Why I don’t do activism with men any more…

How radical are you??? For the ‘lefty’ male!

1. Do you ascribe to either:
A) Passive-Aggressive Patriarchy:” (often come across as a victim/helpless/in need/dependent and get women in your life to be your physical and emotional caretakers? to buy you things? to take care of your responsibilities? pick up your slack? use guilt or manipulation to get out of your responsibilities and equal share of the work? do you treat your female partner/female friends/fellow female activists like a “mum” or your secretary?)
B) “Aggressive Patriarchy:” (Do you often take charge? Assume that a woman can’t do something right so you do it for her? Believe that only you can take care of things? Think that you always have the right answer? Treat your female partner/female friends/fellow female activists like they’re helpless, fragile, or weak? Do you put down such women or minimize their feelings? Do you belittle their opinions?)
c) None of the above??

(In my experience  as a female activist who has worked with men, these 2 types of male behaviours were not uncommon…..)

2. Would you put sexism on a par with racism, for example?

(Certainly many men I’ve worked with would stand up for issues of racism, even if they didn’t fully understand the issue or the context…. but not join the dots to issues of sexism and would not treat these subjects of oppression with equal relevance and seriousness.)

3. Do you think sexism is something others do and never check yourself to see if you behave in similar ways?

(One of the main ideas I found was that sexism was somehow viewed as something that just happens ‘in other cultures’ – (a somewhat imperialist/racist assumption!) and certainly not something that these men looked at in their own behaviour)

4. How many of the following activities do you contribute to in your home (this is a partial list of what it takes to run a household) :
A: Sweep and mop floors and clean carpets
B: Wash and put away dishes
C: Clean the cooker, countertops, sink and appliances if they are messy and after you have prepared food
D: Collect money, do food shopping, put away food and make meals for people you live with.
E: Do house laundry (kitchen towels, bathroom hand towels, washable rugs, etc.)
F: Clean up common room spaces, even if it’s not your mess.
G: Pick up others slack
H: Deal with rubbish, recycling, and compost
I: Take care of bills, rent, utilities, personal admin.
j: Clean bathrooms and make sure bathroom is clean after you use it
K: Feed, clean up after kids and take care of household pets.


5. Is feminism a priority to you? Do you see anti sexism as part of your politics?

(Again, not many men I’ve done activism with viewed sexism as important, many viewing women as somehow equal now, despite a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. Basically many didn’t want to know that evidence anyway. When raising issues of sexism common responses were how these issues related to men too, even when they didn’t, or how feminism ‘excluded’ them even when they were welcome to get involved in anti-sexism activism. When a women only group was set up in my town to look at consciousness raising many men complained (including bullying women) because they weren’t included and so they set up a men’s group. It was later revealed that they played poker here……. )

6.When organising an event what do you take on (e.g. Cooking. cleaning. set up, clean up phone calls, email lists, taking notes, doing support work, sending mailings, providing childcare?) Or do you only do the ‘high kudos jobs’ – dealing with the media, being visibly on the front line of activism etc…..?

(Many men did not take on the huge amount of ‘background work’ . Many seemed oblivious to this hugely important part of activism, basically leaving female activists to pick up the slack. However, even on events mainly organised by women, men would often lead marches (even at Reclaim the Night events I’ve been to, and would have to be challenged to step back! Which they weren’t happy with…), talk to the media etc and then suddenly disappear for any clean up!)

7. Do you ever find yourself monitoring and limiting your behavior and speech in meetings and activist settings because you don’t want to take up too much space or dominate the group?

(whether they realise it or not, men do tend to dominate mixed meetings space. They are used to being given space for their views and opinions and any challenge to this was viewed as some sort of female treachery! Female activists who raised this were the problem, not them, and often labelled as ‘trouble makers’)

8. Do you pay attention to group process and consensus building in groups or do you tend to dominate and take charge?

(see above)

9. If a woman discusses with you or criticises sexism (including yours), do you make an effort to: a) Listen? b) Not get defensive? c) Think about what she said? d) Take responsibility? e) Not instantly reply ‘not me’ and/or ‘not all men…..?’

(In my experience, again, many men didn’t ever take these issues seriously and often gave the usual negative responses to those noted above……)

10. When was the last time you asked a woman to show you how to do a task?

(Men tend to assume they know best and activism, like so many other parts of society, can become an exclusive ‘boys club’. Either not including women in tasks or criticising women who do get involved and then men would take over)

11. How do you react when women around you name something or someone as patriarchal or sexist? Do you think they’re ‘too PC’ or ‘over sensitive’ or ‘no fun’?

(This again has been a common reaction, women who highlight sexism are often labelled as kinds of ‘killjoys’)

12. Do you take on sexism and patriarchy as a personal struggle working to fight against it in yourself, in your relationships, in society, work, culture, subcultures, and institutions?

(Not the men I’ve worked with. The assumption was that they already felt they were ‘clued up’ and fine themselves regardless of the situation, but they were often either indifferent to or ignorant of sexism)

13. Do you say anything when other men make sexist or patriarchal comments? Do you help your sexist friends to make changes and help educate them? Or do you continue friendships with patriarchal and sexist men and act like there is no problem?

(I’ve put on feminist events with mixed audiences. This has certainly included men making misogynistic/homophobic remarks which were never challenged by other men-only by women who were then later demonized and bullied)

14. Do you repeatedly ask or plead with women for what you want in sexual situations? Are you aware that this is a form of coercion – e.g. sexual abuse?

(So many men seem unaware of consent issues, it is actually really frightening. Yet also see no need for education on the subject for themselves, and other men and boys)

15. Are you aware of the fact that all women, even women in mixed activist spaces, suffer from issues of oppression due to patriarchy and often face sexism and violence from men (and activist men) including domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, rape?

(I’ve known women who have suffered from the above, including from activist men in activist spaces. This includes rape. Male violence and male sexual violence is still a huge and horrific concern)

16. If you have kids, or live with kids, or when you’re organising a get together or event-do you make childcare your priority?

(Another issue at which many men don’t seem to get the relevance or step up to take part in, despite many being parents themselves!)

17. Do the women in your life (mothers, sisters, partners, housemates,
friends, etc.) have to “remind” you or “nag” you or “yell” at you in
order for you to get off your arse and take care of your

(seen this, yep…..)

18. Do you get emotional needs met by other women, whether or not you
are in a relationship with them?

(seen this too, again yep…..)

19. Do you use intimidation, yelling, getting in someone’s physical
space,threats or violence to get your point across? Do you create an
atmosphere of violence around women or others to threaten them (e.g. throw
things,break things, yell and scream, threaten, attack?). Do you use abusive/offensive terms like ‘cunt’, ‘bitch’, ‘terf’… etc for women who disagree with you?

(I’m very aware of so called ‘right on’ men using intimidation of women as well as abusive and offensive name calling. Its very common)

20. Do you see feminism as non-heroic, a waste of time, trouble making, or divisive?

(This sort of attitude is certainly very apparent)

21. Does the statement below describe you????

(From a woman no longer working with men for the above reasons).

Partly from http://www.anarcha.org/sallydarity/AreyouaManarchist.htm

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10 Responses to Why I don’t do activism with men any more…

  1. Daniel says:

    I don’t understand what you mean in number 18, I hug my brother and sisters and friends. This on some level satisfies my need for company/emotional connection. I don’t do it in an innappropriate manner or unconsentually, is this wrong somehow?

    I don’t mean to be rude or attack, I just don’t understand what you meant.

  2. Daniel says:

    Other than that, great article! Not proud to say I think there’s some stuff I could work on myself, but I’m glad I know those things now.

  3. Dogtowner says:

    I’m married to the passive-aggressive patriarchy type, but I must add that he grew up in a home with two parents who were both passive-aggressive and competed with each other to see who could achieve the greatest passive-aggression. You can just imagine what this house looked like! And you’re absolutely right! My partner has struggled for decades to overcome this charming heritage, but the struggle never ends when you grow up with the model of two adults both trying their hardest to evade any responsibility after having FOUR children.

    • I’m sorry that you recognise and live with these traits in your partner. Of course both men and women can act in a passive-aggressive way. However, in patriarchy men as a class have both power and privilege, so this has a particular oppressive meaning for women. Good luck to you and thanks for your comment.

  4. Henke says:


    This list was amazing! Thank you so much for putting it up. While I have come across similar lists I think this was more informative and the explanations in between was a good reference.
    There is def. things to work on here for all of us men (me included I won’t deny that.)

    To be aware of patriarchy, to understand the class analysis and gender analysis that brings about sexism and misogyny an what have you does not mean that one magically just erases the issues of male socialisation.
    It is of course a good step, I don’t argue against that. Recognition of the problems and understanding them is very important but so many things go on automatic without one even thinking about it, so to men out there: Listen to women. No matter if it is during some campaign or in your own private life with friends. Listen and learn. Don’t just act defensive if some female friend of you call you out on a behaviour she finds problematic.
    Listen, reflect, learn, deal with it.
    You can only become a better human being. Its nothing wrong with that.

  5. Frances says:

    excellent article !! Yes so many so called feminist men seem to have no clue of their inbuilt patriarchal selfish attitudes. I noticed a guy actually helping make some tea after an event last week and I nearly fell over with shock:-).

    • Thank you and lol. Don’t you think the men who do the occasional tea making or childcare are often given enormous respect/credit, when these jobs are given little attention/kudos when done by women…..?!

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