Edwin Lyngar puts out a call to arms to all feminist men, whether or not they look the part.
In the years before I embraced feminism, I called myself a “masculinist,” mostly because I was pissed off about an unpleasant divorce. About six or seven years ago I adopted the feminist label, and now that I’ve been part of the club a while, I’ve started to feel lonely.
Feminism can and should be a big tent, but it’s been derided and reduced to a caricature. I suspect that some men feel feminism doesn’t square with the masculine “personality.” It’s a shame. I know lots of men who would never claim to be feminist but yet still believe in sexual equality, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity for our daughters, wives, and mothers. I never realized I was a feminist until my current wife pointed it out in passing.
“You’re a feminist,” she declared early in our relationship.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“You think women should be treated as equal to men,” she said. “That’s feminism.”
I had primary custody of my two kids at the time. I was a working single father, and I was looking to marry an equal. Yet I still never considered myself a feminist. I thought about that conversation for weeks.
The word “feminist” itself is both debated and derided by people who are and are not feminists—the word itself has become problematic. If you control the words people use, you can control the debate (see: George Orwell). I think the problem with so many men is that we don’t fit a feminist mold that we’ve created in our minds.
I’m a greasy fat bastard, and a short skirt can snap my head back. I guffaw at lowbrow comedy, bitch in traffic, and yell at the television like a lunatic. One of my favorite things to do is give the wife a smack on the fanny (she’s a good sport about it). Yet my beliefs are inherently feminist, even though I don’t look the part. Like it or not, Homer Simpson is the American ideal. No matter how crude, fat, odd, undereducated or disgusting, the Falstaffian archetype propels our nation’s collective imagination. And feminism needs Homer in the trenches.
I would say other than men, contemporary feminism also lacks rage. In my many years as a conservative, I’d always heard from people like Rush Limbaugh or Laura Ingraham that feminists are “angry,” but now that I know many feminists, I can attest that feminist anger is a conservative myth. I actually find them accommodating and kind.
It’s sad, but American “debate” seems unable to progress without rage-filled expletives and shouting matches between people on television. I am not sure it’s a good idea, but I think feminists should consider incorporating the strategies of those who oppose feminism. They should perhaps embrace the same shrieking, spittle-flecked venom that the opposition employs.
I know of what I speak, because I come from the other side. I was a lifelong conservative, although moderate, until this last election cycle. My conservative values have declined every year of my life, but in my budding manhood, I was a hard core right winger. I spewed anti-woman, anti-immigrant, and straight up anti-anything bullshit—often. I’m ashamed of my youthful rigidity, and I make up for it by enthusiastically supporting feminist causes.
I’m on a lifelong quest to alter my innate chauvinism and bring other men on board. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel completely at home in the feminist camp, but I won’t let that stop me. Even though I often don’t feel good enough, I embrace the label of feminist. For me, the term is aspirational, and all humans should hope to be good enough one day to earn the title. I would urge other men to jump on in, even if we don’t look the part.