men, masculinities and gender politics

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In praise of feminist activists: Leaving things better than they found them.

My partner and I have a cottage that sits on a lake about 60 miles outside of town.  We love to spend time there with our little one.  But once a year we lend the cottage to members of a local feminist collective that works to end rape and to provide supportive services to survivors of sexual assault.  The organization holds an annual retreat out at the lake house.  We lend it to them because we want to thank these brave and brilliant women for the invaluable service they provide to our community and beyond – a service most of them deliver as volunteers.  And the few paid staff work hard as hell for the money they get. 
 
This year marks the third year that the organization has used the lake house.  And this year, once I got back out there after the women had left, I again noticed something pretty remarkable about the yearly event:  although I always make sure the place is clean before the group uses the house, the women unfailingly leave place even cleaner than I left it.  

 

 
Now, it is a pretty great guest (or group of guests!) who leave things as clean as they found them… and ask what to do with the garbage, the laundry, etc.  But this group of women always leaves the place spotless.  Never has it been so clean as after the feminist collective has been there.
 
A metaphor for what they do every day.  So, the other day as I was surveying the beautiful state of affairs, two things occurred to me:  first, these women have their shit together!  I am not sure what their battle plan is or what their organizational strategies are for tackling the clean-up after their annual retreat, but these women get it done!  The result is a pretty amazing thing to see.  I could clean for days and days and still not come close to what these women accomplish.  With slightly greater numbers, these feminist women could take over the world.
 
(I hope they do.)
 
And the second thing that occurred to me is this:  leaving things even better than they found them is what these women do not just on the weekend of the retreat, but every day of the year!  Through their organization, their dedication, their collaboration, and their commitment to social justice, these amazing women work every day to make the world a better place, a more just place, a more humane place.    
 
These women represent the best of humanity.  They work for justice.  They interact with compassion.  They live in laughter.  They can sure clean up a house, but they aren’t about to stop there!  They are cleaning up our world!
 
(Unfortunately, a lot of men I know are not regularly doing either much housecleaning or much worldcleaning.)
 
But by bravely taking on the patriarchy, these women are making this a better world for women. 
 
By bravely taking on the patriarchy, these women are making this a better world for children.
 
By bravely taking on the patriarchy, these women are making this a better world for men.
 
And lending these brave and brilliant women our cottage once a year seems like such an inadequate way of saying thank you.