On Crack Cocaine Addicts (Or, Why This Man Doesn't Call Himself A Feminist)
Please note: I am not saying that men cannot be feminists, and I am not definitively saying men should never call themselves feminists. This is an explanation of my own choice not to claim the label myself. If someone wishes christen me a feminist, I'll accept, but I won't claim the title.
For this analogy to work, I need something highly addictive that has a reputation of causing slightly psychotic effects while leaving the taker fairly capable of functioning. Crack cocaine does it perfectly, so I’m using it.
Suppose everyone were addicted to crack. Now, some people – the privileged – had more crack than others – the marginalized. I mean, long ago, before they were born, the whole system had been setup, and the privileged are used to it now. They’re accustomed to a daily dose – a daily dose so large that it keeps the marginalized, who are JUST as addicted to crack, significantly away from the crack they so desperately want. And it’s not like this can just change – the entire infrastructure is set up so that the privileged get crack and the minorities don’t.
So the marginalized find each other, and together they create a fairly formidable front. They infiltrate and get into the infrastructure, changing the way the crack gets distributed. A few of the privileged start pushing back.
Eventually, though, a few of the privileged start to notice that pushing back isn’t working, and the marginalized have even started to use that pushback in order to get more crack, leaving less for the privileged. To be sure, the privileged still have more crack than the marginalized. But that doesn’t change the fact that they don’t have as much as they did before, and because they are used to having the same amount of crack, they desperately want as much as they had before. But the marginalized have it. Let’s be clear – it’s not like these are bad people or anything. They just desperately – more desperately than they even know – need their crack consumption to get back to what it was before.
So they go to the marginalized individuals, and say, “We’re friends. I’m one of you now.”
And the marginalized person says, “No. You just want my crack, now that you’ve lost some of yours.”
And the privileged person says, “I swear, man, I don’t want your crack. I just wanna help you out.”
“Well, why didn’t you help me out before?”
“Because I didn’t realize the inequality! If I did, I would have totally helped you – and besides, most of what happened in the past wasn’t even my fault.”
But the argument doesn’t really matter. The privileged person has a ton of crack and access to the still more powerful crack infrastructure of the privileged, so many of the marginalized people don’t carefully question the motives and are just glad to have someone among them who has so much crack.
So the privileged person comes in with a shitload of crack, and because he has so much crack, people who want crack in the marginalized community start catering to him, and he gathers more control over who gets how much crack. And eventually his “help” becomes a right to control the amount of crack the marginalized groups get, at will…and any crack they get becomes, effectively, his crack. And he starts picking it off – subtly, slowly, getting as much crack as he had before. It’s not like it’s all intentional. He just…is addicted to crack, like everyone else, and can’t help himself.
Eventually, the marginalized individuals start to notice the side effects of getting even less crack. They start to see the privileged person not only getting the crack he originally had, but as much of their own crack as he can get away with. And now they can’t even fight back to get that crack back as well, because their entire infrastructure has been infiltrated and controlled by the privileged person and his crack.
But eventually they do splinter off. And now they’re angry. And at first the privileged person (and the marginalized people he’s now co-opted) start fighting them, viciously. But they start to see that doesn’t work, and at that point, the privileged person comes over and says, “Hey, let me help you out.”
And the marginalized group, learning their lesson from before, says, “No. Because you have all that crack, and will effectively control us and manipulate us with it. We’d like to do this ourselves. You can support us from a distance, but no, you can’t be part of our movement – at least, not until we have the same amount of crack as you do, and we can do this on a level playing field.”
Now, read this story again, and replace the word “crack” with “privilege.”
And that’s why I don’t call myself a feminist. If you want to call me one, I won't protest. But I'm not insisting on the title.