Real STUFF 101 with Hunter:
Where we stuff up when it comes to a more equal world, with youth advocate and Rhodes Scholar Yasmin Poole
It was a total learning experience to sit down with Yasmin Poole, discussing the old school power dynamics still dominating our world, and understanding how men can find an entry point into the conversation. Yasmin is a defining voice for inclusion when it comes to how decisions are made, and who has the privilege of making them in Australia. This Real STUFF poddy offers up some handy ways good men can be involved in these emotionally charged conversations such as feminism, privilege, and the role we can each play in equality.
With a good dose of laughter and relief scattered through some deep topics, Yasmin and I both admit our stuff ups when it comes to inclusion. I fess up about calling a knee injury gay to my first employer who unbeknownst to me was LGBTQI+ and Yasmin recounts sitting on a panel discussing how easy her confident boyfriend finds it to speak up on topics he cares about, only to be confronted when she got home with how much work it's taken him to work on his confidence.
So what's the upshot? It seems that most of us are a messy mix of part-fallible, part-feminist, part-feel-your-way-through gender politics, but what I have learnt is, so long as we are on the learning journey, that's all that matters.
Speaking of learning, here are the 101 deep dives I took from the convo with Yasmin. Let's jump in:
- How do we find our "agency"?
- What does 'privilege' really mean?
- Who can call themselves a 'feminist'?
Finding your agency
(yes you are v cute, but we're not talking modelling agency)
Having a sense of agency refers to the feeling of taking control over our actions and their consequences. Yasmin discusses standing up in front of her entire school to speak out about Islamophobia while the ISIS backlash against Muslims was happening. Seeing her mum have to give up her hajib in the wake of 9/11, and hearing the condescendingly racist way other parents spoke to her mother at school pickup, frustrated Yasmin to the point where one day she decided to give voice to her experience.
We're talking about power structures and disempowerment and yet here we're witnessing the story of a teenage girl who identifies as a minority, feeling the discrimination, and flipping it on its head at school assembly. Pretty powerful right.
So how might we each find this sort of agency when it comes to speaking up about something we care about?
- Go slow and identify what you are fed up with, what gets you down, what makes you or your friends feel silenced, invisible, insignificant.
- Recognise your own inaction in the situation, and think about how you might proactively start to raise awareness of your lived experience.
- Making the decision to take agency requires self definition, rather than being defined, agency means that you happen to life, rather than life just sort of happening to you.
- Finally, be prepared to speak up for what you believe in and take responsibility for the consequences. Advocacy takes emotional energy, so gather some good humans around you, and pick your moments to take on the world.
Next up, privilege.
(maybe worth a quick check in the mirror next time we're using STUFF for our face?)
Firstly, this has been a big learning journey for me and I am clearly still on it. That being said, let’s have a crack. Privilege is defined as 'a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group'. When we look to understand privilege, it's important to look for what we're not seeing. For example, who is missing from the room? Who is left out of the banter? When we look around at our mates or our team, does everybody look like us?
Privilege is about understanding the 'normal' we experience is not 'normal' for everyone. Being left out, silenced, or invisible, has its own experience within it. When we are born with a level of privilege, it's our responsibility to step out of this comfort zone and have the curiosity to learn about and understand the lived experience of minority groups. Too often, it's on these people to educate us.
Understanding privilege also means understanding that struggle is relative. No one is saying that the life of a middle-class white guy is easy (*waves at camera*), just that it usually hasn't been made harder by compounding factors such as racism, gender or poverty.
So how do we educate ourselves about privilege?
- Be curious, go out of your way to listen to experiences that aren't your own.
- Sit in the discomfort, anger or defensiveness that might arise.
- Understand that the experience of underprivileged people might not necessarily be about what you've done, but it could be about what you haven't done to be an effective ally.
- Find a way to use your privilege to create space and amplification for those without a voice.
A Biggie: Feminism
(embracing our inner feminist might be just the fresh starter we need)
Firstly, I have learnt that anyone can be a feminist. It's not about men vs women, it's not even just about gender, necessarily. Feminism is about power; who has it, and who doesn't. When Yasmin says 'Feminism is Freedom' she is asking us to imagine a world in which we aren't constrained, held down, or tied to unequal power structures.
I’ve heard many guys say that they feel like feminism is an affront or an insult to what looks on the surface to be a pretty equal world. My invitation is to cast your mind back to times when you haven't been able to be yourself, when you've felt forced to live up to a certain stereotype.... These limiting social rules and structures are just as much a part of what feminism stands for.
So how might men find an entry point into the conversation on feminism?
- Understand that feminism is questioning the social structures that benefit many men, as opposed to questioning men.
- Challenge ourselves to see our own social conditioning, and identify times when we have shut down the feminine side of ourselves, in order to fit in.
- Understand that prioritising the dominant masculine over everything else leads to imbalance within our own natures, as well as the natural world. (The way we treat women and minorities is the way we treat the environment and the many creatures we share the planet with.)
- Turn off the auto-pilot and begin to unlearn our role in this imbalance.
As Yasmin and I both admit, we work daily in this space of equality, and even we still get it wrong sometimes! Equality is complicated, because inequality exists in the gaps. Thanks for reading, listening, and challenging yourself to hear beyond what's said, look beyond who's speaking and learn beyond what's being taught. And a massive thank you to Yasmin Poole for standing on the frontline and showing the way.
We’re proud to partner with The Man Cave, a leading preventative mental health and emotional intelligence service for young men. For every $1000 in sales, STUFF sponsors one boy to experience one of The Man Cave's life-changing mental health programs.