Straight Out of the Closet: Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege

THE ESSAYS IN this collection reveal how Black men prioritize and negotiate gender and sexuality in their antiracist politics. The collec­tion does not, however, constitute a Black male feminist text. For one thing, not all the essays reflect feminist ideological commitments. For another, not all the contributors would identify as feminists or pro­feminists. A Black male feminist collection remains to be published.

However, several of the contributors to this volume, most notably Michael Awkward and Luke Harris, have begun the project of theo­rizing about the possibilities for a contemporary (Black) male femi­nist criticism. This epilogue is my contribution to this effort. Here, I urge antiracist men to embrace and assert a feminist political identity. Male assertions of feminist identity are, of course, controversial. Such assertions raise serious concerns about: (1) territory (whether femi­nism is women’s political terrain); (2) "safe spaces" (whether femi­nism is a place for women to escape male epistemological domi­nance); and (3) authenticity (whether feminism is constructed on, and intended to be a voice for, women’s experiences). Significantly, in ar­guing that men should identify as feminists, I am not suggesting that men should endeavor to speak in a "different" (read: women’s) voice; male feminism should not attempt to replicate female feminism. The last thing we want or need is more men—under the guise and osten­sible legitimacy of feminism—presuming to define the nature of women’s experiences. Women "do not want you [men] to mimic us, to become the same as us; we don’t want your pathos or your guilt; and we don’t even want your admiration (even if it’s nice to get it once in a while). What we do want, I would say what we need, is your work. And like all serious work, that involves struggle and pain."1

Part of the work of male feminism, the "struggle and the pain," should involve men coming to terms with and challenging male and heterosexual privilege. This, then, is the focus of this epilogue—ex­posing and contesting the male experiential side of hetero-patriarchy.

I want to begin by addressing the men and feminism controversy. As Kimberle Crenshaw observes in her foreword, feminist discourse about men and feminism is, by and large, a discourse about white men and white feminism. There are very few voices of color. My con­tribution will attempt to explicitly racialize the debate, identify some of the concerns Black feminists might have about Black men’s rela­tionship to Black feminist theory, and provide an indication of how Black male feminists might respond to these concerns.