• Tom McCauley

I Am Sexually Attracted to Major Feminist Icons, Therefore I Am a Major Feminist Ally

Updated: Mar 12


Ever since I started crushing hard on Courtney Love in sixth grade, thanks to the 1998 music video for "Malibu," women's issues have been third or fourthmost on my mind. Although that was not technically the moment I began identifying as feminist, watching Courtney Love rock around in that hip-hugging white dress of hers while jangling her fuzzed-out alternarock against a backdrop of burning palm trees totally planted the ladyseed that would one day grow into the mighty woman-shaped baobab of allyship in the dirt of my heart. I am the best ally in the world now.  2.  At twelve, I became obsessed with Courtney Love. I read everything I could about her in the  three or four pages of every Nirvana biography she was mentioned in. I asked Jeeves for pictures of her (this was 1998). I downloaded some Hole songs on Napster.  In fact, my infatuation with the widow of Kurt Cobain changed me in increasingly dramatic mental and physical ways. She was my conscience of wokeness, a role model to run my ideas past while studying pictures of her by lamplight at midnight. 3. In seventh grade, I shuffled fatly into a branch of the Omaha Public Library. Too shy to ask for help with the Dewey Decimal System from the attractive brunette librarian, I perused the spine of every book in the Social Criticism aisle until I found the talisman for which I'd come: Susan Faludi's Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Courtney Love had recommended the book in SPIN magazine and since I was obsessed with her and especially her husband I had to read it and love it too.  Admittedly, in 1999, I had not interacted enough with women, feminist theory, cultural studies, abstract thought, or really any life experience at all outside of school and baseball practice to understand Faludi's thesis. And what was that thesis? Something about the American mass media of the 1980s, and women in the workplace, and things being fucked up and unfair. But when I turned the book over and saw this picture: I immediately knew who I was and what I had to do. Yowza. Fire emoji. I couldn't logically describe the thought-process leading up to my revolution in identity, because it came all at once in a melange of image and this warm, swelling feeling devoid of language. Looking at Susan Faludi's pretty face, I just knew I would need to disavow my male privilege forever and become what every woman wants: a nice guy. I never finished the book. My seventh grade Language Arts teacher got mad at me for trying to read it in her (yes, her) class during unstructured reading time. ("Do you really think women are oppressed?" Mrs. Nelson scoffed. "Yes," I said, nervously expecting to be praised. She snorted and walked off.) But even though I really didn't understand anything Faludi wrote, I named my first band Backlash in solidarity with all women. Though I wasn't "out" yet as a White male feminist, I started berating my widowed working mother for not considering herself one. ("Don't you think women should have equal rights?" I'd ask self-righteously as she drove me to basketball practice after guitar lessons. "Well, yeah, of course," she'd answer while trying not to steer the car into oncoming traffic after working the graveyard shift at the psychiatric hospital so we could eat. "Then you need to say you're a feminist!" I'd yell. Nothing I could say ever worked. Eventually, I stopped trying to convince her. She wasn't on the side of women like I was and still am.) I can still see Susan's gorgeous dust jacket photo staring back at me when I close my male eyes. 4. Men. They suddenly seemed like an alien species. I didn't admire them or their sports teams or fart jokes or hairy penises. With a few key exceptions (oh hello Leo DiCaprio), I wasn't attracted to a single man.  My misandry made my life all the weirder since I was supposedly becoming a man anyway, without my consent and with all the disgusting privileges and higher pay such misfortune entails.  

5. From then on whenever I thought about the idea of Susan Faludi—I mean her ideas!—I would shut my eyes and dream of the two of us running through fields of sunflowers, or flying like two femme ghosts along all-night highways, or hotwiring a Subaru and driving off with her leaning on my shoulder like a shy bird too beautiful to sing. (That's not a sexist metaphor, by the way.) Sometimes, to help myself think harder, I would lock my bedroom door. Anyway, having been galvanized by the bits of Faludi's argument my thirteen-year-old boy brain could understand, I publicly declared myself a feminist, to the confusion of my mom, my Catholic school teachers, my Limp Bizkit-obsessed contemporaries. 6. I'm not saying I was perfect immediately and forever afterward. (Is anyone ever really perfect in this workaday world?)  There were no women's studies courses in my middle school, so I resigned myself to regular readings of Seventeen and Woman's World, two publications I would later learn were not, at the time, ideologically feminist. Admittedly, I made a lot of rookie errors I didn't even know were errors until college. But then I took a Women's Lit class taught by this super-cute academic with a heart-shaped ass who loved Guided By Voices, Hélène Cixous, 18th Century notions of the beautiful and the sublime, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This quickly became my favorite class for some reason. The professor, who I should reiterate was insightful, encouraging, slyly combative, intellectually stimulating, and hot, opened my eyes to all the horrifying backwards attitudes I still harbored (unwittingly, of course! but unforgivably). I try not to remember too much of myself from back then because it's, like, not my place to brag about how much even more enlightened I've become. 7. Some of my errors were especially grievous and embarrassing. Nothing assault-y or harass-y, of course, just embarrassing failures of mind. But still, they were errors, and I AM LOUDLY APOLOGIZING FOR THEM HERE. 8. The error that even now fills me with what Simone de Beauvoir's boyfriend called La nausée is how I sexualized many women to the point of thinking about them several times a day, occasionally covertly glancing at them when they passed, and imagining their lips closing around my major ally dick. Worse, I thought ALL women were de facto better than ALL men (including me). To this day, I am constantly reminding myself: they are not. They just aren't. 9. Eventually I threw away the Woman's World and picked up Bitch Magazine. I even gave a copy of Bitch to my college girlfriend, who did not understand the gesture no matter how much I explained feminism to her. 10. It's always nice to look back at your naive self and recount the steps leading to your current, 100 percent woke self.   Thank Aradia, the Messiah-witch sent to teach oppressed peasants how to destroy the Roman Catholic Church, for all the lovely moments and even lovelier women shepherding me to the discovery of classic (often super-challenging and confusing) feminist texts that shaped my worldview, informed my sexual attraction to the authors of said texts, and helped me become a powerful ally in the struggle for equality. I can't imagine how much of a lame, phallocentric tool of the patriarchy I might have been had I not been guided by voices of women I admired and also happened to want to sleep with. 11. Emmeline Pankhurst, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Susan Sontag, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Germaine Greer, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Gloria Anzaldúa, Ariel Levy, Camille Paglia (sort of), Lady Gaga, Beyonce Knowles—I'm barely penetrating the surface of all the major feminist icons whose bodies of work have got my blood moving while also making me a male feminist in the process.  Christina Hoff Sommers? Don't make me laugh. 12. Now, I don't want to privilege historical influence, political power, or academic contributions in my enthusiasms here.  As a major cishet white male feminist ally, I am also inspired and sexually aroused by minor feminist icons like Kim Gordon, Janeane Garofalo, Kim Deal, Billie Holiday, Kathleen Hanna, Cardi B, Nina Simone and, of course, Courtney Love. These women may not have made as deep an impact on the movement as the aforementioned hot feminist theorists, but they have certainly acted as intelligent, persuasive, and sexually attractive gateways to feminism. Their works offer clear evidence of feminism in action. That's awesome (and hot).  13. I mean have you seen The Breeders' "Divine Hammer" video? 14.  Finally, there are those countless, non-iconic feminists all around the world, many of whom I would fuck in a heartbeat, or even in the men's room of a cigar bar, if they wanted me to and I consented. These feminists are not famous or influential in the same way as the two categories of women above, but they are just as important. They continually inspire me, challenge my thinking, and pique my sexual curiosity, which in turn further cultivates my allyhood. I'm talking about everyday feminists like my Women's Lit professor, many former coworkers, university students I see around campus, a few real-life friends, several Facebook friends, untold numbers of total strangers, and you, possibly. Probably. 15. Since intention is everything in these sorts of conversations, let me just say that it is not my intent whatsoever to trivialize the struggles women face throughout the world—shit we don't need to get into here, since if you are one my targets in the reading audience, you already experience that ish firsthand, and I don't need to explain it to you, even though I could. Nevertheless, no matter how much I sincerely don't want to continue centering my voice in this conversation, it's only fair to me to admit: it's not always a cakewalk being a ciswhite masc het roar-rior. Unfortunately, some small-minded folks will actually question the sincerity of your motives. These misguided women (let's be honest, it's mostly women who do this) spread powerfully unhelpful rumors like "men shouldn't call themselves allies" and "fuck off."  They decry your deeply held beliefs as if your fucking beliefs themselves were just a disingenuous, sinister, malevolent, "performative" ploy to seduce the women you are supposedly supposed to feel entitled to, or something? I grew up poor. I never believed I was entitled to anything. Those who question the sincerity of your white male feminism are the same dimwits who accuse you of "mansplaining" when you explain something, "manspreading" when you ride a bus, "manthinking" when you stare quietly out a window. 16. Screw that. I know who I am.  A major fucking son-of-a-bitchin' feminist ally, that's who. 17.  But I'm so much more than that. I'm a boyfriend. A son. Not a father, thanks to abortion being legal (for now). A poet, musician, sex-and-body-positive anarchosocialist. Atheist. A male comic. Listen. I'm a strong, generous, handsome, full-bodied heterosexual man with a huge cock whose conscience keeps calling him to fight the patriarchy, yet whose own body also happens to find itself sexually attracted to every. single. feminist. figurehead. who has ever lived—from Sappho to Andrea Dworkin. No TERFs though. That's who I am, if you were wondering. (Sorry, I should've asked if you were wondering.)  18. I define myself, and that definition is law. I'd even say it is sacred, but I'm a male secular humanist too.  19. No one else gets to define me any differently. Ever. 20. Women rule and I am their friend. Tags: feminism ally feminist identity sex civil rights Courtney Love Susan Faludi

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