The Need for Allies – A Response to “Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect” by Debra L. Spar

There’s been a truly fabulous Daily Beast Article circulating amongst my friends on my facebook newsfeed, and i wanted to share it here with all of you. It’s entitled “Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect,” and it is written by the president of Barnard college, Debra L. Spar. Already a fan of this women’s college leader, i was eager to peruse her eloquently written piece – and even more grateful for the message contained therein.

I encourage you all to read the full article but, in the event you’re perusing this on your iPad while dinosaurs on your spaceship are grazing nearby and you don’t have a minute to waste, here’s the crux of her argument:

“Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us miserable. It was supposed to make us free; to give women the power to shape their fortunes and work for a more just world. Today, women have choices that their grandmothers could not have imagined. The challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely, striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all, but for lives and loves that matter.”

Furthermore, Spar enumerates the importance of including and educating men as part of the feminist mission. I found this refreshing, as i’m still slugging my way through a vast body of 1970s feminist literature that predominantly advocates for lesbian separatism (which is not inherently a bad thing, just not my personal lifestyle preference). I owe an enormous debt to our foremothers who did claim women needed their own space. These women carved out a path where none really was before, and it is due to Mary Daly’s fervent advocacy for the Sisterhood of the Cosmic Covenant (etc) that i am not able to say there can be a middle ground that is inclusive of all gender identities.

But that’s the thing: all genders have to be included when we’re talking about equality. As Spar articulates:

“…if women are ever to solve the ‘women’s problem,’ they need to acknowledge that they cannot do it alone. Men must help. This isn’t because women aren’t smart enough, or unable to garner sufficient power. It’s just the basic math. Women account for only 50 percent of the population and far less than 50 percent of the decision-making seats in any organization. If women want to change the world, they need to involve men as well.”

To me, this rang as an obvious, “Well obviously!” I have been privileged and blessed with phenomenal male feminists and role models in my life; my sophomore english teacher, a cisgendered white man, was the first educator to expose me to the work of Marilyn Frye. It was through class conversations centered on Frye’s article “Oppression” that i began to call myself a feminist at all. My father was the parent who wanted me to explore women’s colleges – and it was he who first validated that going to Mount Holyoke would be the best education for me as a woman. Not all women are so privileged, but i argue that all women-identifying people must understand that our work cannot be achieved without strong, dedicated, loving, and supportive allies.

And this is already happening. My roommate recently exposed me to the “We Can Stop It” campaign created and implemented by the Scotland Police Forces addressing rape culture. This campaign fundamentally seeks to subvert victim-blaming within rape culture precisely because it is targeted at men. This doesn’t have to stop with such campaigns, though – this same anti-vicitim-blaming attitude must carry over into all facets of education. I don’t think this means compromising women-spaces, but i do think it means we have to explain why such spaces must exist. It means understanding that sexism harms all people and therefore all people should be involved in addressing our sexist society. As Spar says, “making a world that is better for women also demands that women work together.” And i’d say part of this working together is working together to educated our peers of all gender identities for the common cause.

Thank you, President Spar, for your beautiful and important piece.

current jam: ‘not with haste’ OFF OF THE NEW MUMFORD & SONS ALBUM OH MY GAW.

best thing: twinnings earl grey.

also: i am on TripAdvisor now, where i post mega-condensed reviews of restaurants & things, should you like to follow me!

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