Feminism | Posted by Matt W on 12/1/2009
Men Can Be Feminists?
Yes, men can be feminists.
Why, you may ask? Well, why the hell not?
I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences as a male feminist for quite some time now. Yes, I am a cisgender male. Yes, it is impossible for me to have exactly the same experiences as a cisgender woman. If I decide to stay as a cisgender male, I will never give birth to a child, menstruate, experience many forms of sexist discrimination, worry about my safety while walking across campus at night, etc. etc.
I realize this. I wanted to make that disclaimer before I continue so as to let people know what I am aware of the discrepancy between the discrimination (or lack thereof) that I will face in my lifetime as compared to that of many, many women. In order to write about feminism, I must identify where I am coming from (the perspective of a male) and use my experiences to speak about topics such as women’s rights. If I don’t, then I think that discredits a lot of what I have to say. Sure, I can talk about inequalities, but I can’t truthfully say “I have experienced this firsthand”. Of course I’ve learned about gender inequalities in many of my classes and have witnessed these injustices happen to my female friends and relatives, but I am not a woman.
That being said, I am a feminist. You don’t have to be a woman and firsthand experience these inequalities in order to identify them. In fact, I find it irresponsible to identify these inequalities and then sit idly by and do nothing to change them.
Indulge me as I speak about my experiences as a male feminist.
I’d like to speak in particular about people’s reactions to feminism. When I was tabling for IC feminists at the student organizational fair, many people came up to me to point out that I am a boy.
“There’s men in the club?” some asked.
“There’s a boy next to a box of tampons? Where I come from, that doesn’t happen.” said one young woman from Jamaica.
“Can I pick up chicks at the feminist meetings?” one young man asked.
Oh, and rest assured. I got plenty of “WTF” looks.
Then there’s the people who came up to the IC feminist table just to get a laugh out of their friends several feet away. That was fun.
“Men tabling at the feminist club, that’s so great!!” said several people.
It is this last instance that I would like to talk more about. I got a lot of positive reactions from people who were pleasantly surprised to see a man handing out information about feminism. I got some compliments and encouragement from IC faculty. It made me feel good.
Then I thought to myself, “Why is this a big deal?”. To answer that thought, it’s not. I find it unfortunate that when you find one man who cares about gender equality, it’s cause for praise. These people who gave me verbal encouragement were kind, but it just reminded me how unfortunate it is that my gender surprised them. I’d like to see so many women AND men caring about gender inequality that no one would look twice when they see a boy sitting next to a box of tampons.
When I talk to people about our campus feminist group, a common question I’m asked is “How many boys are in the group?” I answer them politely, but what I would like to say is “Why the hell does that matter? Does having a large representation of males in the group make it more legitimate?”
I know people mean well, but it just bothers me when people ask those questions. I know they’re curious, as I would be too. Before I started going to meetings, I wondered if I would feel out of place. It’s a natural thing to wonder about… but it just makes me itchy when people ask it.
It’s great when men self-identify as feminists, but when it’s cause for celebration, then you know something is wrong with society.
Matt is on the board for Ithica College Feminists, and also writes for their blog.
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