I’m writing about something rather different today, but it has to be done. I’m afraid some may consider it controversial, but it has to be written.
I have considered myself a feminist for quite a while. There are plenty of male feminists dotted about and in fact, as far as i’m concerned, if you believe in equality between all genders from all backgrounds and walks of life, you are a feminist. I believe in equality, therefore I am a feminist.
Unfortunately I feel it’s not easy to be a male feminist, simply because we are not truly accepted as feminists by many. There are many reasons for this; some of which I want to talk about below.
1. Feminism is a female movement.
Is it? I expect that some readers may be screaming at their screens at that, but really, is it? Given that feminism is a movement for equality between genders, I argue it is not a female-only movement, but a movement for all. Can one really expect equality when groups are excluded? The male population is after all a rather large group – roughly the same size as the female population.
A common argument for why feminism should be a predominantly female movement is that us men are unable to fully understand the struggle of women. This is probably true, I agree. That doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the movement. Women have an advantage in understanding what is required to reach equality from experience of what is currently lacking in society and unfortunately experience of the discrimination of women. Can a women’s-only movement however fully understand the end goal (or at least what I understand it to be) of equality? This is, I should quickly add, not to say that men would be any better at understanding an end goal of equality. We would almost certainly be worse, because men don’t have the advantage of experience I mentioned above. Well, at least men have no personal experience, but I will cover that later.
The point is, a gender equality movement should strive for equality between genders, which requires participation of all genders. In a theatre, do we exclude all but the protagonists, because the minor characters have nothing to offer? No – the minor characters are integral to the play. Does a band consist of a front-man and a backing tape, because the band has less to offer? No, the band completes the music. Men may have less to offer, but they have something to offer, and that should be enough.
2. Men claim to be feminists for personal gain.
This is a difficult point. There are indeed men who exploit the word ‘feminist’ There are numerous stories of guys claiming to be feminists and reeling off rote learned feminist facts to trick women into thinking they are genuinely fighters for equality. I haven’t come across these guys yet (a reason why women have the advantage of experience talked about in .1…) but I’m aware of their sorry existence. These male fake-feminists give actual male feminists a hard time, as we have to be put under scrutiny for actually being reasonable human beings.
I understand why some women would be suspicious of a man who appeared and introduced themselves “Hi! I’m a feminist!”, but extending a few exploitative, horrible, men to representing all male feminists – genuine or not – is the exact same thing as claiming that all people from a particular country are evil or all members of a particular religion are terrorists. The two examples I gave are clearly ridiculous. I think it’s ridiculous to believe all male ‘feminists’ are out to exploit female feminists. Otherwise, my brain deletes the parts of my life where i’m out tricking women into thinking i’m fantastic. After all I know from my experience (and we all know how important experience is) that a. I do not use feminism to pull people, and b. I’m not fantastic.
I am of the belief that most male feminists are feminists for equality, not for getting girls in night clubs. Sorry, all male feminists are, because if they are the latter of the two types, they aren’t feminists. Because they aren’t striving for equality between all genders.
3. Feminism should only have female role models
I have seen on a lot of articles lately that many feminists get annoyed when they see men making a public statement for feminism. I ask, why shouldn’t a man make statements against misogyny or for gender equality? (and that’s not entirely rhetorical – I would love you to comment if you have views)
One reply would seem to be the male lack of experience of being at the wrong end of abuse and misogyny again. We certainly don’t have the most important experience – that of a woman – but to claim that men have no experience of misogyny is pretty narrow-minded. Most men will have had passive experiences of it through observing sexist incidents. To say that men are not allowed to comment on what they see, not allowed to be outraged at how other men treat women, is to say passive experience is worthless. It is to say we must be bystanders. It is to say we may as well accept sexism.
I don’t want that.
Some may say that if a man tries to be a feminist or feminist role model, he is taking his assumed patriarchal-cultural position of control and in doing so is undermining the feminist movement. Because of societies tendencies to still highlight men more than women, this male role model would be seen more than female role models and drown out the message of the more important women, so some may say.
If a man produces something feminism related, is he realistically going to believe that he, as a man, should be assuming a leadership role? If he believes that, he is delusional. More likely than not he is producing his work because he believes in equality and because he believes he has something to contribute. I, for example, am writing this because I believe in equality and want to contribute something. I don’t think I am any better than a female writer. In fact, so far I feel this article has been written very poorly, but it’s quite late and i’m not in the mood for redrafting.
In my opinion, if a male supporter of feminism gains a lot of publicity, that is either due to the choice of the viewers, or more likely, the publishers. Is it right to say that because current society will push male opinions forward, men shouldn’t express support for feminism? Should a man who speaks out for feminism be criticized by feminists for getting in the way of female advocates of feminism? Perhaps the attack should be directed at the constructs that allow a male speaker to be noticed over a female speaker; not the speaker himself.
4. Men should listen and not push their inexperienced ideas into debate.
I’ve sensationalised this point slightly with my wording, but I’ve seen this kind of opinion all over the web. I have a serious serious serious problem with this idea.
Please go ahead and replace the first word of that heading with ‘women’. Now you have the sort of mad opinion that the suffragette movement fought against. I’m not trying to claim there has been a reversal of roles in society, but that kind of view is scary. It was terrible when it regarded women, its terrible if/when it regards men now.
Some like this idea of men just listening to the debate because men can try to overbear a debate with supposed solutions for all of feminism’s problems. The solution to that kind of problematic person is the same as any debate ever – debate why they’re wrong. Maybe there is something in the debate, maybe there is not. Something will however have been brought to the debate. Is UKIP allowed to make it’s voice heard in politics? Then even if a male feminist is seen as the annoying, even dangerous bit of a debate, it’s they’re right to debate.
I said at the very beginning of this article that I believe feminism is a movement for gender equality. I’ve only talked about a few things here, but I think one thing is clear from it. Feminism risks not being a particularly equal equality movement. Yes, the movement was started by women for women but it will never become an equality movement until all genders are accepted as feminists.
.Now. Why am I writing this? I spend a fair amount of time reading feminist articles, but I never comment. I just read and think. Recently however I keep finding articles almost but not quite denouncing male feminists. Many are on the edge of saying “you can call yourself a feminist in name, but don’t do anything”. There’s even a list somewhere of the things male feminists shouldn’t do.
I’m not comfortable with that. Equality should be fought for by a movement with space for all. It’s ridiculous to claim that an exclusive group can create an inclusive society. I don’t think it could work. And I’m sorry, but I can’t change my views to suite demand. If I am a man who thinks that women should have equal rights to men, that is what I think. I can’t change that view for a a feminist, anti-feminist or anti-male feminist.
I will finish today with a comment that I won’t explore properly, as i’m tired and want to fall asleep, but still want to press that lovely publish button at the bottom of the screen…
I do wonder if one problem now that feminism as an equality movement faces is its name. ‘Fem’-inism does suggest exclusivity for women. In the early days of the suffragettes and Cady-Stanton, it made sense for the movement to be mainly women and to be called feminism. Now it is in a better position to strive for truer equality, but that may demand the dropping of an exclusive name.
Thank you for reading.
Quick note – I apologise profusely for my lack of acknowledgement of the LGBT community and other gender orientations in this article. I have endeavored at the very least to use ‘all genders’ rather than ‘both genders/men and women’ but I haven’t really done enough. I hope that this can be forgiven.