Or rather, about men calling themselves feminists (yo, sorry for the click-baiting).
Help me out here. Why am I (a bloke) hesitant about men applying the “f” word to themselves? Am I wrong/irrational? If so, why? If I am right, why?
[UPDATE 9th March – please read the comments if you have time – there are some very very interesting and useful points made.]
First, a working definition of feminism , from the awesome bell hooks
Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago. It was my hope at the time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”
“Pro-feminist man” is fine, I think, because it implies that you are on a journey/in a process rather than having ‘arrived.’
Men adopting the actual “feminist” label makes me nervous perhaps because
a) it claims they’ve arrived
b) claims that they know – on a more than intellectual level – what it is like to be on the receiving end of misogyny and patriarchy (of course, lots of men with less privilege than me – who are queer, people of color, etc – have a good inkling of what systemic and pervasive prejudice and discrimination are like!)
c) it’s surely an act of appropriation? (and presumption!)
This debate, btw, came up in the pub last night, and most folks disagreed with me (i.e. thought that men could legitimately use the label to describe themselves/other progressive men.) I insisted that my wife support my position, but in an unforgiveable lapse, she did not…
Some stuff by women that I found after writing the above piece;
“So when men claim feminism as their own either to gain legitimacy in feminist spaces and conversations or as a way to excuse their misogynist behaviour, it makes me wonder whether men might be better off staying away from the title completely.
“I’m a feminist,” when coming from a man, always feels to me like demanding a pat on the head. “I love my mother,” they say, puffing out their chests, as though it excuses their visit to the strip club the previous night.” (from here)
Lately, there’s been a spate of “male feminists” posting at the BBs where I lurk. At first I saw them and I thought, great! I mean, I like feminists, and I like men, so you’d think I’d love this purported hybrid of the two. And yet, no, not so much, not so much at all.
As a matter of fact, it’s caused me to realize that most of the men I’ve personally known who have made a huge hairy point of identifying as feminists have been either date rapists, mom fetishists, porn addicts, or bear daddies inflicting their frustrated pseudopaternal tendencies on women. They are some of the most passive-aggressive, patronizing, out-dishing without it-taking twerps on the planet, and they are poisoning the women’s movement from the inside by sapping the hell out of everyone’s goddamn energy.
And Men- if you’re not a feminist, it’s fine, just move on by Emer O’Toole