Feminism is one of the all-time most misunderstood terms in the English language. Seriously. As far as I can work out, it's a pretty basic concept: equality between the sexes. Not female superiority, not man-hating, just equality. The reason it's specifically focused on women is because, like it or not, they are the sex that have faced (and continue to face) more oppression. So I thought I would weigh in and share my opinion as a male feminist (that's right, trigger number 1)...because that's what a blog is for, right? Feathers, prepare to be ruffled!
I was raised as a feminist, although I didn't really know it at the time...I just grew up believing that men and women were equal and I didn't know any different. When I got a bit older and I became more aware of the wider world I was pretty surprised that there was a fair whack of inequality out there! Pay gaps, violence, denial of education and other basic rights...and a ton of other stuff. Now that I have two daughters this hits home a lot more, and I figured that I could at least do my bit.
Before I get into anything else I really need to clear something up. Since deciding to write this article I did a little bit of research into the term 'male feminist' to see what else had been written. As often happens when I'm doing research I just ended up looking at memes, but I was pretty surprised at how many there were and how brutal some of the suggested opinions were! Naturally, I didn't give a shit because opinions are like arseholes: everyone has one. What it did get me thinking about was WHO DOESN'T AGREE WITH EQUALITY?! I very quickly realised that the answer to that is, as always, a very vocal minority. To save you the dismay of trawling through that rubbish yourself, to summarise most of the general principles were to do with 'male feminist' equalling a submissive, weak man, possibly gay, hated by both sexes, etc etc. I couldn't get my head around this, the leap of logic was too much for even my super-powerful brain, until it clicked: these people were confusing 'feminism' with 'misandry'! (Male misandrist would be an interesting one, and I'm sure that there are men out there who hate men, but male feminist is not the same thing).
Oh wow! This was a revelation which made everything so much clearer. While I was scratching my head wondering what kind of man is so insecure that he couldn't bear the thought of women having equal opportunities in life (or what kind of woman is so afraid of reaching her potential), these folks were over there thinking that feminism was about female superiority or man-hating! I was on the wrong track entirely, and as soon as I understood this confusion that all these people were having I felt a wave of calm. Because although we live in an age where a simple Google search will give you the definition of feminism ('the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of equality of the sexes', in case you were wondering - thanks Google), we are constantly bombarded with the usual media distortions of reality.
Misandry, on the other hand, is detestable. You can't balance out misogyny by reversing it, you can't fight hate with hate and expect it to end well. This movement has (irritatingly) been marketed as 'radical feminism', and shouldn't in my opinion have any link to the fight for equality. It's like combating white supremacy with black supremacy, or Asian supremacy...it'll just end in tears.
So, anyway, as a male FEMINIST (not misandrist) I would like to provide a list of things to help you understand. What it means:
- I advocate women's rights on the ground of equality of the sexes
What it doesn't mean:
- anything about my sexuality
- anything about whether or not I enjoy anal play with my partner
- that I hate men
- that I hate myself
- that men hate me
- that women hate me
- anything about my political leaning
- that both men and women walk all over me
- the same thing as a Nazi Jew (this was literally my favourite)
To reiterate, what it means:
- I advocate women's rights on the ground of equality of the sexes
That's literally it. Men and women are not enemies, one is not out to destroy the other! But you know, thanks for the Nazi Jew meme, it really helped me understand the way you see the different sexes. I'm curious though, which sex is the fascist dictatorship/death squads etc? Because if it's women then you have just explained to us why you feel so insecure about women's empowerment, and if it's the men then you've kinda just said you want eradicate all women. Either way that analogy is fucked.
Here's another interesting point: I've come across feminists writing how men should stop calling themselves feminists or stop commenting on feminism and women's rights altogether. Personally I think more men should talk about it, and then maybe we would have more of a chance of getting some real lasting change happening much faster! It's important to shine a spotlight on the beliefs men have on this topic, and stop making it such a fucking big deal that men can support equality of the sexes. It should be normal to support that! Would I perhaps be bold enough to say that denying men the right to comment on feminism is sexist and misandrist? I guess I just did. In the same way that saying white people shouldn't discuss racism...the way I see it that's a self-defeating mindset. If that's how you see it of course that's your right and I accept your opinions, but I just won't agree.
Let's back up a bit here: the media have a heck of a lot to answer for. Look, I get it, stuff which people agree on doesn't sell papers or get clicks on social media, and it works way better for you lot to sensationalise stuff and get people arguing. So yeah, if you paint the quite reasonable idea of feminism into some kind of man-hating, female superiority, radicalised bunch of lunatics then of course you'll get more views. Exactly the same as if you tell everyone that Muslims are going to destroy civilisation, black people are all gangsters and drug dealers, and the whole of Cornwall is inbred. Have you actually stopped to listen to yourself? Stop picking a handful of people from a particular group and suggesting that they are the definition. Ok, the Cornwall part isn't as serious in terms of international politics, but hey I feel for those guys too.
And for anyone getting all of their education from the media (or memes), do some reading around the topic. In fact, start with the font of all knowledge: Wikipedia. And read the article on misandry while you're there. Educate yourself, don't rely on the media. Wikipedia gives some great citations for further info if you want to go down the rabbit hole.
My whole thing, my purpose, is to help as many people as possible achieve their full potential regardless of sex, gender, race, sexuality, nationality, religion, or anything else. Upon recent reflection I realised that I have been working for the past five years almost exclusively with women, and so I decided hey, why not make that my focus for now? Not that men don't have struggles, I am a man and I can vouch for that, but it seems pretty clear that men don't want my help for whatever reason. I've just not really attracted a huge number of male clients! So for now I'm going to double down on my efforts to empower women. I am going to do this through my new coaching group, empowHER, and also through my parenting of two daughters, plus supporting charities who champion equality of sexes throughout the world, such as ActionAid.
If you see that as condescending, or damaging to feminism through poisoning it with my maleness, well that's up to you and you are completely entitled to your views. But I am well aware of my white male privilege and I'm more than happy to use it to fight inequality, and I will continue to identify myself as a male feminist.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed my rant, and I hope at least one sentence made you think a bit differently.
Jay (proud male feminist, age 31)