Today we’re going to unpack the “F” word. FEMINISM. BUT WAIT!!! Before you click away rolling your eyes thinking, “Oh, great, another think piece reminding what an oppressive piece of shit I am,” hang with me. I’m not attacking you. I’m not going to define it for you. In fact–YOU’RE GOING TO DEFINE IT FOR ME.
Because let me start by admitting: I don’t know shit about feminism. Some of this is willful ignorance, some of it chance. I didn’t have a mother who was constantly talking about the female struggle—she was too busy trying to raise five kids. My earliest exposure to feminism wasn’t really until honors English in 10th grade. I had one of THOSE teachers. To this day she remains the single most influential teacher I ever had, but she also used to wag her finger at me and warn me I would be setting feminism back 200 years with my attitude of, “But I don’t get it. I LOVE THE KITCHEN, WHY LEAVE IT? I HATE THE RAT RACE. Why don’t we want men to hold the door for us?”
IF SHE ONLY KNEW.
I dropped out of college because I was paying for it and, well, I can read, so I wasn’t exposed to the standard brainwashing attached to a liberal arts degree. I also wasn’t exposed to the intricacies of gender studies or the history of the feminist movement.
To be honest, I’ve always had a hard time identifying with the movement. First of all, I don’t hate men. I love them. The only feminists I knew growing up were Lilith Fair lesbians with Doc Martens, flannels, pixie cuts and a serious ax to grind; it seemed like you had to hate men to be feminist. I believe in the principles feminism was founded on–equal rights, pay me the same, don’t tell me what to do with my body–but I think we undermine our position and lose a lot of momentum with petty in-fighting and whining.
Secondly, it took me a long time to trust women. I moved every year-and-a-half, and women were insanely cruel to me. My observation of women over the years was that they talked a lot of game about sisterhood yet threw each other under the bus the first chance they had. And don’t go blaming The Patriarchy for why women compete with one another. At a certain point we have to woman up and take responsibility for our own behavior.
Finally, I never agreed with the hard line a lot of the radical feminists tow that ends up sounding to me like, “My feminism is more feminist than your feminism.”
And based on what some of the fourth wave, intersectional feminists say about me on the internet, I’m not 100 percent sure I even have any business calling myself a feminist.
We’ve all seen the Jezebel think pieces. But I was curious—how do MEN view feminism? Do they perceive some of the blind spots I feel are often ignored? Are they woke or just angry? The call to action was simple.
The results were impressive. About 50 percent of the men started their emails thanking me for even considering their opinion. In total I received 40 emails (I should say ESSAYS), all of them insightful, thoughtful and well-written.
Below is a think piece I cut and pasted together written 100 percent by YOU GUYS.
Feminism is an effective and transformative vehicle for social revolution, but as with most institutions (for lack of a better word) its employment is symptomatic of the given culture/time period. I love the idea of global feminism: fighting for worldwide education, healthcare, access to birth control, higher levels of societal equality, ending of the glass ceiling, etc.
Its goals are essential, but the struggle must not just be an appropriation of patriarchal values into a different gender. Destruction of the patriarchy accomplishes nothing if we cannot reinvent the value system it is founded upon. And it’s not as simple as inverting masculine hierarchy with feminine. The hierarchies must merge and begin to disappear if our society is to be just, peaceful and generous.
Feminism is a brand. It’s a banner. It’s a grouping of issues under which women can push forward a collective agenda of change. However, because of its fluidity and how it’s often viewed by men it can become about ‘undermining men.’ It’s clearly not, but the insecure male views it as exactly that. If another man squared up to a male and said ‘I’m just as good as you at everything, if not better,’ he would confront him. But a female doing it? How to act?
Feminism is a good thing, but just like any other brand it sometimes needs to think about its message and audience. The thing that overwhelms me about the subject is that women themselves do not seem to agree on feminism. It seems like there are a lot of women screaming feminism when they don’t even understand what it truly means. It’s become something that is ‘cool’ to get behind but is not fully understood. I hear the word sexual empowerment, and then women blast Kim Kardashian for posting semi-nude photos. Therefore, as enlightened as I would like to believe I am, I am still a typical man in that I DON’T UNDERSTAND WOMEN!
It seems like today’s feminists are only reading article headlines and not the articles, or even worse, not reading the texts that have contributed to the conversation for the last hundred years. To hear Demi Lovato conceitedly claim she was a feminist ‘before it was cool’ points to a watered-down mainstream version of what I learned and discussed and wrote about in my college courses, among feminists who referenced Three Guineas and didn’t require safe spaces. The recent defensive-aggressiveness, felt especially online, seems more like masculinization of the feminine, going to war over identity politics, an attempt to simply acquire the throne of the patriarchy rather than usurping it, totally antithetical to the inclusivity, intuition, compassion and true agency that feminism is supposed to encourage in all individuals. It certainly encouraged those things in me.
The influence and reach of the bad apples is great, mainly because it makes for more clickable stories and better headlines. Man-hating is an easy way to create a scapegoat or channel and direct frustrations at a target. This is where feminism gets a bad rap among a lot of people. I don’t really see the feminist who just wants equal treatment. I know they exist. I’m friends with a few, but they generally don’t generate click-bait media.
A white cis straight man on the internet seems to basically have two options for how to react to feminism: self-deprecating 'woke bae’ and insulated MRA rejection. I obviously find the latter unacceptable, but I can imagine the former being frustrating, especially for men without high self-esteem and/or with anxiety about whether they are sufficiently masculine. I think we are in the process of moving into a paradigm in which men don’t get the benefit of the doubt. This is good, and necessary, and deserved. But I do worry that it will drive some of them into the willing arms of the MRA Redditors.
Sometimes it seems like a trap either way. If a man has the 'wrong’ reaction it’s 'Ugh, how terrible.’ If he has the right reaction it’s, 'Welcome to 2016. Do you want a cookie?’ Incidentally, this is one problem with knowing how to understand Hillary Clinton. She is neither perfect nor terrible, but knowing what is a real flaw and what is an overblown sexist double standard is not easy to tease out.
Basically, don’t criticize women on the internet. The way I put it once was: they deal with so many unbelievably horrible men that they shouldn’t be expected to have the time or energy to discern the difference between realistic criticism and sexism. If you spend so much time being targeted by bears who want to attack you, your first reaction on seeing a bear is not going to be “Hmm, interesting, a bear. I wonder what it has to say?”
But something I worry about regarding progressivism in general and feminist progressivism in particular is piling on somebody who makes the mistake of being insufficiently orthodox in said progressivism, whatever that may be (there are plenty of examples). It’s an occasionally frightening illiberalism that I hope moderates itself out. The problem, I guess, is that the right wing is so incredibly off the rails that it’s not like they provide a legitimate option.
I’m not as concerned with how society currently views men as I am with society becoming so reductive and fatalistic. Either you’re a survivor or you’re an oppressor. Either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists. (Remember that rhetoric?) What I don’t understand are self-proclaimed feminists (of any gender) who engage in witch hunts or who tow party lines for brownie points.
I firmly believe that most people would be willing to engage in a civil discussion given the chance, especially in person. You’re just obviously much more conscious of what you say when you don’t have the Iron Curtain of internet anonymity to hide behind.
I feel feminism is at a crossroads where it must find ways to continue to push and defend the victories won while steering clear of victimhood and a sense of whiny entitlement. Some of the battles that take place today, like the silly debate about Kim K posing naked–a woman who has money to burn and will not ‘lose her job’ due to her choices–are very different than a 30-year-old school teacher who puts up pictures of herself in a bikini while on vacation and is then fired by the local school board. These battles do more damage than good.
Men were behind the laws and practices that still hold women back now when they were put in place. But that shouldn’t condemn us men here in the present. I also believe this man-hating also relates to the special snowflake-ness of younger generations (mine included) and the safe space ideal that has permeated college campuses. The need to always feel safe and be heard trumps civil discourse and the idea that you can, indeed, be wrong. But I think that’ll change. The real world ain’t got time for you if you’re gonna be like that! It’s the social pendulum that swings back and forth.
This nation was founded on the idea of equality, and most of the people in it believe in equality, whether they were born here or not. Whether they are a man or a woman, whether they are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Hate and oppression are taught, like anything else. As we progress forward and older, more hateful or ‘old-fashioned’ generations die off, we become more open and accepting. It just takes longer than we like. I wish we could have true gender equality today or tomorrow, but, sadly, it’s going to take longer. Nevertheless, I 100 percent believe we will have true gender equality in my lifetime. As I also believe we will eventually confront and combat climate change, LGBTQ equality and other issues that are no-brainers, but the opposition to which makes people money and gets them votes. We’ve already seen people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk take up the reins when the government has failed or neglected environmental/social/civil rights issues like fossil fuels/the AIDS epidemic. And we’ve already seen more and more women speaking out against the wage gap, being treated like shit in their careers and every other aspect of gender inequality. I think we’ll continue to see more discussion and action in relation to feminism, and eventually the wall of hate will crumble and our world will be more open.
Well said, guys. It finally makes sense. I’m not a feminist. I’m a MALE FEMINIST. And the most obvious sign of progress? I have almost 19K followers, and when I asked for men to email me about feminism? NOT ONE SINGLE DICK PIC.