A lot of male celebrities have come out of the feminist closet in recent years. They’re wonderful men too, guys like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Aziz Ansani. Intelligent, talented and not to mention pretty cute too. But a lot of women wonder, can men truly be feminist? Are they limited in their feminist capacity by their male privilege? If so, can they only ever be considered an “ally” of feminism?
I, for one, am perfectly ok with men calling themselves feminist. In fact, if they do it properly then its fucking sexy as hell. But there are instances that I have been made painfully aware of in recent weeks, when men have called themselves feminist and in my head I’ve gone “What? You? Nope.”
There are a few points that men should note if they are going to identify as feminist. I didn’t intend for this post to be a male guide to being feminist, but in my trawling the internet and reading about the role of men in the feminist movement, that’s where my notes have evolved. This is my writing process, sometimes I don’t truly know where a post will take me.
So, if you’re a dude reading this, I would like to make something clear for you, Under no circumstances is this post intended as me telling you how to be feminist. It might read that way, but these are more like friendly pointers to make sure that your feminism isn’t coming from a misguided place, because really that will do the movement more harm than good.
What I don’t want to get is a bunch of emails from men complaining about how I don’t understand the struggles of men, and how men are also victims. I am not discounting the struggles of men in society. But since this is a post about FEMINISM you need to understand that the feminism I identify with pertains solely to the struggles of WOMEN. You need to understand that you will never face the level of threats and harassment online and IRL as women do daily. You need to be aware of your status and privilege as a man, and never, EVER use it in an attempt to silence women in discussions of feminism. You need to recognise that women have been leading this movement for hundreds of years, and respect that the leadership of women is what is needed to continue the move forward. These points will explain all of this in more detail for you.
Feminism as a movement is never going to be about focussing on or coddling men. Instead, recognise that certain people in our society have privilege, and as such can command respect and authority purely from being. Take the lead from those who have been marginlised, learn from their struggles. Men who truly wish to further the movement will take my tips and use them to help while remaining away of how their identity as a man may limit their understanding of women’s struggles.
And now, The Guide.
1. UNDERSTAND THAT WOMEN ARE LEADING THE WAY AND AFFIRM OUR CAPABLE LEADERSHIP
This means you must resist the urge to take over and control. As stated above, feminism remains a movement for women, led by women. We will welcome you, but you need to defer to our expertise in the struggles that we face daily. Society still promotes male perspectives and experiences at the expense of women, and when men insist on promoting their own agenda ahead of women’s voices society ignores the real issue. When men step up and take control or leadership, society perceives that male voices are more legitimate even when men are not speaking with any authority on the issues pertaining to women.
2. WHEN IT COMES TO ISSUES THAT PERTAIN TO WOMEN’S BODIES AND EXPERIENCES – LEARN TO SHUT UP
This is pretty common sense. When you have a penis, it is impossible for you to completely understand what it is like to have a period, go through menopause, bear children or make the choice to have an abortion. Your opinions regarding how decisions regarding women’s bodies are invalid. You forgo the right to an opinion in almost all of these cases. Your empathy is appreciated, but you don’t have the right to override our decisions when it comes to the issues that pertain to our bodies.
If you are conventionally male (not transgender) you are much less likely to encounter street harassment, sexual assault, or be told that your gender automatically makes you unfit to fully participate in various aspects of society, including work. Should you dare to speak up regarding gender inequality, you’re not likely to receive rape or death threats.
So as a male feminist, stop making unfounded assumptions about what women experience daily, and instead be open to learn, actively listen, and redirect other men to our voices so that they can be educated as well.
3. YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE TO BE AN ALLY TO THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT – WOMEN DO
Being a male feminist isn’t just a cool badge you get to wear that makes you more attractive to left-wing alt girls that you’re trying to score with. It is more than attending one rally, or shooting down one guy one time when he tells a sexist joke. If you’re in it for the pat on the back or the recognition, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Feminism is about making sure your own actions aren’t sexist, and that they don’t reinforce sexism in others. It’s about just being a decent human. It’s about ensuring that all members of our society are treated with equal respect.
4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ADDRESSING MEN’S ISSUES WITH OTHER MEN
Don’t expect women in feminism to do all the work. Men are who are ignorant of feminism often argue that the movement doesn’t address the struggles of men. The struggles men face include higher risk of suicide, how court systems view custody battles, how society perceives the display of emotion from men, the fact that men are more likely to be a victim of general violence… we get it. You have issues. But you are missing our point, feminism can and already has helped men as well as women. Instead of fighting against feminism, take steps to work with us. Recognize how the struggle for gender inequality plays a key role for ALL genders.
5. USE YOUR MALE PRIVILEGE TO ENCOURAGE OTHER MEN TO WORK TOWARD GENDER IN EQUALITY UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF MEN
Once you have a stable understanding of what it means to be a male feminist, use your powers for good and motivate other men you know to push for gender equality. Being a feminist shouldn’t be seen as a chore or a simple label, but a lifelong commitment to ensuring that institutionalized sexism ends. For men, being feminist should be more than telling women, from a position of privilege, how to approach key issues such as the pay gap.
6. USING THE LABEL ‘FEMINIST’ AS A WAY TO GET PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU IS COUNTER PRODUCTIVE – STOP IMMEDIATELY
Let me be clear: stating you are a feminist doesn’t automatically make your hot, and it certainly doesn’t make me swoon (anymore.)
It also doesn’t automatically make you a “nice guy”. If you show little understanding your own privilege and instead feel that your feminist sympathies make you more entitled to sexual attraction from women, the you are pushing back the feminist movement by years. This logic objectifies and belittles women with the assumption that we can be manipulated into liking someone who actually doesn’t care about our issues or our position.
7. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE HISTORY OF FEMINISM AND HOW WOMEN OF DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS HAVE APPROACHED THE MOVEMENT
Feminism means something different to every woman on the planet. Her definition will depend on her nationality, race, class, religion, or any number of other factors. Her struggles can include rights for suffrage, reproductive justice, access to education, and equal employment among others. Often the feminism I identify with has a more privileged perspective based on my skin colour and nationality. When you are reading feminist literature, ensure you are reading widely to ensure that your feminism is intersectional.