Personal musings. Views are my own.

Starting a Mens Feminist Reading Group

Over the past year, I’ve gotten together with a group of three of my friends who are men every two months or so to read writings by feminist authors. We’ve read fiction, non-fiction, and essays by feminist writers, mostly women of color. It’s been fun for me to connect with my friends in a new way, and for all of us to grow our thinking together and be critical of ways in which we participate in sexism, male domination and rape culture. Here’s essentially what I did to get it going:

I posted this article on Facebook and asked if any guys were interested in reading feminist literature together. In the comments of my own post, I tagged a bunch of people letting them know I was specifically thinking of them.

I then collected e-mail address from everyone who responded to the post in any way, whether by comment or simply liking the post. I already had emails for most of them since we already knew each other, but the others I just sent a quick Facebook message to get.

I then sent an e-mail to the group laying out what I envisioned: a casual reading group that gathers once every two months somewhere central to all of us, and sent out a Doodle to get a sense of what days of the week generally worked better for folks. I didn’t want to push people away for feeling like this was too formal or hardcore, I always kept it loose and very casual.

After a week or two, with a few casual reminders, I sent out dates for three meetings, I went ahead and picked Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks for our first book, and then started getting a sense of where people lived and worked to determine the location. We ended up reserving a room at the Harold Washington Library for our meetings (free, downtown, but can only reserve no more than two week in advance).

At the first meeting we did a round of introductions (name, neighborhood, gender pronoun, why we’re here), decided on group expectations, and then started talking about the book. Afterwards, we brainstormed and picked the next few books, which included fiction, non-fiction and poetry. It ended up being just four of us, and we’ve been a solid group since.

I think what has made the group go well is that I was sort of the glue at the beginning. We weren’t a completely random group of folks, everyone there had some sort of relationship with me, and that made it easier to build trust more quickly. It’s hard to talk about ways in which we perpetuate oppressions because we tend to feel a lot of embarrassment, shame, fear, and any number of other feelings that make it hard to be honest and vulnerable. Because we weren’t starting from scratch in our relationships, and we were a small intimate group, we ended up talking about all sorts of personal and private stuff. I don’t think that would have happened that way had it not been a group of people I was already connected to.

Reach out to your network and start something up! Don’t take the organizing of it too seriously, save that for the conversations. Be loose, fun and flexible, and people will follow!