by Cristy C
This is not a review of the conference as an event. That will be forthcoming after we’re back home. I wanted to share some self-reflection at this point in my conference experience.
I’m having one of those conference experiences where my tears seem right below the surface, and just about anything could bring them out. This is in addition to having a wonderful time with the UpRoot team, including our new colleague Kole. We’ve had lots of jokes, a few beers and more late nights than I’m used to. But there are two things that have bubbled to the surface that I need to unpack. One is about self-awareness and the other is about accountability in The Movement.
Self-Awareness of an Uncomfortable Truth
I need feminist men. It is not an overstatement to say that this is revolutionary for me. I have built a life around my own requirement that I am never dependent on men, and to realize that I have a need to have feminist men in my life is a challenge to meet, for sure. I am fortunate to know feminist men, I currently work closely with two. But I never thought or felt that it was a need for them to be around. Something in the process of getting to know Kole (Welcome!) as well as meeting some of the other men who are doing pro-feminist work around the country like Sacchi Patel, Joseph Coe and others, brought to my attention what I have been missing.
I don’t mean that I need feminist men to make me feel safe, or to carry heavy things for me, or walk me to my car late at night. I don’t need feminist men to date me or buy my dinner (though one did buy my lunch today), or tell me I am beautiful, smart or funny (though they are all welcome to). I need feminist men* to show up, support me, and bear witness to my life as a loudmouth feminist badass living in a rape culture.
Accountability Around Engaging Men in the Movement
The theme of this conference is Preserving Our Roots While Looking To The Future. I submitted a carefully planned out workshop proposal around the issue of language in The Movement and how the ways we talk about domestic violence and sexual assault are hurting survivors and setting us back. This is an issue I care about, and have been invited to present on in various places. The content relates directly to the conference theme, and several of the presenters I have seen so far have given casual mention to how important language is-in other words, the conversation is one that people want to have. My workshop was rejected.
My colleague and fellow UpRooter, Mark, who has only two years of experience in The Movement, was invited to present on a panel about engaging men in feminist work. Mark is awesome, and deserves attention for his terrific work. This is not about short-changing him or his efforts, nor is it about Mark lacking accountability because he generally does not.
To be perfectly frank, Mark does what he does because I gave him the opportunity. I trusted him, I taught him why feminism matters and I supported and helped him through his journey so far. I will continue to do so, by the way. Mark matters to me, and he matters to this Movement.
This month, I celebrate and honor 15 years of doing this work. I’ve answered crisis lines, advocated in the courts, gone on-call in the middle of the night, trained hundreds of people, written thousands of dollars in grant applications, cried about femicides, marched in protest and I currently run a fantastic prevention program in the most populous county in Michigan (and last year, we provided our programming to over 17,000 people).
I have put on conferences before, and I know that my workshop being rejected and Mark being invited to present aren’t directly related. My issue is the microaggression, a subtle display of valuing what a man has to offer more than what a woman has to offer. This is especially hurtful in a feminist space, from fellow feminists.
And this is one of those times when I need feminist men to show up.
* This does not supersede or compete for my need for feminist women, just to be clear.