Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Am I a feminist poet?

I’ve been a feminist for a long time now–even in my more conservative days, I was a strong supporter of equal rights for women, even though I was a bit of an ogre personally. I’ve had a long way to travel from my fundamentalist upbringing, but it’s been a good road and I’m glad I’ve walked it.

But does that necessarily make me a feminist poet? I ask this because, well, I was looking for something to blog about and I came across this piece from Femagination asking “what makes a feminist poet?” The main question that Ellen Keim, who wrote the piece, was really asking was whether a poet who didn’t identify as a feminist could be called one. Her answer is yes, and I don’t have any argument with that.

I’m more interested in the other side of it. Could someone like me, who is both a feminist and a poet, be considered a feminist poet if women’s issues aren’t a major part of my creative work? In other words, is “feminist” an adjective in this construction, or one half of a compound noun? What’s the difference? And does it really matter?

I’m not sure how much it has mattered to me so far, but that’s because there’s no social expectation that I be a feminist poet (compound noun). That’s the privilege of being a man–from a certain perspective, all I have to do is not be a misogynist, and I’ve set myself apart. Being an advocate for feminism is, by that construction, lagniappe, or gravy. And in places other than my poetry, I have been an advocate–I talked about this some in a post a couple of weeks ago. But is that enough?

I guess it depends on who’s doing the judging, and I feel uncomfortable pointing fingers at others and saying “you should be doing more” (though I am comfortable at calling out insensitive or misogynist language and actions), so I’ll just point a finger at myself and say it’s something I ought to be more aware of in my work. I don’t want to be someone who just gets credit for not being a douche–I’d rather be an anti-douche, whatever that is.

I have no idea how to do that in my poetry, by the way. Teaching, editing and reviewing? No problem. I’m responding to the creations of others. But in my poetry? If anyone has suggestions, I’m open to them.


May 3, 2010 - Posted by | poetry, privilege, Uncategorized |

1 Comment »

  1. Dramatic monologues are a good idea. My problem seems to be that the lyric “I” still often gets conflated with the author’s own gender, rather than being recognized as a persona even when a confessional element isn’t assumed.

    Comment by Raymond | May 3, 2010 | Reply

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