My Role as a Male Intersectional Feminist

(Note: this is a departure from the UCLA sports-centric nature of this blog; deal with it.) 

Over the past few weeks—and, if I’m honest, the past year—a lot of my time has been spent debating with folks about feminism and women of color.

Though these haven’t always been the most productive of discussions—partly because I didn’t have the appropriate language at my disposal, but also because people who are genuine social justice advocates don’t enjoy disagreements with other social justice advocates, particularly around race and ethnicity—I’ve been pushed to a point where I can relatively clearly articulate the arguments I’m trying to make.

First, one thing needs to be made clear: just as there isn’t one way to solve big problems, there isn’t one single approach to the primary goal of feminism (which is gender equality). Just as there are a vast array of schools of black political thought (radical egalitarianism, black nationalism, disillusioned liberalism, black conservatism), there are different schools of thought that exist in feminism. This is why labelling yourself as simply a “feminist” is quite useless; if you believe that women and men should be treated equal, you’re a feminist, and in that vein, everyone should be a feminist. This is why so-called “anti-feminists” either have no clue what they’re talking about or are just blatantly sexist.

Feminists can’t wholly agree on things because there are different schools of thought. Case in point: while the right to agency and ownership of a woman’s body manifests itself in discussions about allowing women to have abortions, something that appears to be widely approved of by most feminists, there exists a split in the application of that principle to another hot debate: the legalization of prostitution. Should one believe that women have the right to do what they wish with their own body, it would be contradictory to that principle to want to disallow a woman from using her body for profit. Of course, a prevalent and important counterpoint is that selling one’s own body is perpetuation of objectification of the female body. This same problem crops up when discussing issues of pornography. (Of course, this is a gross mischaracterization and analogy, but it’s also a real source of feminist infighting. For a much, MUCH more sound equivalent to black political thought, read this piece on liberal vs. radical feminism.)

Now that we’ve made that clear, I move now to the point of this post: to discuss my role as a male who considers himself an intersectional feminist.

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, here’s a nice read. A (very crude) summarization is this: not all American women face the same issues. In fact, the challenges women face are tightly connected to—and maybe even dependent on—factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and so on.

This is the kind of feminist I identify as. As a Latino from a sketchy socioeconomic background, issues of color and class are my primary concerns. These, in my mind, are issues that dictate the different ways that women are subjugated in the US.

Because of this, though, I’ve often found myself in hot water with people who label themselves as simply “feminists.” Not because I care about these issues and they don’t, but because I’ve asked—well, demanded—that the issues they discuss be grounded in race/class, that their issues be articulated with intersectionality. Indeed, asking others to always imply that women of color are being considered while discussing feminist issues writ large never seemed right to me. Neither does the idea of developing and fighting for solutions that benefit “all women” first, and then addressing “the nuances” of race/class second. And neither does the notion that feminists of color fighting for intersectionality are actually dividing or hindering progress for women. Because the experiences of different kinds of women (race, class, etc) differ wildly, so do the challenges. Because the challenges of women vary (again, by race and class), so do the solutions that exist to address those challenges. And because those solutions vary, the idea of “unity” can differ, too.

But while I have strong opinions about these types of issues, I find myself wondering: what is my role as a male who identifies as an intersectional feminist? If no other woman challenges an instance of the clumping together of all women under one “brand” of mainstream feminism (titled simply, “feminism”), is it appropriate for me, a male, to challenge that? Do I essentially point an intersectional feminist to the offending instance and let the sparks fly? Or do I ignore it for the sake of keeping the peace, and so as not to exercise my male privilege by imposing my will (as we men are wont to do) upon the “offending” feminist?

In general, a rule of thumb for men in discussions around feminism are to listen to and empathize with women, something I’ve deliberately done in the specific realm of intersectional feminism. But what of the female feminists who are not exposed to the ideas of intersectional feminism? If they are unaware of this school of feminist thought, how will they know they have to listen to those voices? One could argue that it should be obvious to listen to women of color, but this isn’t always the case, and I don’t blame someone for their lack of awareness (you don’t know what you don’t know). Does that mean it suddenly becomes appropriate for me, a male, to raise awareness among these folks? (My hunch is no, and I haven’t listened to my hunches enough.)

I haven’t decided what’s most appropriate yet. My tendency has been to challenge these instances. The rationale being that while I am afforded some privilege as a male, the offender is usually afforded a fair amount of privilege as a white person. And while the offender usually is underprivileged as a woman, I myself am underprivileged as a Chicano, and take it upon myself to initiate discussions of race and ethnicity. The end result can usually be a clusterfuck of a race to the bottom, a result I’m quite deliberate in avoiding, but still haven’t masterfully avoided.

I will say that I enjoy the discussion, however offended some may be. I do not enjoy the personal attacks levied against me because I’m so careful to attack positions, in context, and not people (although the tone and language in which I share these thoughts is quite raw and confrontational, perhaps inviting these attacks in the first place).

I will say that I hope intersectional feminism takes a step into becoming a more prominent school of feminist thought. While fighting for women of color is fun, I recognize my own privilege; I despise the white savior complex, and fear that male intersectional feminists like myself build and perpetuate a “male savior complex.” I’ve tried my best to cling and refer to other women talking about intersectional feminism, and I’m more than happy to defer. Here’s hoping that the options to defer to intersectional feminists grow vastly so that feminism as a whole grows more robust and more united.

CS

UCLA Basketball: 2 Things these Bruins are Terrible at

If you haven’t been paying attention, the 2014-15 UCLA hoops season’s been disappointing.

And that’s putting it mildly. UCLA’s sitting at 11-9 on the season and 3-4 in conference. Seven of the Bruins’ nine losses have come by double-digits and Steve Alford’s squad hasn’t beaten a ranked team this season.

It’s bad. And while you can’t expect much from a team that lost so much personnel to the NBA draft and is replacing those bodies with incredibly raw (albeit highly-talented) 18-year-olds, this is the nature of college basketball.

In any case, whether or not you believe the program’s trajectory is trending in the right direction doesn’t matter—this current rendition of UCLA hoops is terrible. Statistically, the team is quite deficient in areas that have damned them time and time again. Here are two areas and numbers that tell the story of Bruin basketball up to this point:

Continue reading

2014 UCLA Football Preview: A Holistic Look at the Bruins’ Defense

UCLA’s most anticipated season in well over a decade is 21 days away.

In 21 days, the offseason hype will be merely a reference point to which everything the Bruins do will be compared. When UCLA takes the field against the Virginia Cavaliers on August 30, the scrutiny begins.

Because this UCLA team has been placed with some really lofty expectations. After a 10-win campaign in 2013 and an offseason which saw quarterback Brett Hundley make his call to come back for his junior year, the national media and the local media have put the Bruins on a pedestal.

(As a side note, for this writer, that pedestal is daunting. After 14 years of inconsistent management, curious personnel decisions, and shoddy football, the Bruins have gone from Pac-12 bottom-dwellers to national title contenders after just two years in head coach Jim Mora’s reign. The team’s certainly talented and the coaching staff’s implicit system for improvement puts them on a serious track for national contention long-term, but this rise is rather meteoric.)

Of course, receiving considerable hype has been the Bruin defense. This, of course, is also pretty terrifying, mainly because the UCLA defense had previously been considered to be the lesser of the two units.

In any case, hype or not, a season must be played. What does this UCLA defense look like, and what can we actually expect from them? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

UCLA Baseball Misses NCAAs After Injury-Riddled Season

Pac12LogoThe NCAA baseball tournament field was announced on Memorial Day, and UCLA—a recent fixture in college baseball’s postseason slate—was officially left off the bracket.

Of course, this is no surprise. UCLA finished with a 25-30-1 record, and thus weren’t considered a bubble team by any college baseball fans or observers.

In any case, this will be the first time the Bruins failed to make the postseason tournament since 2009, and only the second time since 2005. Since the arrival of head baseball coach John Savage, this is only the third time the Bruins have failed to make the NCAA regionals in his decade-long tenure. UCLA’s 25 wins is also the lowest win total of a John Savage-coached UCLA team since his inaugural season in 2005.  Continue reading

UCLA Basketball: Zach LaVine’s Ascent in NBA Mock Drafts Similar to Recruiting Trajectory

Zach_LaVineAt the end of UCLA’s basketball season in March, college hoops pundits and fans alike lambasted freshman guard Zach LaVine’s decision to turn pro.

The skepticism was reasonable, and perhaps even accurate. LaVine started off his short tenure with UCLA with a bang, averaging 13 points a game for the squad’s first 11 tilts. In that same time period, LaVine shot at a 55 percent clip (and at a 43 percent rate from downtown). But after that, LaVine’s performance suffered dramatically. After the Duke game (shortly before the start of the conference play), in which LaVine scored just 7 points off of 3-for-12 shooting, the freshman sensation would average just 7.8 points a contest, shooting at an embarrassing 38 percent clip from the floor, and a pedestrian 34 percent clip from downtown. Given his primary talents and skills were tailored around scoring, these are concerning numbers.

Yet, LaVine’s showing at the NBA combine has negated nearly all of that. With teams, scouts, and media members lauding his raw athleticism and disconnected set of skills, LaVine has somehow found himself squarely in position to be taken by a lottery team in the upcoming draft. After a disappointing season left NBA draftniks wondering whether LaVine would even be a first-rounder, it’s apparent that he’s probably not falling out of the lottery, and he’s most certainly not dropping into the late-20s.

This story should sound somewhat familiar to UCLA fans, though. During the 2012-13 season, and for some time afterwards, LaVine was shooting up the recruiting rankings, too.  Continue reading

UCLA Football’s Defense Bolsters Bruin’s Hype Legitimacy

For the first time in awhile, casual and serious observers of the college football world will keep a mindful eye on the UCLA football program. Jim Mora’s successful first season ended with a whimper, but in his second season as head coach, the Bruins managed to improve their overall record (from 9-5 to 10-3) despite a much more difficult schedule.

Even with that improvement, UCLA rarely looked like a national title contender for an entire game. Though the box scores tell a different story, the Bruins’ offense was normally the source of frustration. Noel Mazzone’s play-calling and decision-making came into question regularly, and his uncharacteristically conservative approach left the task of slaying solid teams almost entirely to his defense. Against Oregon, for example, the Bruins held Oregon to 14 points in the first half and 21 points through three quarters, but had only scored 14 points the entire game themselves. (Although it’s important to note that Brett Hundley looked indecisive at times, as is his custom, and the UCLA offensive line was a bit of a patch job for much of the season.) In many instances, UCLA’s defense anchored the Bruins, while the offense sometimes felt useless and even counterproductive.

Did an offensive romping of USC and Virginia Tech change all of that, though? Were the final two games of the season enough to convince observers that the Bruins were, indeed, for real, and had finally grown up, and that the offense was to take the credit?

Not entirely. The hype began when Brett Hundley announced he’d be returning for his junior season, in an announcement that got UCLA fans ready to run through a few walls.

Of course, the idea that Brett Hundley is the sole reason this team went from preseason top-25 team to national contender is one that’s pretty off-base. While quarterbacks are really damn important, it’s unreasonable to say that Hundley’s the sole reason.

Continue reading

UCLA is back, and so am I

A lot has changed since February 2012. Back then, UCLA football was an also-ran, a near-dumpster-fire program that saw Rick Neuheisel ousted as the (rightful) goat of the program’s descent. Today, though, UCLA football is a program on the rise, and a serious dark-horse for a shot at a national title.

Back then, “a shot at a national title” meant being ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in a kinda-sorta arbitrary system of ranking college football programs, what used to be the BCS. Today, having a shot at a natty means being ranked in the top-four by a select group of committee members, and duking it out in a playoff format.

Back then, I was a fresh-faced, first-year UCLA transfer student, wide-eyed and blinded by the big lights. Today, I’m a grizzled vet with a degree, workin’ at a non-profit full-time.

And back then, I gave up this blog — Sons of Westwood — for a new gig at Go Joe Bruin at FanSided.com. Today, I’m just a tweeter. But I’m also back from my writing hiatus. I love writing too much to stay away, and I love UCLA far too much to shut up about them and keep my thoughts contained within 140 characters.

My approach will be different, though. I won’t be blogging here for the purpose of building a portfolio or working my way through the ranks of the blogosphere. I won’t be presenting myself as an alternative to my old site, or that one site from across town.

I’ll just be here to write about UCLA and gain a dedicated audience; an audience that’ll listen to my opinions and, just maybe, disagrees with me on them.

Stay tuned, yo.