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Suggestions from a male feminist

I love that so many of my sisters are organizing and being powerfully expressive. It’s a great time for that (it’s always a great time for that). I love marches, voices, meaningful discourse and advocacy. I have a great affinity and respect for “nasty” women.

It’s very strange to live in a culture where a lot of folks look at me oddly when I refer to myself as a feminist. I’ve found little value in explaining my views on the oppression of women to folks who don’t get it. Instead I preach some of the benefits of being connected to kick ass women and I readily attribute my personal and professional successes to surrounding myself with them.

I’m a huge believer in simplicity: Insecure men are easily threatened by powerful women. Men who are relatively secure in themselves are free to flourish by virtue of relating to women who are say things like:

  1. You’re wrong.

  2. You’ve overlooked this part…

  3. You could look at it from this point of view…

  4. I’m willing to help if you’re willing to…

  5. I’ll teach you.

I am endlessly grateful for what strong women have taught me. As I watched the protests this past weekend, I reflected on the struggles of some of my favorite women, most of whom work personally and professionally for social justice.

My favorite women are resilient. As Elizabeth Gilbert said, ““The women I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong and they handled it. They handled it a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.”

It brought to mind the fundamental things that too many of us overlook. My message to my sisters (fully aware that a male dictating solutions is somewhat ludicrous) is please, please, please take excellent care of yourselves.

Revolutions need to be sustainable.

I know your love for each other and I applaud the changes you seek. I also know that most healers and helpers (of both genders) are not nearly as self-accepting as we are accepting of others. We do not care for ourselves as well as we do for others. We uphold the value of oppressed people and too often devalue ourselves and our efforts.

By profession I am a “social worker.” I’ve never viewed that as part of my identity. I view any person who is trying to make the world a better place as a social worker. What I know about people in the healing and helping professions is that most of us have two sets of everything:

Two sets of values, perspectives, ways of judging and relating. We have one for ourselves and one for the rest of the world. We who have great empathy for others often lack compassion for ourselves. We who seek to change the world are often giving away what we also need to receive. We who seek social justice are often less than fair to ourselves

In the midst of all we seek to change, may we achieve greater awareness of our own needs and have a greater willingness to meet them. May we notice the ways in which we oppress ourselves and seek both lovingly and pragmatically to overcome them. Adages ring true:

It is not selfish to take care of yourself while serving the world. It is necessary.

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