16 Days of Activism – Day 6: What Is a White Male to Do?

As a white, cisgender, heterosexual male, I do not have much first hand experience in undergoing oppression. At least in the United States, I am in the majority of most social categories, so I have been in a position of privilege for all of my life. Because of this, it can appear disingenuous for a white male to join or be a leading voice for a movement brought about to end oppression, especially since some white males are in positions of power and are the agents of oppression. I think this fear of at best appearing disingenuous or at worst someone against whom the particular movement is fighting leads some in positions of power to stand on the sidelines rather than getting involved and making a difference. While some of these fears are warranted, I think too often it becomes a convenient excuse for inaction. Still, there are ways for those in positions of dominance to be a part of subversive movements designed to destabilize those very positions of dominance. And there are ways to do it well and ways not to do it well.

In terms of violence and oppression towards women and girls, I live in and have benefited from a society that in many ways favors men over women. Men on average earn more money than women in the same jobs. Men hold top positions in major corporations in a vastly disproportionate ratio to women. Women are often characterized as home dwellers solely responsible for raising children and keeping the home, while men are left free to go out into the world and do whatever they wish. However, while I have never paid more to a man than to a woman for the same job, while I have never hired a man over a woman for a top position in my company, while I have never expected women to stay in the home instead of venturing out into the workforce, I have necessarily benefited from this system and cannot be completely absolved from its existence. As such, I need to admit my involvement and privilege from such systems that oppress and do violence to women and girls. By not speaking out, I might not myself enact violence against women and girls, but I do maintain the status quo of a system that does. Hence, it is vital that I do something to both recognize how I’ve benefited from these systems and actively move toward ending violence and oppression. It is not acceptable to maintain the status quo.

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