Men, Their Literary Prowess and the Movement
Posted November 23, 2009on:
by Amber, Rochester SDS
So I’ve been thinking a lot about Robin’s post about men and their literary prowess and this is a result of what came out of my brain. Hopefully it all makes sense.
I know full well the idea of it seeming that men are the ones doing all the reading of books about radical politics, (i.e. anarchism, racism, and histories in general). I can remember numerous times where I have been with my radical male friends and almost every single time they tell me about this book they found or this new book that they just read and suggest I read it. Or even being at SDS meetings, thinking back to all the meetings I’ve attended I know for a fact that the majority if not every single time someone recommends a book to read or offers up a book for someone to borrow it’s a male doing that. The one thing that is a huge issue for me is when a male says “Oh you should read this book. It’s a short read, I read it in a day.” Someone told me that about Chomsky on Anarchism, it took me around a week to get through the first ten or so pages and I remember eventually giving up on it because it was taking so long for me to read it.
In relation to myself, I also identify with the fact that I find it hard to get through all these books on various different ideologies, issues, or histories. I swear I have like nearly ten books that I’ve gotten over the past year that I need to read/finish reading. And for me that’s something that’s always made me think and wonder because I have always been one of those people who absolutely loves reading. I was the kid that everyone expected to read thirty books in a summer, I read Harry Potter in a day. So for me to attempt reading these books to educate myself about the history of my views, to educate myself about the issues that I’m fighting for I get disillusioned when I find myself having a hard time reading or even finding the time to read these books and look to see that all my friends who are men are churning out reading book after book and I’m still stuck on chapter three. I sit there and envy, how the heck do they manage to do that when that exact thing is something I’m used to doing.
Then they proceed to engage in these conversations throwing around terms and names of ideologies that I’ve never even heard of and I feel completely lost and left out. You try to follow them but eventually you just find yourself zoning out and completely losing yourself in whatever conversation they’re having despite your attempts to pay attention in the hopes of learning something and not feeling completely clueless.
Then there’s also the fact that males who have done all this reading, who are well educated on the various different subjects (or at least like to think that they’re well educated on the subject) think that they hold the authority over whether or not we know what we’re talking about, whether we know the specifics of what we’re allowed to believe. I remember when I first began thinking and reading about anarchism, identifying as an anarchist I had a male friend tell me “Well do you really know enough to call yourself one? Have you read any books? Have you done any research?” The way he presented himself and questioned me gave across the impression that with my very basic idea of anarchy I wasn’t allowed to identify as an anarchist simply because I hadn’t done my research, I didn’t know enough about it. He constantly questioned me about this until, sadly to say, I stopped doing any of the research and reading I had been doing on anarchy as well refrained from identifying as an anarchist simply because of the idea that had been pounded into my head that I hadn’t read enough about it so therefore I couldn’t be one. Later I came to realize that whole was a bunch of bullshit and proudly identified as an anarchist despite my friend’s comments because how the fuck did he think that he had the authority to tell me what I was allowed to believe, what to identify as and I certainly wasn’t going to let him determine my beliefs in any way, shape or form. Last spring this same friend when I had been talking to a friend about anti-capitalism he butted in saying “Well I would really like to have a discussion with you about that sometime because I feel you could learn something.” And to me it’s people like this who contribute to the fact that the anarchist movement is dominated by males. It’s perfectly all right if they just identify as an anarchist or align with some sort of radical left politics without knowing too much about it. No one calls them on their shit. But if a female identifies as one, there are those who feel that they have to make sure they know enough about the movement, the history, the issues that are being fought for before they can be “allowed” to identify as such. And to me that’s a load of bullshit that we need to prove ourselves before we can actually fully identify, without criticism, with what we truly believe.
So, I guess what I’m saying, wondering is if anyone has had similar experiences or ideas on how to work towards resolving these issues. Have you seen this in what’s going on around you?