pissed about people being the victim of arbitrary privilege and likes to rant.
Thank you so much for talking to us, Mitchell. I appreciate it so, so much.
Thank you, friends, for asking for this interview! Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments section!
I appreciate you all so much!