he present discussion on
the list. I do welcome constructive critcism, on or off list, as I
plan to develop the piece into a journal length article this summer.
The Promise of a
Male Feminist Epistemology
I believe the truth about any subject only comes when all sides of the
are put together, and all their different meanings make a new one.
writes the missing parts of the other writer's story. And the
whole truth is what I am after (Walker 1983, p. 49).
A great deal of feminist research and what is taught in women's and
studies courses is about experiences of being oppressed and the unjust
of these all too common and quite harmful societal realities. Having
experiential appreciation of oppression is often seen as a requisite for
feminist consciousness and the basis of a feminist epistemology (Stanley
Wise 1993). Being a white male from an upper-middle class
life partner is a woman, as defined by Young (1988), I honestly can
experiences of being oppressed. Initially it would appear that I, and
like me, would have little to contribute feminism.
Yet the truth is that I do have an
experiential appreciation of
oppression albeit as the oppressor. All of my social statuses have
me significant amounts of unearned privilege and unlimited opportunities
being oppressive to others and, especially when I was younger, I have
and all too successfully embraced the role of being the oppressor.
paradoxically, I believe herein lies the possibility of a male feminist
Over the years I have increasingly
felt that the most fundamental and
promising aspects of feminism is its worldview that all forms of
must be challenged and eliminated, as an egalitarian future is necessary
ensure survival on our planet (Ewing and Schacht 1998). If one takes the
stance that comprehensive knowledge about any topic, such as oppression,
only made possible through the inclusion of multiple experiential
(Haraway 1988; Schacht 2000a), then the story of the oppressor-my
obviously be an important part of the whole story being told and,
the eradication oppression. Thus, I believe that it is men's
being an oppressor, firmly grounded in a feminist perspective, that
the basis of a male feminist epistemology.
As one might guess, the praxis of
male feminist epistemology calls for
different classroom, research, and personal practices on my part
undertaken by women. The pedagogy of my male feminist outlook involves
explaining why I believe the unearned privilege I have been afforded is
unjust (Schacht forthcoming), acknowledging just how harmful my
actions have been to others (Schacht 1997), trying to envision
ways of being in the world (Schacht 2000b), and learning ways to perform
equality in relation to others (Schacht 1998). The efficacy of
is not just found in my classes, but equally, if not more so, in other
mundane, everyday interaction settings I find myself in. By trying
consistent with the "rhetoric of equality" that I promote in
live it-in all settings I find myself in, I have found ways to have
non-oppressive relationships with others and to experience
emotionally based feelings of equality with others.
Accordingly, all of my ethnographic
work over the past 10 years has
been about me revisiting past oppressive attitudes that I have held and
behaviors that I have undertaken to better understand their cause,
and consequence. As a young man I was actively involved in sports,
always wondered why such activities were so meaningful and important to
especially as I grew older and started to embrace a feminist outlook.
undertaking a two year ethnography of male rugby players, I could better
appreciate the tenuous, often insecure basis of my masculine
identity, ultimately grounded in the misogynist rejection of anything
associated with the feminine, which compelled me to continually prove I
"man"-often in extremely harmful ways to both women and other
who would be witness to my manhood act (Schacht 1996). Like many
homophobia was also an important part of my world growing up. Now,
seven years into an ongoing ethnography of various glbt communities, I
longer repulsed by same-sex affections, such as a man kissing me, and
come to personally treasure my emotionally based friendships with gay
(Schacht 1998, 2000c). I have always been amazed and, eventually,
by how effortlessly I have been able to realize white male privilege
throughout my lifetime.
Presently, my spouse, Lisa Underwood, and I are undertaking an
fraternity members (all friends of ours) exploring how they do privilege
part of the study having a strong advocacy component where we actively
publicly challenge their misogynist attitudes and behaviors. In short,
personal is political" of a male feminist epistemology, at least as
experientially come to understand it, not only entails me revisiting
oppressive attitudes I have held and behaviors I have undertaken, but
envisioning, promoting, and acting upon non-oppressive ways of being in
world to take their place.
Ultimately, a male feminist
epistemology recognizes that I must travel
disparate path than women to realize a feminist worldview and,
correspondingly, must play a different role in sharing the promise of a
feminist outlook with others (Schacht and Ewing 1997). It also
means that I
must not only validate the experiences of women and other oppressed
but also acknowledge and be accountable for the intimate role I have
played in their oppression. Recognizing the harm and suffering
caused by my
oppressive attitudes and actions has forced me to change many of my
and behaviors. By telling my different story of the why's, the
the harms of being an oppressor, I hope to become a meaningful
in the "whole story being written," ultimately done in hopes
non-oppressive stories might be envisioned and acted upon (Bystydzienski
Schacht, in press). I believe that this is both the basis and
promise of a
male feminist epistemology.
Bystydzienski, Jill M. and Steven P. Schacht (eds.). In press.
Radical Alliances Across Difference: Coalition Politics for the New
Millennium. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield
Ewing, Doris W. and Steven P. Schacht. 1998. "Introduction."
Pp. 1- 17 in
Feminism and Men: Reconstructing Gender Relations, edited by Steven P.
Schacht and Doris W. Ewing. New York: New York University Press.
Haraway, Donna. 1988. "Situated Knowledges: The Science
Question in Feminism
and the Privilege of a Partial Perspective." Feminist Studies 14:
Schacht, Steven P. and Doris Ewing. 1997. "The Many Paths of
Men Travel Any of Them?" Journal of Gender Studies 6:159-176.
Schacht, Steven P. 1996. "Misogyny On and Off the
'Pitch': The Gendered
World of Male Rugby Players." Gender & Society
Schacht, Steven P. 1997. "Feminist Fieldwork in the
Misogynist Setting of
the Rugby Pitch: Becoming a Sylph to Survive and Personally Grow."
of Contemporary Ethnography 26:332-63.
Schacht, Steven P. 1998. "The Multiple Genders of the
Court: Issues of
Identity and Performance in a Drag Setting." Pp. 202-224 in
Men: Reconstructing Gender Relations, edited by Steven P. Schacht and
W. Ewing. New York: New York University Press.
Schacht, Steven P. 2000a. "Using a Feminist Pedagogy as a Male
Possibilities of a Partial and Situated Perspective." Radical
Schacht, Steven P. 2000b. "Paris is Burning: How Society's
Systems Makes Drag Queens of Us All." Race, Gender &
Schacht, Steven P. 2000c. "Gay Female Impersonators and
Construction of Other." Pp. 247-268 in Gay Masculinities,
edited by Peter
Nardi. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Schacht, Steven P. Forthcoming. "Teaching About Being An Oppressor:
Personal and Political Considerations." Men and
Stanley, Liz and Sue Wise. 1993. Breaking Out Again:
Feminist Ontology and
Epistemology. New York: Routledge.
Walker, Alice. 1983. In Search of Our Mothers' Garden.
Young, Iris. 1988. "The Five Faces Of Oppression."
Steven P. Schacht
Department of Sociology
Plattsburgh State University of New York