It’s Time for Male “Feminists” to Step Up Their Game

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In recent months, a new cohort of celebrity male “feminists” has jumped onto the pop-culture scene. With Emma Watson’s “He for She” campaign and Aziz Anzari’s viral “David Letterman” appearance, male feminism, once an oxymoronic term, is suddenly en vogue. Cisgender men, especially cisgender men in the public eye, are declaring their support of feminism and pulling in praise and adoration from all corners of the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important for cisgender men to self-identify as feminists, but it’s time for these men to put their money where their mouths are.

Male feminists need to realize that feminism is not just an identity; it is an active practice. Womyn can achieve this active practice by resisting patriarchy within their own lives. It is a radical practice to love and respect oneself in the face of misogynistic propaganda and structural violence, let alone to deconstruct the social systems that create this propaganda and violence (this does not mean that womyn’s feminism is in anyway limited to self-care and consciousness raising). Additionally, patriarchy pervades female experience down to the micro level, making even small, private triumphs true acts of resistance. In contrast, patriarchy does not negatively impact male experience on the macro level. This requires men to resist in active and public ways.

Since misandry (barf) is a myth and cisgender men do not face structures of oppression because of their gender, they are required to fight patriarchy outside of their own lives to have their feminist credentials approved. A cisgender man who claims feminism just barely meets the baseline for not being an asshole. The act of claiming feminism is not feminism itself and it is by no means praise-worthy. Going further, the act of saying that you support equal pay or respecting your female family and friends does not make you a feminist, it makes you a decent person. When men claim feminism without actually working to deconstruct patriarchy, they’re having their cake and eating it too. They are reaping the social adulation of an identity which is currently very trendy, while profiting off of the political, economic, and social oppression of women that has existed and will continue to exist for hundreds of years.

To be a true male feminist, you need to do something about patriarchy. You need to join the movement (be prepared to follow, not lead). I know this is scary, get over it. Womyn have been organizing around these issues in the face of violent oppression, economic exclusion, and social isolation for centuries. A slap on the wrist by a conscious peer is the biggest risk you face in the feminist movements. Even if this does happen, take it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.

You may also be asked to stay away from certain feminist spaces, as it is important for womyn to be able to share and reflect on their experiences without the triggering opinions and invasions of men. When asked to leave, do it. This does not require you to totally retreat from feminism, but to avoid certain safe spaces within the movement. Remember, despite what society has taught you, your thoughts and contributions aren’t always important. Plus, there are plenty of spaces that you can work on making safer for feminism, rather than occupying spaces that are already protected.

If you can handle these basic stipulations, there are a myriad of ways for you to get involved. Attend a march or a rally, volunteer at a reproductive health clinic, fundraise for womyn’s shelters, challenge the misogyny of family and friends. Just do SOMETHING, if you insist on claiming the identity.

Once you find that “something”, throw yourself completely into it, without concern for praise or reward. Be so fulfilled by the activism itself that you don’t need to be thanked for the difference you are helping to make. Know that you are working to deconstruct violent and unfair systems and be satisfied with that. Your reward for your feminism is not a Jezebel post or pop-culture praise, but a freer and fairer world for womyn.

So my fellow male feminists, its time for us to step up to the plate, shed our frail egos, and take a true swing at patriarchy.

vincent

Vincent DeLaurentis (SFS’17) is the Vice President of H*yas for Choice and a dedicated male feminist. 

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One thought on “It’s Time for Male “Feminists” to Step Up Their Game

  1. Vincent,
    Thank you for your post. It is an enlightening position on feminism, and I agree with the idea that words alone are not enough and that concrete action in our daily lives is critical to advancing equality for all gender identities.

    Nonetheless, I have a few points of contention with your argument, and I think may be worthwhile to reexamine some assumptions that are commonly made.

    *trigger warning*
    First, misandry does exist and cisgender men do experience gender oppression in many structural ways, just not in a way that we commonly associate with violence against women. The claim that misandry, defined as hatred of men, does not exist is factually incorrect. Many radical feminist movements have included literature and open protests against men. The act of portraying male-ness as oppressing, is a priori, a form of hatred against men. Additionally, patriarchal oppression affects cisgender men as well. Your claim is essentializing and papers over male survivors of sexual assault. I believe both of us would agree that patriarchy contributes to rape culture, but to ignore the possibility of violence against males and denounce their words is to denounce their survival strategies.
    Even cisgender men experience oppression by patriarchal society. While they may not be told that they are inadequate or denied fair wages or many of the other tangible and intangible harms against women, mentally and emotionally, cisgender men can be harmed by patriarchal society. Being told to “be a man” or not to show emotion because it is “weak” harms the development of any individual. It denies emotional freedom and self-expression, something we can see manifest itself harmfully in society as a whole.

    Second, it is reductive to assume that male support alone equates to non-action/non-feminism. Your own spelling of the word “womyn” suggests a symbolic rejection of the dependence of women on men. While the way I spell has its own linguistic reasons (this can be discussed otherwise), your understanding of language demonstrates a belief in the radical capacity of communication itself. With such a belief, I do not think we can say that male support cannot count as feminism. After all, support can result in changing public opinion and discourse, strong variables in affecting social change. That is not to say concrete action is not necessary, just that we should not be so quick to discount people’s beliefs.

    Again, thank you for your contribution.

    Like

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