Can a Man be a Feminist?

ryan gosling

Glen Poole explains how the debate surrounding whether men can be feminists “really has nothing to do with your beliefs or your actions.”

The question of whether or not a man can be a feminist is a hot topic again, thanks to young male celebrities like John Legend, Ryan Gosling and John Hamm giving their name to the cause.

As a lapsed feminist myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that feminism is like religion, it has many different denominations and they don’t all agree with each other.

To some people asking if a man can be a feminist is as absurd as asking if a man can be a nun. To others it’s more like asking if a human can be religious. Of course anyone can be religious but you can’t simply join any religious denomination you feel like, because they all have different membership criteria.

Various feminists have tried to enforce different rules of entry to their particular brand of feminism over the decades. My personal favorite was the belief that you had to become a lesbian to be a real feminist because real feminists don’t sleep with the enemy! This belief spread to the pro-feminist men’s movement in the seventies and eighties with some men arguing that the only way to be a male feminist was to stop sleeping with women and become gay. Not surprisingly, some men were much more willing to embrace this particular rule of entry than others.

More recently—and less salaciously—as the political right has become more progressive and feminist, some left-wing feminists have begun to argue that you can’t be a feminist and right wing. The death of Margaret Thatcher this year (the only woman to serve as British Prime Minister) prompted another rematch of the “was she or wasn’t she a feminist icon” debate with no obvious winner.

The difference with the “can men be feminists” debate is that it has nothing to do with your beliefs or your actions and everything to do with whether or not you have balls. Some would say that an absence of testicles is an essential pre-requisite for wanting to become a male feminist, as a former feminist myself I’d have to say balls to that.

One of the key principles of feminism is that women shouldn’t be restricted by what they can or can’t do purely because of their sex; so saying that a man can’t go feminist because of his gonads can seem hypocritical.

Yet feminism isn’t just about theory, it’s also about the lived experience of being a woman and no man can ever tick that box. I have met many men like myself whose lived experience of trying to be a feminist has ultimately led them to become critics of feminism.

We tend to follow a common path. We are attracted to feminism because we believe that all humans are equal and that no-one should be held back in life because of things like their race, their sexuality of their sex.

Some men may turn away from feminism when we discover that there are some feminists who are not focused on sex equality but solely on women’s advancement. The more time we spend living and exploring the fascinating world of sex equality and gender, the more we see the problems and inequalities that men and boys face and find feminism may not be addressing those issues as quickly or directly as we need them to be.

Personally, I don’t mind what kind of genitals a feminist has. What I’m concerned about is whether men and boys issues are being addressed alongside the issues that women and girls face. With or without Ryan Gosling, that’s a job that’s too big for feminism to be left to tackle on its own. What I hope is that feminists and those concerned about the issues men and boys are facing can work together toward those goals.

Photo: AP/File

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Glen Poole

Glen Poole is an international expert on men and boys and author of the book Equality For Men. He is Director of the consultancy Helping Men, UK co-ordinator for International Men Day and host of the National Conference for Men and Boys in Brighton and Hove. You can follow him on twitter @equality4menUK and at www.equality4men.com.

Comments

  1. Right well, let’s just correct a few rather misleading generalisations here. If you’re going to claim feminism is like a religion, I’d really like to see something to back that up. It’s an incendiary claim which serves no purpose in this article, except to ignite the ire of feminists who read it. Either that, or provide an echo chamber for the anti-feminists who read it. It doesn’t serve to help you answer the question you pose.

    You claim that “most feminists” aren’t fighting for gender equality, but for “women’s equality.” Again, another very incendiary claim which you provide absolutely nothing to back up. So again I am left feeling that this is probably meant to incite feminist readers and/or cater to anti-feminist readers.

    The lesbian separatist movement was never as popular as this article makes it seem. It has always been on the fringes of the feminist movement (or rather, feminist movements, to be more accurate). In fact, in direct response to the perceived “lavender menace” (a term coined by Betty Friedan, for goodness sake) the mainstream feminists of the 1970s vocally disavowed all lesbians, for fear that the “lesbian feminist” stereotype would ruin their chances at effecting change. So lesbian separatists, hardly the decision makers with regards to feminism.

    The debate surrounding “could Thatcher be feminist,” really boils down to questioning whether simply being a woman in power is enough to qualify a woman to be a feminist. Similar debates surround figures like Michelle Bachmann and Condoleezza Rice. It’s also not about being “right wing,” in itself, so much as the debate about whether the policies these women support actually end up hurting women. If you believe abortion is a big feminist issue about bodily autonomy, and a right which should not be threatened and integral to women’s equality….then if a woman in power is against abortion, there is a question of whether you could consider them a feminist.

    As for the topic at hand, outside of the RadFem movement (which traces its roots to the lesbian separatist movement, by the way), I have never seen a feminist suggest that men cannot be feminists. They’ve posed the question, because it is a question that is asked. And they’ve always answered it with a “Yes.”

    Finally, your final sentence, that addressing the issues of boys is “too big” for feminism to tackle on its own, left me wondering what your alternative is? If male feminists aren’t the answer because, apparently, they’re so unhappy within feminism (never mind that there are actually a hell of a lot of male feminists out there), what’s your alternative?

    (Apologies to the moderators for the length of this)

    • Melenas says:

      I think when he compared feminism to religion he just meant that there are a lot of different groups and organizations that call themselves feminists but they are often quite different from each other. Just like the label “Christian” includes Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and so on.
      I didn’t see anything explicitly negative in this comparison.

      So how are feminists addressing men and boys’ issues? In my experience, feminists, including male feminists are primarily concerned with women’s issues and how men can help with them and any benefit to men is either secondary (Patriarchy hurts men too!) or related to “femme-phobia” (men should be able to wear dresses and cry without social censure). Which is great, but those are not the only or IMO the most important issues facing men and boys.
      Do you think that feminism is able to address men’s issues with its current toolset? Should feminism makes men’s issues a priority alongside women’s issues?
      Or since there are still a lot of really nasty things out there in society harming women, should people concerned with men’s issues leave feminism alone and do their own work?

    • I think when he said feminism is like a religion he merely meant it was composed of competing sects rather than being one thing.

      I think one of the problems is if two feminists disagree then the one who has testicles is deemed to have the less valid feminist interpretation, which means “feminist” is not a useful label for a man to have even if he does believe in gender equality. If two feminists disagree and neither have testicles then all well and good and they can fight for the validity of their differing views on a level playing field, whilst I eat popcorn.

      I dropped calling myself a feminist back in the nineties, but my female feminist friends often mistake me for one; the classic line which I gave with regard to this – I had an anecdote about being appalled when a young girl who was asking for Lego in a toy shop and was told by her mother “don’t be silly; that’s for boys!” when I recount my anger at witnessing this my feminist friends start reeling off books I should read and I throw up my hands and say “woah! I’m not a feminist; I just hate to see any child deprived of Lego” which is to say on a case by case basis I will take a feminist stance because to my sense of justice it is right, and not because I’ve received that opinion through any sense of following a particular “ism”.

      I also suspect that the notion of a “male feminist” can be seen as patronising, by women (ironically. But it’s not anyone’s place to tell someone else what they should be fighting for in terms of rights), and holier than thou by other men.

      From a male perspective to hear the word “patriarchy” used to refer to the repressive nature of society at every turn makes us feel that we are all jointly responsible, and that we’ve had clandestine meetings about it. No one ever consulted me about where we were going to set the glass ceiling, and if I’d been involved I wouldn’t have said “ooh way way above any level I’m ever going to attain please. It’s the rich successful women I really want to be a bastard to.”

      So I think it’s okay for a man to have feminist sympathies, and I think if we want gender equality for men we should look for feminist allies with whom we can share common goals, because they are inter-connected – now there are some factions of feminism we can never share common goals with, and there’s some others that we can feel closely allied with, and it depends on their attitude to men really. For example there are those in government who’d like to reduce maternity leave and go on to claim that it is so women aren’t denied jobs because employers fear they will lose too many man-hours to maternity leave; so (this was a British Tory policy) they try and sell this as if it’s a feminist policy. Which any woman who’s attitude to life is rather more hollistic than “career at all costs” can see is rot! They’re taking something away from you, and insisting it’s for your own good. Swines! Smug, slave-driving villains! Wouldn’t a better policy be to introduce paternity leave so men and women pose an equal threat to employers? And if you have been a father you know the mother needs you there – that’s a tough job for one person to do alone. Extended paternity leave would be a much better policy for all concerned, and it’s both feminist (because it means women aren’t held back career wise simply for having a womb) and pro-male rights (because it recognises the importance of fathers and it gives men equal rights to something a woman has). There’s a common-goal which serves both causes. Of course, we don’t really have political parties that represent worker’s rights anymore; the big businesses call the shots for all the political parties.

      But mens rights and womens rights are two seperate causes; that should work in alliance together where and when they can, because basically we’re both calling into question tradition, and social control by gender, but ultimately we’re both going to have a different set of priorities because we have a different set of experiences. So don’t be offended because I’m not a feminist because ultimately I don’t want to see any child deprived of Lego either, or for that matter any child deprived of a variety of positive role models, or somebody stoned to death because they were a victim of a violent crime, or anyone made to feel inadequate because they don’t fit a stereotype – on an issue by issue basis my basic humanism and compassion will leave me quite often applauding a woman who calls herself a feminist because she’s said something I passionately agree with. On one or two other issues I will find myself angrily opposed to something that’s been said by another woman who also calls herself a feminist (although in these instances I can usually find another woman who calls herself a feminist who agrees with me). I don’t need an “ism” to tell me to do that.

      • Thanks Joseph

        Really great comments. You highlight parental leave which is a perfect example

        Left-wing pro-feminist fatherhood advocates describe the parental leave rights introduced by feminist politicians in the UK as some of the most unequal anywhere in the world

        That is a perfect example of feminists in action concerning themselves with women’s equality, not gender equality

        Interestingly, the right-wing instinct has been to keep parental leave to a minimum but to say if we must have it then it should be equal

        This is a perfect real-life example of feminists fighting against gender equal legislation. I and others were campaigning for generous and equal parental leave for mums and dads; the right was standing for less generous but more equal leave while the feminists on the left (who won this battle), were fighting for generous unequal leave just for mums

        Of course anti-feminist campaigners are unlikely to be taken seriously by feminists, but when pro-feminists fatherhood campaigners are saying we were defeated in our fight for equality by feminists and women’s rights campaigners, it would be great to see feminists taking their experience on board.

        I say a bit more about parental leave in this post:

        http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/its-time-to-stop-discriminating-against-men-and-women-international-mens-movement/

        Best

        Glen

    • Hi Heather

      I didn’t say “feminism is like A religion” — I said “feminism is like religion”— you’ve added a word and changed the meaning — I’m just saying that feminism, like religion, is diverse

      It is my experience after years of fighting for equality for men and boys that most feminist aren’t fighting for gender equality, the classic illustration is the way the WEF league tables are calibrated which reflects, in my experience, how most feminists in modern economies have been tackling gender equality for decades

      You say “The lesbian separatist movement was never as popular as this article makes it seem.
      ” — I never said it was popular—I just think it’s interesting particularly because it was echoed of the way it was reflected in the men’s movement

      “Finally, your final sentence, that addressing the issues of boys is “too big” for feminism to tackle on its own, left me wondering what your alternative is? If male feminists aren’t the answer what’s your alternative?”

      The answer is diversity of thought, feminists and non-feminists working to address issues of inequality experienced by all genders in addition to, not in opposition to each other.

      Glen

    • >You claim that “most feminists” aren’t fighting for gender equality, but for “women’s equality.” Again, another very incendiary claim which you provide absolutely nothing to back up.

      The total absence of feminist programs and funding allocation for mens issues and exclusion and censorship of mens issues from every feminist area I can think of backs this up.

      Of course I am open to being shown feminist funding allocation, program or area where mens issues are allowed to be discussed freely, but the closest I’ve seen to feminism dealing with mens issues is paternity leave, which is really about womens equality and these programs that treat sexual domestic violence as if they are gendered and only in mens power to stop.

      • Jameseq says:

        … but the closest I’ve seen to feminism dealing with mens issues is paternity leave, which is really about womens equality…

        as demonstrated by this article

        In Norway 97% of fathers take daddy leave. The expectations are high, but is it a panacea for gender equality?

        As a feminist family researcher from Norway, doing research on egalitarian men who worked part time and shared paid work and care, I often find myself trying to dissuade other family researchers and policymakers, both at home and abroad, from the high hopes they place in this particular policy measure as a tool of gender equality. This piece is the result of many encounters with daddy quota enthusiasts, and my efforts to bring some evidence and critical perspectives into the discussion.
        http://goodmenproject.com/families/the-good-life-does-daddy-leave-lead-to-gender-equality/

        what was most disturbing was then to read the article writer’s bio

        … is a sociologist and feminist based in Oslo, Norway. She is an expert on work-family arrangements and gender equality, and, in particular, men’s role and agency in social change towards more egalitarian work-family arrangements. She is currently a senior researcher at the Nordic Women’s University, and has formerly been a researcher at the University of Oslo and the Work Research Institute, as well as a civil servant and business consultant involved in the promotion of female entrepreneurship. She has served as a national expert on gender equality to the European Commission and is Vice President of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights

        the article writer(aw) is an ‘authority’ on ‘men’s roles, agency’. and advises the european commission. well i think that if that article was representative of the aw’s work, then the aw has absolutely no sympathy, insight, or even understanding of men and their roles. and it was frightening that the aw was advising the eu on the circumstances of men

  2. So then… the short answer is “no.”

    • No, the short answer is “it depends who you ask”

      • Thomas Beer says:

        I think a better answer would be “It depends on your goals”

        If your goal is to seek actual gender equality, and acknowledge that men and women have unique issues that need to be addressed, then yes a man can be a feminist. More importantly, a men’s rights advocate can be a feminist, and a feminist can be a men’s rights advocate if this is their goal.

        There is no need to assume we need one movement fighting the issues of men and women. If we did this we would eventually split and become polarized as we currently are. There is no need for this polarization. It’s commonly mistaken that if you don’t advocate for something, you are an oppressor of that thing. This is one of the dumbest and most illogical ways of thinking when it comes to political movements. What leads to this polarization is generalized assumptions. Feminists claim all MRA’s want to suppress the women’s movement, and MRA’s claim feminist want to suppress the men’s movement. This fighting is destrictive. It prevents us from focusing on the actual issues. We have feminists taking away every nook and crany that men can be among other men, without women. But, then expect to be able to have their own private spaces just for women. This is mostly done out of spite. Then we have men’s rights advocates attacking women’s shelters funding sources because they placed an insensitve ad strereotyping men as abusive and women as victims. This type of fighting, this isn’t activism, undermines both movements. It causes people to not want to join either movement and care less about their concerns. We, the gender equality movement is kicking the chair under out own feet. Ther is only one out come if we continue to be polarized, we will hang ourselves, both figuritivly and chances are quite literally for people who are actually the victims of the issues we fight to solve.

        • And this is exactly why I ask the question… in my experience, women give each other far more leeway to answer the question of what’s “equal” than they do men. GMP is the most feminist-friendly site I visit, and I regularly see men who appear to be making fair and balanced arguments on gender issues get shot down and silenced by female commenters. I don’t have a problem with women fighting for women’s issues. I don’t even care if they choose to do it in their own space away from men. But if men sit back and do nothing while women determine what gender parity/equality is, then how will we know when the scales have tipped too far in the other direction? As a man, I don’t want to live in a world where women have all the power anymore than I’d want to live in a world where men have all the power. But simply raising the question as a man is often enough to get you rejected from most feminist circles.

  3. I don’t know about most as I don’t keep a tally of all feminists, but here is an example of how it looks not fighting for gender equality, but for women’s equality:

    World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index:
    Almost every indicator that show an advantage for women are capped to 1. For instance if the female to male ratio for enrolment in tertiary edcation is 1.41 then WEF state that this indicator has a score of 1.

    There seem to be a couple of exceptions, one of them is life expectancy which is capped at 1.06 and female to male birth ratio which is capped at 0.94. They are added together (forming the index for health) since the female to male birth ratio is weighted more the score for health cannot exceed 1.0.

    See this image from the GGGI for a screenshot.

    Another example is Mary P Koss writing:

    Although consideration of male victims is within the scope of the legal statutes, it is important to restrict the term rape to instances where male victims were penetrated by offenders. It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with a woman.

  4. Joanna Schroeder says:

    I don’t think there’s any way you can say that MOST feminists are more concerned with women’s equality than everyone’s equality, and I haven’t read Heather’s post above, so I may be repeating her here, but think about this:

    Even if feminists were more concerned with women’s equality, wouldn’t that ALWAYS mean that they simply want to be EQUAL – as opposed to “ahead” or “better”? I mean, to say that feminism is only about advancing women, and then to say that women only want women’s equality is an inherent contradiction.

    Equality means equal. And yes, feminists want equality. Because then we would all be equal.

    • I agree with your comment Joanna. I don’t understand why it is such a problem for many men with feminism only deals with women rights. Just like white men can fight for black men rights, men can fight for women rights too.

      • OirishM says:

        I agree with your comment Joanna. I don’t understand why it is such a problem for many men with feminism only deals with women rights. Just like white men can fight for black men rights, men can fight for women rights too.

        It’s not that the notion of feminism only dealing with womens’ rights is a problem, it is that feminists frequently claim to be for gender equality. That implies a greater remit than merely women’s issues, it includes men’s and non-binary issues as well.

        The problem is not the notion of a women’s issues-only movement, it is that feminism frequently tries to pass itself off as an equality movement when it doesn’t seem to be in practice.

      • John Anderson says:

        “I don’t understand why it is such a problem for many men with feminism only deals with women rights.”

        Because feminists are only concerned with women’s equality when women are disadvantaged, not when women are advantaged. That will ultimately leave women advantaged and lead to an unequal society.

        • To me its not that feminists are only concerned about women’s equality.

          To me its more like a lot of feminists believe in gender equality but the way the gender equality is to either only work on side of the equation in hopes that the other side balances itself out or by denying the existence of the other side entirely.

          (For example of the former look at how the child care situation is usually framed not as “men are conditioned away from parenting and women are conditioned into parenting” but as “women are conditioned into parenting and as a result men are conditioned away from parenting. As in the affects on men are not a feature of the own, but are a bug of a system meant to undervalue and limit women. As for the latter just look at how hard feminists will argue that male privilege influces damn near everything and that men are blind to it while simutaneously vehemently denying female privilege.)

        • Where, outside of the feminine products aisle, are women truly advantaged?

          In many legal areas the only advantage given to women (custody, child support, etc) are hold overs of patriarchal assumptions. ie; women should stay home and raise the children, men should be the bread winners. Wrong on both counts. We ARE trying to change those laws. Maternity leave? Ask a feminist – just about anybody will say that both parents should have at least 6 weeks (preferably longer) of paid leave, and the option for longer unpaid leave. Yes, domestic violence is a problem for men, too. So men, maybe you should start telling your peers to stop victim blaming the female domestic abuse and rape victims. Because you know what? If women are still being blamed for abuse, how could it be acceptable for men to come forward and talk about their abuse? In a society that still calls men “pussies” for not being “manly enough”, what shred of dignity could be left to a man that had been abused by a “pussy’? Who is to blame here? Funding for shelters, medical care, etc. is politically controlled. Who holds the majority of political office? Oh, right. Not women.

          We are not working against you. Equal is not better. Its equal. Someone else doing better does not mean you are doing worse. Men, you have privilege whether you want it or not, whether you recognize it or not. You can use it to make these areas more equal, you can use it to make them more unequal, or you can sit back and complain about what you think is unfair. Feminists are working for equality for everyone. That includes you. You are welcome to help us.

          • Jess

            > We ARE trying to change those laws.

            I’m aware that feminists groups rolled back shared parenting in Australia, oppose shared parenting in various other countries, that feminist jurisprudence in very influential in family law and that the presumption of maternal custody was introduced by a feminists ….

            Can you point me to feminist resources being put into changing these laws that make things more equitable for men?

            >Yes, domestic violence is a problem for men, too. So men, maybe you should start telling your peers to stop victim blaming the female domestic abuse and rape victims. Because you know what? If women are still being blamed for abuse, how could it be acceptable for men to come forward and talk about their abuse?

            So you as essentially blaming men for the fact womens abuse is being kept under the carpet.

            Do you know the Erin Pizzey story or about the controversy between domestic violence research and feminist ideology? Feminism has been suppressing the evidence on domestic violence in favor of a narrative in which domestic violence is depicted as patriarchal and excluding men from intervention services for three decades now.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erin_Pizzey

          • Just in schools alone I can mention teachers expecting girls to be smarter than boys, the same assignment being judged better if it’s got a girls name on it, girls being diciplined more leniently and generally getting various types of encouragment aimed specifically at them.

            Have you looked at the gender gap in higher education? It’s not there by an act of God.

          • Jess says:
            June 10, 2013 at 11:37 am
            Where, outside of the feminine products aisle, are women truly advantaged?
            —–
            Yes, at least in my native country within EU, women retire with 60, and men with 65, despite women live longer than men.
            To have equality, women however receive the same national retirement allowance despite working 5 years less.
            As men die earlier they enjoy retirement for only about 10 years but women for 20 years, the fund for retirement shows a surplus for men and a deficit for women – therefore money is taken from the fund for men and transferred to the fund for women – equality?

            Men are subject to the draft, serving about 1 year without any payment in the military in my country, while women reject the idea to help out unpaid in hospitals or elderly care homes even for one week – equality?

            Men cannot refuse nightwork, Sunday work, overtime etc. – but women can do that and are complaining after to receive lower pay – equality?

            These are the laws in my country – just a few examples… I could continue, about lenient sentences regarding crimes, about family laws regarding father’s rights and mother’s rights, about biased divorce rulings and so on and so on.

        • Because feminists are only concerned with women’s equality when women are disadvantaged, not when women are advantaged. That will ultimately leave women advantaged and lead to an unequal society.

          succinctly put, excellent point. im surprised that others can not see this.
          i was biting my tongue from yesterday as i didnt want to type paragraphs of text on this or glen’s recent other article.

    • “Even if feminists were more concerned with women’s equality, wouldn’t that ALWAYS mean that they simply want to be EQUAL – as opposed to “ahead” or “better”? I mean, to say that feminism is only about advancing women, and then to say that women only want women’s equality is an inherent contradiction.”
      Depends how much though. I’ll use numbers for this explanation which has no real world comparison since the world is super complex.

      Women start at 60, men at 80. Next generation through efforts of feminism we’ve given 20 points to women, 5 to men so w80 m85. Next generation a similar effort is used w100 m90. Basically if the concern is too great in the direction of women then we may have them slip ahead, this has probably occured in schooling with boys lagging behind in advancement whilst girls have excelled. The focus needs to take both genders into account and give proportional response, with the schools for example I think so much effort was done to raise girls that they actually went past where the boys were at the start and the boys did not progress in equal strides so we’re probably going to have to refocus heavily towards the boys but also focus on girls to make sure they remain somewhat equal.

      Expand this to other areas of society like domestic violence n rape awareness where we have absolutely fantastic increases for women in these fields but still lag like crazy for men. I don’t think people realized men were being harmed so much by abuse and so their issues got put on the backburner but now we have a huge problem because men’s abuse victimization awareness is pitiful compared to womens.

      I think that feminism was good but we needed egalitarianism or masculism to co-exist to ensure neither gender would fall behind. I think that the hyperfocus on women’s issues however has left a major gap and in some cases led to negative effects for men (earlier VAWA + primary aggressor laws + the bad feminists influencing anti-DV measures where male victims would get arrested for instance).

      The ideal feminism from what I am guessing you and Heather believe in would not be set in stone but constantly evolving to tackle whatever issue arises. If men need 20 points, 20 points will be put into the focus system, if women need 40, then 40 goto women’s focus. 5 years later the numbers change and so too the focus, basically no one gets left behind. That is how I understand an egalitarian movement should be, I extremely dislike highly gendered focus where we end up with people thinking along the lines of “men have the power and are ok” and they just hyperfocus on women’s issues and let the men slip behind unintentionally. I don’t wanna see in 50 years time us standing around thinking “Damn, we should have focused more on men” and have a society where men are really lagging in many areas (nor women or anyone). If all feminists were like you and Heather I do NOT think the MRM would need to exist as feminism would have covered men and women where needs be.

    • “I don’t understand why it is such a problem for many men with feminism only deals with women rights”

      I don’t think people do have a problem a problem with feminism only dealing with women’s issues (rights, equality etc) in principle — I think people would be quite happy for feminism to operate in that way BUT they expect there to be space for people to deal with men’s issues and for people to approach all issues from a non-feminist perspective if they want to

      My experience is that people who care deeply about equality and are working to address the concerns of men and boys will often find feminists and feminist thinking to be a barrier to addressing men’s issues (rights, equality etc)

      And this is the experience of people working on the frontline and it’s not unique to one country. Once I began speaking this truth then people from all over the world have come forward and told me that this is also their experience

      I am very mindful to not spread an anti-feminist message but to spread a pro-equality message and highlight – from my experience and the experience of others – where feminism is a barrier to equality

      On the equality point, if you only address the areas where women are on average unequal, but don’t address the areas where men on average are unequal, then you won’t get equality.

      You can’t stop violence against all humans by only working to end violence against women and girls; you can’t prevent the damage done by unnecessary genital cutting if you only fight to end female genital mutilation for example.

      Best

      Glen

      • I don’t think people do have a problem a problem with feminism only dealing with women’s issues (rights, equality etc) in principle — I think people would be quite happy for feminism to operate in that way BUT they expect there to be space for people to deal with men’s issues and for people to approach all issues from a non-feminist perspective if they want to.
        Exactly. The fact that feminism looks mainly at women’s issues doesn’t bother me one bit. What does bother me is that this moveent that looks mainly at women’s issues also bills itself as the movement for equality for all people, some even going to the extreme of holding the opinion that not aligning oneself with it in and of itself proof of being against equality. You can’t say you want equality for all people but then claim that equality for all people can only be worked on in your own camp.

        My experience is that people who care deeply about equality and are working to address the concerns of men and boys will often find feminists and feminist thinking to be a barrier to addressing men’s issues (rights, equality etc)
        I can’t speak for everyone but that’s my experience.

        On the equality point, if you only address the areas where women are on average unequal, but don’t address the areas where men on average are unequal, then you won’t get equality.
        Yes. At the very least you can’t expect to think that focusing only on areas where women are on the short end of the stick so to speak (or twisting measurements to make it look like its women on the short end of the stick) will fix everything. Yes doing so will do a lot of good for women and that’s great but it won’t fix everything.

        You can’t stop violence against all humans by only working to end violence against women and girls; you can’t prevent the damage done by unnecessary genital cutting if you only fight to end female genital mutilation for example.
        Agreed.

        Starting off by treating all males as abusers in the DV conversation won’t fully address the issue (at the very least it won’t help male victims that are being treated as abusers when they call for help). And you can’t in one breath say that bodily that everyone’s autonomy is important and then turn around and support violating the bodily autonomy of a specific subset of people because he is of a certain religion or because of studies that say it MIGHT reduce odds of STIs/STDs when he becomes sexually active several years down the line.

        • anewleaf says:

          I’d agree that there is limitation and flaw in the feminist movement in addressing gender issues FOR men, as it has by tradition and design been a women’s movement. Is it possible that the reason feminism wishes to retain it’s “equality for everyone” card is that the efforts of men’s movements are often mired in misogyny and dismantling feminisms substantial gains toward actual equality? I’m an “equality for everyone” feminist. I’d love to see equal parental leave, gender-blind custody and alimony considerations, and freedom from the culture of masculinity.

          I don’t know what it’s like to be a guy in our sexist culture. I don’t have the lived experience of the myriad ways that it harms men. And I think it’s important that this lived experience make it to the voices calling for reform. But I gotta say, if I was a guy, I could see clear to being proud to be a feminist, even a particular sort of feminist. But I’d fear being laughed out of the equality board room by identifying as a men’s rights activist.

          Perhaps it’s the virtue of being an older movement. There’s a fair amount of internal policing, intersectionality and self-criticism that has grown up around feminism. The men’s movement so far still feels in its infancy: shrill, reactionary, pouty, and lacking in self-awareness. Not to mention being ill-defined. I hope, frankly, that it kind of takes off. I look forward to men having a greater voice and animus in dismantling gender roles.

          • Is it possible that the reason feminism wishes to retain it’s “equality for everyone” card is that the efforts of men’s movements are often mired in misogyny and dismantling feminisms substantial gains toward actual equality?
            If that were the case then wouldn’t feminism still be at least be open to those that may not ID as feminist but still want to have civil conversation?

            But I’d fear being laughed out of the equality board room by identifying as a men’s rights activist.
            Its not like that would be the first time someone would be have to face down fear over their identity. If that laughter has some backing to it it would be more substantial but quite frankly “You’re MRA so I know you hate women!” doesn’t really but it as well as feminists would like to think.

            Perhaps it’s the virtue of being an older movement. There’s a fair amount of internal policing, intersectionality and self-criticism that has grown up around feminism. The men’s movement so far still feels in its infancy: shrill, reactionary, pouty, and lacking in self-awareness. Not to mention being ill-defined. I hope, frankly, that it kind of takes off. I look forward to men having a greater voice and animus in dismantling gender roles.
            I appreciate the observation. That’s something I think a lot of people seem to miss. Its easy to ID with a movement that dates back almost a century. Doing so means you have systems of support to fall back on when times are tough. Doing so means you have resources to pull from when you need them. But hey, feminism didn’t start off in the form that it is today.

    • >I mean, to say that feminism is only about advancing women, and then to say that women only want women’s equality is an inherent contradiction.

      The way it works is this. Men and women both have areas where there is inequality, feminism works only on the areas where women have inequality that does not privilege them, the logical outcome of taking away all womens inequalities and replacing them with privileges and / or discrimination against men it fix the inequality and leaving the preexisting female privileges in place while denying their existence, the logical outcome is supremacy.

      If feminism was doing equality for men and women, it would be looking to improve the situation for men in the many areas women dominate and have privileges (most markers of well being, funding, health, services, education etc) and would stop advocacy for women, once women had surpassed men in that particular area, but that’s not whats happening.

      Beyond that there are issues that effect men and women, and children, like domestic violence in which feminism has historically discriminated against everyone but heterosexual women and their children, (so long as the boys are not over 14).

    • That only really works if everything really just boils down to a single axis. In reality there are different issues faced by men and women, dealing with the later won’t automatically deal with the former. That combined with the realization that despite their claims feminism is about the second kind of issues makes it clear that there is need for more than feminism in the gender issues discourse.

    • Fixing borked blockquote:

      Joanna:

      Even if feminists were more concerned with women’s equality, wouldn’t that ALWAYS mean that they simply want to be EQUAL – as opposed to “ahead” or “better”? I mean, to say that feminism is only about advancing women, and then to say that women only want women’s equality is an inherent contradiction.

      Equality means equal.

      Now, if you had read my comment directly above yours you’d see that that’s highly dependent on how one define “equality” or even how one define “means”. If one posits that in some cases unequal actually means equal then there is no longer an inherent contradiction in wanting women to get ahead/be better of than men and fighting for equality for women.

      Take a look at the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index. It looks at gender gap by looking at the ratio between women and men for a set of indicators.

      For instance Unites States have female to male ratio of labor force participation of 0.85 – hence the score for that indicator/index is 0.85.

      United States have a female to male ratio of professional and technical workers of 1.20 – hence the score for that indicator/index should be 1.20, right? But no, it is in fact capped at 1.0 – so sometimes unequal actually means equal.

      By definition women cannot be ahead in the gender gap index.

    • Thomas Beer says:

      “Equality means equal. And yes, feminists want equality. Because then we would all be equal.”

      Being equal means to be the same as, or as great as…

      Feminism isn’t trying to make women as great as or the same as men. What they are trying to do is bring men down and women up to a similar point. If they were truly fighting for equality, they would stop looking for ways to bring men down and look for ways to raise women up to the same level. But expecting men to lower their social status to raise up or match that of women is not equality.

      This is why I have problems with comments about the lack of women in public office. It’s a well known fact that women vote more than men, yet men are still more likely to be voted in. The reason for this isn’t privilege or patriarchy, it’s because the majority of female candidates don’t appear to be qualified for the job, I’m still wondering how Bachman or Palin ever got elected. Feminism suggests that we should vote people in based on their gender alone. I have no problem voting for a woman, as long as her ideals are worth voting for.

  5. The fact we are asking that question makes me sit on the fence thinking yes AND no. The fact that men are so commonly referred to as Allies means there is “othering” going on, men are being treated as lesser or different. A lot of times I’ve seen men’s opinions on a topic get absolutely dismissed and in feminism I truly do believe most put far more weight into a woman’s opinion vs a man’s.

    Can men be feminists? Depends on the sect of feminism you refer to. Joanna and Heathers version? Yes, Jezebels? Maybe, Radfemhub? No. Can men speak their mind without someone controlling their speech in feminism? Depends where…someplaces no, someplaces yes. Online I haven’t seen many places for feminism where men could speak freely, I saw many men get harassed out but the nature of online discussions is difficult because it’s text and there is a huge lack of empathy. If I discussed my issues face to face with someone offline they would probably be far more empathic but online they may not understand my emotion, my expression, it may sound very condescending when it’s not meant to because you can’t hear vocal tones n see body language. I’ve had plenty of misunderstandings online and I do think quite a lot of fights online in the gender-space evolve from these misunderstandings, especially when mixed cultures are involved.

    Take mansplaining for example, some of us men do it not with the intention to silence but to share knowledge. Yesterday I talked to someone who I know has quite a lot of knowledge on the topic but I still explained stuff (and he also does that too) because it’s a way of reinforcing our knowledge, sharing it, and sometimes we may not know 1 part of it and that fills it in. Mansplaining is often done intentionally in a negative way towards women so even positive experiences like what I just described can come off hugely wrong and piss people off. Men n women are largely gendered in how they speak I have found and that can cause issues, offline it’s probably far easier to understand intent vs online cuz we cannot see their reactions, body language etc (the extreme form of this, offline my friends say fuck you as a friendly gesture, online it could be friendly or hostile and it’s much harder to know). Hell I probably sound like I am mansplaining now when my intention is to give my opinion of why I personally think there is so much drama in online gender debates and I could be completely wrong.

    Now just as sometimes women coming into a discussion about men n talking of their issues, it’s extremely frustrating for some when sometimes a man comes into a place labelled feminism and talks of male issues. Some of the people there equate feminism = female issues and it pisses them off, I’ve been told pretty much to fuckoff to a male space when in the same comment thread other female feminists have said feminism is where I should be discussing male issues! It’s confusing because 1 word, feminism, has multiple meanings. To some it’s egalitarianism, to others it’s gynocentric focus on gender equality (which requires maculism to complement but they will sometimes discuss male issues), and to some it’s 100% gynocentric men-need-to-stfu and very very much a hostile place for men if they dare get out of line, and in some cases it’s misandrous and men are very much hated.

    Without a qualifier it’s damn near impossible to work out which area is what. I was commenting in a men in facebook group and even that became extremely gynocentric n male issues were largely dismissed n hushed up yet it sounded like the place where men should go to discuss their issues!

    That’s why it sounds like a religion with soooo many different sects, reminds me of christinaity. They have catholocism with original sin (male privilege), there’s various christian labelled sects which can be progressive like the youth churchs here that even have christian metal music!, then you get the very strange n quite frankly very bad westboro style stuff. There are christian sects that are more relaxed on the old vs new testament, some aren’t so punishing of premartial sex yet others from what I understand have kicked out “sinners” from the church.

    I don’t know enough about feminism to accurately define the various sects but based on what I’ve seen this is my guess of the different types. We have a bunch of waves, there’s pro porn, anti-porn, there are feminists who fully support and advocate for sex workers rights and others whom want to ban prostitution outright, there are egalitarians, gynocentrics, radicals, lesbian seperatists?, some support slutwalk whilst others hate it, there’s the black feminists n other minorities and then the “white female” feminism, the Woman’s christian temperance union which did work for suffrage afaik.
    This has more on it – ht tp://www.uah.edu/woolf/feminism_kinds.htm

    All those types of feminism…which do men fit into? Given the sheer variety of feminism I am anti-someparts but pro-other parts of feminism.

    • Mostly_123 says:

      “Take mansplaining for example, some of us men do it not with the intention to silence but to share knowledge. Yesterday I talked to someone who I know has quite a lot of knowledge on the topic but I still explained stuff (and he also does that too) because it’s a way of reinforcing our knowledge, sharing it, and sometimes we may not know 1 part of it and that fills it in.”

      I understand where you’re coming from there, and I’m glad you said that. I myself have seldom been accused of brevity (unless ‘verbose’ is a synonym for ‘brevity’) and I think a lot of the time when I write I’m talking myself through my OWN logic. It’s an idiosyncrasy to better understand what & why I’m thinking, step by step: If I’m wrong about something (Heaven forfend!) or change my mind, at least I don’t have to look too far for the cause, and then I can more easily start rebuilding the logic pyramid. ‘Mansplaining’ (or the perception/misperception of mansplaining) is rooted in the presumption of arrogance, not reticence- but plenty of times I have tended to articulate the best I can, not out of confidence, but because I feel somewhere in there I might have made a mistake, and I just haven’t caught it yet- and maybe somebody else can. Or, sometimes, vice-versa; given the right circumstances, I’ve got just as much capacity for over-confidence and arrogance as anyone else. There’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln I really like that kind of sums it up for me then: “If the end brings me out alright, then what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, well then, ten thousand angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”      

      Also, there’s a big difference (and sometimes big discrepancies) between intention and perception. If I do the same thing, for the same reasons, regardless of gender, can it be (or should it perceived to be) ‘mansplaining’? From a web-post perspective- if I don’t yet know the gender of another poster and they don’t know mine, can it really be considered a ‘mansplanation’? Personally, I never liked the term ‘mansplaining.’ When genuinely offended, don’t beat around the bush- if it’s  warranted, just call behavior what it is: condescending and/or, sexist. But be prepared to back it up; it’s a significant thing to call someone sexist, or a bigot. The ‘mansplaining’ epithet undercuts both the gravity of the (genuine) offense (being sexist), or it’s used too casually to (disingenuously) denigrate or to brow-beat, without the same ramifications as more blunt, direct language. But then, I’m biased against most faddish words. Drat.

  6. Mr Supertypo says:

    ” You can’t stop violence against all humans by only working to end violence against women and girls; you can’t prevent the damage done by unnecessary genital cutting if you only fight to end female genital mutilation for example. ”

    I agree our life’s (men and women) are entangled together, so the issues that effect women also hit men and vice versa. Focusing ONLY on one group, is a losing battle, while you can still solve some historical limitation, you will end up creating more limiting problems for both genders.

    About if men can be feminist, regardless what some feminist think or not, I say, yes. But I dislike the word ‘male feminist’ it sound divisive and hostile. IMO there are no male of female feminist’s, just feminist. If you are a male and you want to be a feminist, go for it, when you stumble on the hater crowd (men cant be feminist) listen to Dante Alighieri: ‘Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on’ .

    Sorry for the confusing post, but I am in a hurry….

    • Good points and I agree, I don’t want people to be restricted by their sex or gender and so if a men wants to be a feminist let him be a feminist – is my perspective – and it’s not my club so I don’t get to make the rules!

    • It sounds divisive? Sorry, one can’t lose one’s gender; one is either male or female; if one is a feminist one is either a “male feminist” or a “female feminist” – those aren’t made up labels – the only bit about those labels that is a social construct is the feminist bit.

      I think there is something a little oedipal about men who identify themselves as feminist (you may take this as a slight, but bear in mind up until the nineties I considered myself to be a feminist) you want approval from a critical and absent matriarch and you’ll never get it – because feminism isn’t a person – it’s a whole collection of people with actually very differing views of “what is wrong with the relationship between the genders” and you’ll seem to be getting feminism’s approval one minute and then failing to get it the next, and you think “but I haven’t changed my behaviour. Tell me what to do that is right?!”

      So you’ve got to decide yourself what is right, and if you believe in equality then quite often you’ll find that your allies in pushing for equality will be feminists, and that’s okay, but sometimes you’ll find your enemies will be feminists not because they’re feminists but because this isn’t an issue someone fighting purely for woman’s issues is going to consider to be important. Some women for example might think that a man should have to give a quarter of his wages to the woman who threw him out because he worked too hard for too little money and therefore wasn’t supporting her and therefore she replaced him (to suggest a personal example). There will be feminists who would fight my corner on that sort of issue, there will still be others who will say “man up and take some responsibility. Why don’t you switch careers in your mid-forties to one that will pay you more money?” But actually that’s not necessarily her fault – it might be, I don’t know. Sadly, it’s been so divisive that it has made it impossible for us to have honest conversations anymore. I think she was bullied into bureaucratic child maintenance (rather than ad-hoc financial help when I could afford it) by the state, and even lied to, because she came out with absurd statements like “I don’t believe you can’t afford a car”

      “If I could afford a car, I would have a car. A car would increase my employment prospects, it would make it far easier to see the kids, It would make my job a hell of a lot easier. Why would I pretend I couldn’t afford a car, particularly if the charade would involve me going without a car?”

      Seriously, that happened. So although we’ve never talked about it, I think the state lied to her in order to encourage her to claim child maintenance. Particularly as prior to that, I often asked when I visited “how are you doing for money?”
      And sometimes she’d say she was doing okay. To which I’d reply “thank god for that, because I’m skint :-D ” – the grin was important, you understand, just to show there was no hard feelings.

      Are feminists going to fight for fathers forced below the poverty line by crippling child maintenance? Okay, some might, but not informed by feminism. And if, as I say, if two feminists argue the one with the testicles will be taken as being the one with the least valid feminist perspective, so whilst there is a feminist argument for how financially dependent a woman should be on a man, or in her case two men, my issue is more likely to be supported by the feminist with the testicles, and since he’s considered to have the less-valid feminist argument, it does him no good to describe himself as a feminist.

      So when there are issues that are unfair to men, there needs to be a seperate pressure group, but one that sees feminism as an ally. Because a lot of the attempts at male rights groups have actually seen feminism as part of the problem rather than part of the solution and that’s not how I see things.

      And you can see why, most people, unless they’ve actually taken an academic interest, only know what is feminist because when someone pipes up about her view and then justifies it by saying she’s feminist, so they think that’s what feminism is. If it’s stuff the rest of us don’t like, like stop giving each other compliments in the workplace or don’t call us “girls… or ladies… or women”* – it’d be helpful if more women piped up and said “well, I’m a feminist too, and I think she’s talking rubbish” rather than what actually happens is a lot of women go “hey, I don’t agree with that. Oh maybe I’m not a feminist. In fact if that’s feminism I think I’m probably against it”. And so feminism does get viewed as something that prohibits rather than liberates – particularly to men, and that’s why it often gets flack, but I don’t believe that’s all it can be, but I do think any push for male rights has to be done under a seperate banner, but one that can accept it has goals in common with feminism – but inevitably we will have a different set of priorities.

      *I got chastised once visiting the city council offices, because I said to the chap behind the counter “When I spoke to the girl last time, she said…” and he (he – mind. This is what I mean about the holier than thou male feminist) replied, “we don’t employ girls here. Woman if you don’t mind.”, “Well,” I replied, “She was mid-forties, but she was very young at heart, I thought” :-D I mean, genuinely, who is getting oppressed there? Who’s quality of life is being undermined if I refer to someone who serves me as a girl? If only she’d been working there the next time so I could have said “The wizened old bastard I was talking to before, said I shouldn’t refer to you as a girl. How do you feel about that?”

  7. Theresa says:

    Despite the many varieties of feminist, there is one thing tht unites them all: a belief in patriarchy theory. With that as both foreground and background of feminism, it is much more attractive to me to advocate for males without that as my starting point. Just saying.

    • Agreed and that’s why it’s really important for non-feminists to be involved in tackling issues to do with sex and gender because feminism doesn’t have all the answers

  8. From what I can see men are allowed to be feminists, but its a supporting role and they are required to ironically play the part of sacrificing white knight who must use his strength to aid the females role as damsel in distress, and deny mens issues in a lot of areas. For example men are not allowed to speak about areas in which feminism is legislating against men and boys, or about it spreading misandry and are required to minimise womens role in abuse and support systems and laws that actively discriminate against men.

  9. Mostly_123 says:

    “Equality means equal. And yes, feminists want equality. Because then we would all be equal” quoting Joanna there. 

    Not to be too melodramatic or provocative, but I can’t help but think a little bit of the Orwell quote in ‘Animal Farm’ that goes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” 

    Marxism (like feminism, and many other ideologies) has also been accused of being a religion, or being LIKE a religion. Both ideologies aspire to equality, as they understand & define it (like many other divergent ideologies as well). But one must keep in mind that this is always premised on each ideology’s own precise internal structure and criteria for ‘equality’ and how to achieve & maintain it. In human terms, that means it’s mostly relative and it’s subjective, particularly if one is on one side or another of an ideological divide. Perspective affects perception, and criteria are contingent upon observation & analysis, which is influenced (objectively and subjectively) by perspective. I think.

    Speaking a bit here to Heather’s comment on the comparison to religion; subjectively, ideologies (like religion) often inspire passion, devotion, veneration, and even zeal. Where zeal goes, zealots are want to follow (actually, they’re so zealous, they were already there first) and many people instinctively associate zealotry with religion. Superficially at least, ideologies, like religion, have their own histories, tenets, customs, lingo, taboos, revered icons, and logic that may all seem opaque- if the comparison to religion by any given outsider is unwarranted, then it is, at least, relatively understandable. I myself would not necessarily consider the comparison inflammatory, unless it was overtly intended as such. Whether I would consider the comparison accurate, superficial (or complimentary) or not is another matter; again, it would rooted in my own relative opinions of religion as a positive or negative force.            

    An ideology’s criteria & structure may internally and philosophically consistent- but this does not mean that externally it will be perceived as such (perhaps because objectively it isn’t; or perhaps because objectively it is, but it’s being subjectively misperceived that isn’t). When an ideology’s internal criteria coincide with broader external perceptions and beliefs, we have consensus.        

    So, in this sense, feminism (or Marxism, or capitalism, or…) can be internally consistent and still externally inconsistent by someone else’s criteria or paradigm.

    So because ‘equality’ itself is a relative term, achieving it (or, more accurately, the ‘most desirable’ measure of it) is bound to lead to different approaches. There is a difference between extending power (and/or the perception of extending power) and redistributing power (and/or the perception of redistributing power).    

    In historic terms, I might try calling up the example of voting rights: In retrospect, it is seen that the right to vote was extend TO a group, not redistributed FROM one group to another. But was that always the perception?    

  10. Archy says:
    June 10, 2013 at 12:18 am

    The fact we are asking that question makes me sit on the fence thinking yes AND no. The fact that men are so commonly referred to as Allies means there is “othering” going on, men are being treated as lesser or different. A lot of times I’ve seen men’s opinions on a topic get absolutely dismissed and in feminism I truly do believe most put far more weight into a woman’s opinion vs a man’s.

    Can men be feminists? Depends on the sect of feminism you refer to. Joanna and Heathers version? Yes, Jezebels? Maybe, Radfemhub? No. Can men speak their mind without someone controlling their speech in feminism? Depends where…someplaces no, someplaces yes. Online I haven’t seen many places for feminism where men could speak freely, I saw many men get harassed out

    • Yohan

      >. Can men speak their mind without someone controlling their speech in feminism? Depends where…someplaces no, someplaces yes

      Can you point me to a feminist area that doesn’t have strict controls on what men can and cant talk about?

      • @ Orchid

        My comment – reply to Archy – was obviously cut off, and only the fragment with the text of Archy was published.

        To answer your question:
        I do not know any feminist website, where men can openly talk about problems concerning men – I do not know even one. – Either such comments are deleted and the user banned, or such comments are ridiculed and ignored. –
        To speak about men’s rights in person in public is even more difficult, a certain speaker in the University of Toronto comes to my mind.

Speak Your Mind