I’ve done a series of interviews with feminist websites in the past year, but I’m not sure if any have been more detailed than the one that runs in today’s Lip Magazine. When one is asked what is essentially the same question over and over again, you either start giving rote answers — or forcing yourself to think more deeply about what it is that folks want to know. Excerpt:
How can society improve while success and power are the foundations of male attractiveness? What motivation do “powerful” men have to change?
We have the motivation to be trusted. To be seen as kind, accessible human beings rather than as remote, inaccessible, predatory men who must be placated. In Margaret Atwood’s famous Handmaid’s Tale, the Commander longs for a woman to kiss him “like she means it.” He has all this power but he’s miserable because he knows he’s feared, not loved. He can’t bring himself to relinquish his power, sadly. The reality is, if we want intimate relationships, if we want to connect, we have to give up this privilege.
Your writing is occasionally centred around a re-telling of your personal experiences, with names changed, but places and experiences unaltered. This has been heavily criticised as exploitative. Why continue to present narratives based on your own experience when it has resulted in a damaged reception of your academic ideas?
I do it because the personal is political – because documenting that men can change, that our lives can be transformed, that sexism and other addictions can be overcome – this is important. I’m not writing for an academic audience; I’m writing for a broader public. Memoir matters. The ethics of memoir centre on protecting people to the best of one’s ability, but also remembering that we have the right to tell the stories of our lives. That right to tell one’s story belongs to all of us. Storytelling is part of what makes us human; it’s perhaps the oldest uniquely human activity. I think it’s central to justice work.