“You’re a feminist? But you’re a guy.” “Saying you’re a male feminist is just a ploy to get laid.”
There is a suffocating stigma that surrounds the identification of feminist by males. Most men mistakenly believe feminism is only for women. Those who recognize otherwise, and are eager to progress the movement, are hesitant to openly embrace it in order to avoid harassment.
Male feminists are possible and, more importantly, pertinent.
We need men to embrace and promote feminism in order for it to make lasting systemic change. We need males to come together and support women. We need the other sex as our powerful ally.
So men, recognize the need to be feminists. And if you truly want to inspire transformation, understand that the title only goes so far.
Here are five necessities beyond the feminist label:
1) Take the Time to Learn
The best male feminists read, and then read some more. They do their research so they can begin to understand the detrimental and complex circumstances that have been thrust upon feminized people. Their learning involves not only traditional works on feminist theory, but first hand experiences and feminist perspectives. They learn because they respect feminism.
It is not the job of self-identifying female feminists to teach men about the movement. If you are truly interested then you will educate yourself. When a man blurts, “so, what is feminism anyways?” it shows that he is not genuinely interested. Rather, it illustrates how meek or insignificant he sees feminism, and that he doesn’t have the desire to invest his time and effort.
You may want to share your perspective, you may have thousands of stories to tell. You may have amazing insights and know how to completely obliterate patriarchy in one single day!
But don’t tell us, not right away. Focus on listening.
You know what you know, and you know where you stand. Listen to us, because you do not know us; you have yet to listen to our stories.
Feminist discourse is arguably more pertinent to share with men than women. Females already know we are exploited by patriarchy; we have lived our entire lives belonging to an oppressed group. We have stories to share, voices to speak, wounds to show, and we want men to listen.
As a male you are less likely to recognize your own gender privilege. How often do you share stories of women disadvantaged by our current paradigm? Do you ever gather your pals and mourn the harm men have caused females?
So please, zip your lips and open your ears.
3) Be understanding
As a male feminist, you need to accept the limitations of your participation in the movement. Men need to understand that they are not at the core of feminism and must simply do what they can in their specific context.
Brian Klocke from NOMAS phrased it best - “Men can be pro-feminist and anti-sexist, I do not believe we can be feminists in the strictest sense of the word in today's society”.
Simply put – men cannot truly step out of their privilege. To truly be a feminist you must have direct experience; you need life of experience to form theory and practice.
So, as a male feminist, try to cope with the feeling of exclusion. It is not our job to make you feel like ‘one of the girls’. It is our job to share our experiences and work towards equality. It is your job to listen, support, and help achieve that goal.
Just because you can’t always relate or you don’t always fully understand doesn’t mean you aren’t important to the movement – it means you fulfill a different role.
4) Don’t defend.
It might make you squirm in your seat or bite your tongue, but take it with a grain of salt if a woman complains about a man.
You might want to jump to the rescue of your fellow male, but don’t.
There is a reason she is sharing her story, and a reason she feels the way she feels. Take the time to understand where she is coming from before questioning and critiquing.
Women deal with frustrations everyday in the patriarchal paradigm, and we need a space to talk it out. Don’t condemn us for venting.
It’s fine and dandy to support the movement in and amongst like-minded women, but it’s a whole other ball game when you step outside the circle of feminist love and have to defend your views against skeptics.
As a woman, it is hard enough trying to convince a person that being a feminist is not a horrific thing. As a man, I can only imagine. But that’s part of the struggle.
When you are with your friends and they speak about a female in sexist terms, call them out on it. When you see someone being cornered into a stereotype, speak up. When your contemporary shouts, “don’t be such a bitch”, tell them just how wrong it is.
It’s one thing to support a cause, but it’s another to actively promote it.
So when, yes when, it gets hard, just remember – this war is only won with you on our side.
“It is crucial for men to be a part of feminist agency. If feminism is to attain its goal of liberating women, men must be a part of the struggle. Indeed, men probably bear more of the responsibility for ending oppression of women since patriarchal men have been the main perpetrators of that very oppression.” – Brian Klocke, NOMAS.