Michael Urbina: On Feminism, Masculinity and Allyship

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I first learned of Michael Urbina after a friend sent me a link to his blog post about 101 Everyday Ways for Men to Be Allies to Women. It was a thoughtful, honest example of what the feminist movement needs: more men like Michael.

Mr. Urbina is many things: a student; a writer; an activist; a feminist; a scholar; a police cadet. It was at an early age that Michael recognized his awareness of gender was largely different than his male peers.

A Latino-American from San Francisco, Michael says, “I was closer to women- I resonated better with female friends. I enjoyed activities that were not gender specific. I had this internal conflict and I didn’t feel accepted by other teenage boys. I even questioned my sexuality during my junior/senior year of high school. Overall, I learned a lot about life and myself.”

As Michael entered college, he took his first Women’s and Gender Studies class during his sophomore year. Being aware that he was “one of the very few self-identified cisgender males” in the class, Michael confesses he often felt the need to compensate for being involved in a space that is overwhelmingly female.

“I felt like I needed to hold up traditional roles of masculinity, even in my Women’s Studies class. Among other activities, I joined the Rugby team to prove to myself that I am competent and that I am ‘one of the guys.” he recalls.

We are often held captive by our emotions during realizations and awakenings. The visceral supersedes the cerebral and we forever recall that moment as the moment. It stays with us, and we carry it; use it; unpack it when necessary and recycle it for another time. With it, we grow and prosper and vow to use this moment to be better, not only for ourselves, but for others.

After joining the Women and Gender Studies class, Michael realized he had found his calling. This was his moment, one that left him in an emotional state.

“I went into the bathroom and started crying. I knew I’d be OK after that moment.”

Now a Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies major at St. Mary’s, Michael developed his own blog that uses intersectionality to tackle inequality. He grew this platform on his own, an admirable feat in an industry that often presents more challenges than rewards.

Michael’s blog is indicative of a great mind and ally but he is quick to acknowledge that his own work would be impossible without the foundation so many have previously built.

“Women have been saying this stuff for a while,” he says.

Recent events have shifted the conversation about feminism and whose voices are being heard. A movement that is most frequently representative, both in print and thought, of white, middle-class women was at the forefront of the community’s dialogue this week after Mikki Kendall created the Twitter hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. White feminists are being asked to recognize their privilege (rightfully so) and mainstream feminism is being asked to be more inclusive of voices of color. Michael understands, quite clearly, that his platform can only work if he recognizes his own privileges and collaborates with feminists of all identity categories.

As a man, Michael says he “can’t be blinded” by that privilege and works to “deconstruct it”. Men in the feminist movement, a space largely occupied by women, must take cues from the women around them. They must listen to us; really listen to us. Michael knows this and addresses allyship in his 101 ways post.

“I couldn’t have done the work I’ve done if I didn’t take time out of my day to reflect,” he says. Of other men, he presses that they “need to take time out of their daily routines to reflect on their masculinity, who they are, and the privileges they hold.”

This Fall, Michael will begin a new school year at St. Mary’s and will intern for Everyday Feminism as an Online Community Manager. Of his future, Michael says, “the dream for me is to have a website to connect and collaborate and spark a worldwide conversation about feminism and masculinity.”

In a world of injustice, we need people willing to challenge the status quo and work towards equality. We need people who will use their voices for good; who will persevere, who will work to overcome; who will still be standing when we are met with challenges. Simply put, we need more Michaels in the world.

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