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On male allies

On male allies in our local art, activist and music scene:

As an 18 year old fresh out of high school – one brimming with misogynists, abusers, rapists and the ‘Roastbusters’- encountering men who wore nail polish, had heard of bell hooks, and derided dude bro masculinity was a welcome change. A combination of naivety, loneliness, and a vague sense of optimism meant that I put these men and their social circles on a pedestal that I wished to join. This didn’t happen. Very quickly I realised that these men were no different to the ones I had spent five years trapped in class with. Except,  they had more insidious and sinister ways of concealing their misogyny. This admittedly was a hard blow. I had felt hope and a sense of solidarity, and now distrust, anger and fear. Despite my social circle’s feminist and radical leanings many of us continue to welcome and support these abusive and misogynistic men. Self-described feminist artists/musicians/designers have revealed themselves to be anything but. Still to this day little effort has been made to hold these men accountable for their actions.

I am lucky to not have experienced any of this abuse first hand. I write this because I care about women, both those I know and don’t who have been subject to physical and/or emotional abuse at the hands of these men. I write this because I cannot believe that this behaviour continues to happen and that nothing gets said or done. Whilst it is not my place to name names, I hope that in the near future the men we know who are guilty are named and held accountable.

There is nothing progressive about letting abusive men who front as feminist via Sensitive Men™ rhetoric dominate our social circles. There is nothing progressive about ignoring the voices of women who have been personally affected and of those who talk about and attempt to call out this behaviour. Calling it gossip, hate mongering, drama, or misinformed rumours is a form of silencing and to not directly acknowledge the misogyny of these men is to be complicit in it. If you are sheltering and supporting these men then you are no feminist.

I care about radicalism that emphasises survival and empathy rather than hostility and destruction. In saying that, marginalised peoples are entitled to all feelings of anger. However it’s the anger that lends itself towards healing and transformation that I find truly progressive. The anger I feel towards these men and those who continue to support them has for the most part been internalised and therefore poisonous.  I hope that this writing generates awareness and at some point change.

If feminism doesn’t prioritise women then it isn’t feminism. It is not enough to self-identify as a feminist. As artists, musicians, writers, and/or activists, these radical political movements require commitment and time. To engage in such a liberal and empty manner is disrespectful and in the end is nothing but disingenuous. Ask yourself: do you care about women? If not, then don’t pretend, and if yes, then act like it.

tips for menN tips for women

Lila Bullen-Smith


  1. This is great and worthy, especially given how hot it is to be a “feminist” rn (feminist as just a word; feminist as a slogan on a t-shirt; feminist on your tindr profile). I love that this was written and published.

    However, I wonder about it not being your place to name names. Why is it not your place? If not you, who? Do you feel it is something that only someone in a position of power can do?

    I ask because that is exactly how I feel, personally. Naming names makes you vulnerable, and accountable. I am not saying your sentiments are any less valid for not wanting to go so far, simply that I wouldn’t want to either, and it is because I am scared.
    But then I wonder, who will?

  2. The thing is – both groups are extreme – everything is action and reaction. In the past it was (is) male domination, no votes for women..along comes ‘feminism’ – this strengthened ‘masculinism’ ! Action – reaction. I think the answer is just’ be’…don’t label yourself – all violence is committed in the name of belief. If you want to be head of a big corporation and there’s a glass ceiling – start your own business and just leave the men out. The protests and digging in of heels and ‘isms’ just perpetuate the divide. Get on with life.

  3. Hana says

    Lol OK I don’t know what the above comment is talking about. Self identify and align yourself with whatever isms you want as long as you feel empowered and never stop questioning and unlearning. That is living lol. I think there are ways to enact small changes especially in the age of mass information, but in terms of naming names I think it is a very vulnerable position to place yourself within. How do you even find the language to describe the series of microaggressions women/poc/non binary persons experience daily into something both tangible and reactive? there are ways around it. I love this article, but I kept feeling as though it’s reductive to focus solely upon the oppressions women experience, because feminism is so much more than that. It is a term that (to me) denotes and understanding of the intersection of multiple oppressions: class, race, gender, sexuality etc. I think this dialogue needs to be continued outside of these perimeters. Lol at the faux progressive arts sector. I’m sick of being in rooms filled with men who have hurt myself or my friends, but no one talks to the perpetrators about their behaviour. I’m sick of going to exhibitions of all white men, but if there’s an all woman show it’s inherently framed as ‘feminist’ such to assert the ‘otherness’ of non male identifying bodies. Even if such a show is underpinned by feminist ideology its still reductive. I find that there are so many male ‘feminists’ who identify with this term so much more adamantly than I would, yet will talk over me and just not understand how to be an ally. It isn’t my job to teach them either. Ughh I’m feeling this. Thankyou though. Sorry I rant x

  4. Lila says

    I completely agree with you Hana, I only care for feminism that takes into account the myriad of intersecting experiences and oppressions whether it be race, transmisogyny, class, disability, sexuality etc. I struggled writing this article whilst trying to remain true to that belief (as I was basing it purely on what I had been told and didn’t feel comfortable assuming more information/asserting other allegations) however there are many other women/trans feminine/nb/poc who are far more equipped to write on those experiences than I (and do!). This article, in its cursory briefness, merely points a finger towards a major issue within our social circles in and I hope more thorough, reactive and inclusive discussions will be had as this article is definitely not the be all and end all. A collaborative project that brings together many voices surrounding this issue is perhaps what is needed, as often these discussions (being incredibly personal and difficult to talk about) are had conversationally and intimately and therefore don’t reach other platforms and audiences. I 100% share your frustrations with the NZ art scene and how difficult it is to navigate as women/transfeminine/nb/of colour/indigenous/disabled/lgbtqi etc. Thank you so much for your feedback xx

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