If you say you’re for equality, Valter Viglietti writes, then you’re for everyone’s equality.
I have a confession to make: I have been a feminist for most of my life.
Since when I was a child, watching how my father treated my mother, I sensed a strong injustice and instinctively sided with women. Even growing up (it was the 60s and 70s), I noticed how often women were considered or dealt with as inferior, and that deeply enraged me.
Perhaps I became even too much of a feminist, because for a long time I thought women were morally superior to men; I didn’t think much of my own gender.
With time, I became wiser (well, I hope I did). My opinions became less black and white, and more nuanced. I realized how much both men and women can be good—or faulty, deceiving, manipulative, and just plain awful. I noticed that every “typical” gender fault, had an equivalent fault in the other sex.
I came to think God must be really impartial, because He (She? It?) made both genders equally “flawed” (at least, we have equality in this).
But I still thought of myself as a feminist, because there has been so much injustice to remedy, and I wanted to give women my support. I wanted to be their friend and ally. Besides, I really like women.
Then I met The Good Men Project.
What happened then?
I began reading comments (and even some articles) where I was “charged as guilty” just for the fact of being a man. I was accused of things I never did. I felt I could not think, feel, or (politely) say some things, because some women could be offended by them. In short, for some women I was a “bad man” by default.
And all this was happening on a website meant for men to express themselves.
The underlying assumption of some kind of feminism, seems this: “To be a good man you need to always please (or never displease) women”, or “To be a good man you need to be the way women want you to be”; and there’s no other possible way.
As Tom Matlack noted in his article “Being a Dude is a Good Thing”, sometimes it seems that “The female view is the right view. The male view just gets you into trouble.”
But this would mean asking men to be less authentic and more “women-suited”, more adherent to a “female mold” of being. For millennia, men have pressured women to be like the men themselves wanted: think about prof. Higgins’s rant in G.B. Shaw’s “Pygmalion”: “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”
Obviously that has been despicable and wrong. Yet, now it seems many women are doing the reverse; they are asking (or demanding, or even dictating) to men: “Don’t be yourself, be the way we like”.
Some feminists even forbid men to think or feel in a certain way; it’s not even about action, it’s about our innermost core. Remember the guy who felt that his wife’s breasts were “ruined”? He didn’t cheat, he didn’t tell his wife; still, lots of rabid women attacked him just because he felt that way.
When you can’t even own your thoughts, well, it’s a big issue. To me, that’s objectification: if you’re not allowed to feel what you feel, but you have to serve someone else’s purpose, then you’re just an object, not a subject anymore.
To all this, I firmly object. Men and women are (often) different, and that means we sometimes displease each other; while it’s good striving to respect and not hurt each other, it’s not good at all to deny who we are. And—of course—that’s true for both genders.
Being authentic sometimes means displeasing someone else, because nobody can ever please everybody all the time. Hence, sometimes we should ponder whether we choose to be authentic or to please others.
Some feminists (even men like Hugo Schwyzer) seem to believe that we should never displease women. While this may sound noble, to never displease women, you have to repress or deny yourself, when your way of being isn’t conforming to that “female mold”. See: husbands missing sex in their marriage, but just being silent and resigned to it (as noted in several articles here on the GMP).
To me, being a good man doesn’t mean “making women happy”* (though I’m really glad when I do make a woman happy). It means I strive to do and be my best, yes, but still remain authentic to what I am, because being “good in a fake way” is worthless to me; I would be a fraud.
* Note: I know this statement might make someone frown, on both sides. Yet, think about this: is a woman’s duty “making men happy”? Of course not. Women were required doing that for centuries, and nobody was really happy. It doesn’t work, both ways. Happiness is a personal responsibility
That’s why, after a while of reading and pondering, I decided I couldn’t be a “feminist” anymore. I discovered that feminism (or a good part of it) has changed from seeking equality to “world domination” and men-bashing. All of a sudden, for these people, I wasn’t a friend or an ally anymore: I was an enemy.
Yes, I know, feminism is not monolithic, and there are many feminists who don’t feel that way. I love the way people like Lisa Hickey and Julie Gillis look at women and men. Still, the number of ferocious and one-sided feminist comments is big enough to make me step aside.
That’s why I now call myself an “egalitarian”. I’m still 100% for parity and equality, as I’ve ever been. But it seems to me many feminists aren’t in that field anymore.
My words might sound as a complaint against women. Nope; I still like women a lot, and I have many women in my life with whom I share mutual friendship and admiration. Just like a man is not his gender (a concept hard to grasp for some people, it seems), objecting against some women doesn’t mean being against all of them.
I’m still a friend and ally of women; but I like to be treated as such—and not as a culprit. As Frederick Marx writes in his article “Feminism vs. Men Is Not a Zero-Sum Game”:
Though I’ll do my best to combat all forms of crimes against women, I’ll not accept personal responsibility for any act I myself did not commit.
We, men and women, should try to “meet in the middle”, but without denying or losing our authenticity; even when being authentic means that someone is not happy about it.
Because any relationship not based on authenticity is not worth having.
It’s time to drop any extremist position, any paranoid attitude that opposes one gender against the other—stating that women are good and men are bad, or vice versa. Both genders are right when they express their opinions, with their own different needs, limits, quirks. and imperfections. Both are “OK” as they are, no one of them has to “bend” and forcibly adapt to each other needs. Women have done that for a long time; they should know nothing good comes from it.
In the end, I think this feminism’s “bias” might be its biggest failure. If you really believe in equality, then you care about everybody’s equality—not just for you or your kin. If you fight privileges just to get your own privileges, then you aren’t better than your opponent.
If you come from oppression and you become an oppressor yourself, then something has gone spectacularly wrong.
Read feminist Jasmine Peterson’s response to this post: