But What About the Men, Goddammit?

Marissa Conway Smash the Patriarchy Feminist Foreign Policy

Feminist foreign policy is a means to achieve equality for all.

And as the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy has grown over the past few years, so too has my insistence that feminist foreign policy is not just a mechanism for increasing gender equality or women’s rights. That’s just one, small piece to a very sprawling puzzle involving a wide variety of complex power dynamics. Feminist foreign policy overhauls how foreign policy is conducted so that people whose ideas and experiences are typically left out of the policymaking process are instead included with enthusiasm. This doesn’t just result in stronger gender equality, but helps remedies the ills of racism, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism - you know, all the isms.

I clarify this to outline what I believe, as well as to note that when I speak of feminist foreign policy, I always make sure to provide fastidious clarity as to how I believe feminist foreign policy is good for all. And yet, if I do not explicitly mention how it’s helpful for white men too, then inevitably, come the end of any given event, a white man usually raises his hand and utters the inevitable:

But what about the men?!

Now, this question comes disguised in more innocuous forms, like: How can men get involved with the feminist foreign policy movement? How can men be better feminist allies? How does feminist foreign policy promote healthy masculinity? What are you doing to ensure gender balance in your own organisation and at your own events?

But no matter how you dress it up, the question ultimately means: What about me?

And I can’t begin to detail how exhausted I am by this question.

Because a question like this speaks more to the asker’s personal struggles with feminism and power-sharing than it does the feminist movement. Because if they can’t hear someone speak about supporting marginalised people without centring themselves as subject, it says a lot more about their discomfort with the idea of equality than it does about the feminist movement.

My job is to promote feminist foreign policy, not hold men’s hands and help ease them through their discomfort with feminism and the process of recognising their privilege. I’m not their parent, I’m not their teacher. The responsibility is on men and men alone to unlearn their toxic masculine behaviours. I am in no way, professionally or otherwise, obligated to help them individually through this process.

I’m still figuring out what response to such hand-holding requests suits me best. One day I’ll hopefully have helpful advice for dealing with such scenarios, but for today, this post serves as a reminder for myself and those who may read it that we are responsible for understanding our own privilege and our own growth, and to put that on someone else is an irresponsible wielding of power.

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I’m Marissa, a feminist and creative dedicated to making feminist foreign policy a reality around the world. Learn more →

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