Male feminist – two words that don’t look, sound, seem or feel like they should be spoken together. Surely, putting these two words together creates a vicious oxymoron. It could even be argued that these two words are direct opposites of one another, that they should never be spoken together.
It’s not true, but it’s often said – and that’s understandable.
Just recently, I’ve become embroiled in the issue of male feminists. On one side, I’ve got female friends clucking and crying as if their lives depend on it – ‘there’s no such thing as a male feminist, there’s just no such thing.’ On the other, I’ve got extremely well intentioned male friends getting quite upset because they’re being denied access to the ladies club.
Now, I think that this is an increasingly important issue.
It is absolutely true that many women aren’t willing to embrace male feminists or even acknowledge their existence. Every single time that a man contributes to a woman-centric discussion – he’s shot down and labelled an arrogant, cisgender male who can’t possibly understand the real issues at hand.
Male feminists are routinely mocked, ridiculed and shut out by mainstream feminism. And it makes them sad. You’ve probably never even considered how men who genuinely care about equality are made to feel by the fact that women just don’t give a damn about their opinions.
All I’ve got to say is this.
If you’re man and you identify yourself as a feminist, if you’ve ever been mocked or forced out of a group/forum/discussion/conversation simply because you haven’t got a womb – WELCOME TO BIG SCHOOL. This is the beginning of the rest of your life.
If you can be big enough and brave enough to confront the feelings provoked by being excluded – well, you’ll know what women deal with every day of their lives.
I have the utmost respect for male feminists – real ones. I don’t have any time for men who learn how to pronounce the name of Simone De Beauvoir’s books in French, or learn how to recite passages from Germaine Greer novels just to get a woman into bed.
But men who care about the daily struggles faced by the women around them, men who hurt on behalf of the women that they love – those guys are alright in my book.
Of course there’s such a thing as a male feminist. Of course there is. And I’m extremely glad about it. I’ve met lots of wonderful men who do wonderful things for women, not because they want to fuck them – but because they see those women as fundamentally the same as themselves.
Now, here’s the real crux of the matter.
There is no reason why the feminist movement HAS to embrace male involvement. I’m sorry, but there just isn’t. Being included in the ‘fight’ is a privilege – never an entitlement.
So, the next time that you’re trying to discuss equal pay, abortion rights or warped western beauty standards – just take a step back and be honest with yourself. Would you, if you were a woman, want to lavish praise on a man who, well intentioned or not, can never truly understand what you go through?
I’m not saying that male feminists shouldn’t be respected and involved, not at all. I’m just saying that it takes time. This is the price that you must pay for being a man. And it’s not always fair, but if you want a lesson on fair – ask a rape victim why she’s not willing to take her attacker to court.
Ask those six and seven year old girls in India, the Yemen and Ghana what they think about being forced to marry and sleep with a 40 year old man. Talk to a business woman who’s been unexpectedly sacked after falling pregnant. In fact, just sit down next to the woman that you know and love the most and ask her about the things that men have done to her. Ask her if she’s ever been frightened of or by a man.
I hope you’ll be sufficiently humbled by her answers. And that you’ll realise just how hard you should have to work to get into the club.
Men are routinely taught that nothing is unattainable. Can you really blame women for trying to create a space that men can’t get to, a room of their own?
By all means, keep caring and keep sharing your opinions. We NEED them, we really do. Just don’t expect us to say thank you for them. Cos dudes, they’re well overdue