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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  • Austin @ at 11:27 am, December 1st, 2009

    “it is impossible for me to have exactly the same experiences as a cisgender woman”

    To me this implies that you are saying it is possible for you to have the same experiences as a transgender woman. Why do you feel the need to say you can’t have the same experiences as a CISGENDERED woman? Why can’t you just say a woman?

  • Deanna @ at 11:43 am, December 1st, 2009

    Cisgendered? Why did we even need a word for this?

  • Austin @ at 11:56 am, December 1st, 2009

    We need a word for this so that we don’t have “transgendered people” and “normal people”, i.e. making transgendered people different or othered or freaks. Hence we have labels for both. It’s like having the terms “heterosexual” as well as “homosexual”.

  • madison @ at 2:29 pm, December 1st, 2009

    cisgender = one point on a spectrum of gender identification, with transgender on the end. It helps us see that transgender and queer identities are normal, too. :)

    Thanks for your post. I wish there were more dudes identifying as feminists!

    And don’t forget, today is World AIDS day! To check out the facts for women, visit my post here:

    http://www.myfishbowl.ca/fun/articles/357-world-aids-day-are-you-hiv-aware

  • Lauren @ at 4:54 pm, December 1st, 2009

    duuuuuude!
    I HATED it when people would come over to our YNET table at lunch (Y-Net was the feminist/ dating abuse club at my high school) just to make fun of us and ask stupid question.
    PET F***ING PEEV.

    ^_^

  • Christine @ at 5:55 pm, December 1st, 2009

    Keep up the great work Matt! Thank you for standing with us. Work through those frustrating moments and see them as opportunities for education and enlightenment for you and the other individual.

  • Chelsea! @ at 6:11 pm, December 1st, 2009

    Thank you so incredibly much for submitting this. It’s refreshing to know that their are guys who identify, proudly, as feminists. :D

  • Zoe @ at 7:24 pm, December 1st, 2009

    Thank you for this post!

    I really wish it wasn’t such a big deal for guys to be open about feminism. I think everyone should take a Women’s Studies class or two and then people wouldn’t be so blind to what feminism is about.

  • Xenu01 @ at 7:35 pm, December 1st, 2009

    Thank you for this post.

    I must admit that I was expecting something which tied more closely into the illustrating graphic that accompanied the piece, though, which is an issue I’m having.

    See, I know lots and lots and LOTS of youngish (25-40), straight, cisgendered male self-identified feminists. The thing that gets me is that once such men declare themselves feminists, female feminists such as myself cannot argue with them about the fact that their views do not, in actuality, support feminism.

    For instance, I know a young man who proudly calls himself a feminist, but has said that Hillary Clinton is a mannish shrew, thinks the Stupak Amendment was a grand idea and quite literally told me to calm down and stop being emotional when I disagreed with him, and is of the opinion that if a young lady is at his apartment alone with him and does not sleep with him, she is a horrible bitchy cock-tease.

    I would love to see feminist men like yourself taking more time to have conversations with other feminist-allied men to discuss what it means to be a feminist.

    Have you encountered other false allies like this?

  • Stephanie @ at 8:51 pm, December 1st, 2009

    On the other hand, I have had classes with female feminists who believe that men are so privilege there is no way they should every be considered feminists. Further thanking the one male for being a good sport when the talk turned into bashing of men and Medieval men in a women’s lit class was uncalled for, unnecessary and called my cisgendered feminist creds into question. At which point I mentally flipped her off and filtered her out for the rest of the semester. (Thank the universe for online classes.)

  • Deborah @ at 11:14 pm, December 1st, 2009

    I completely agree that men can be feminists-I believe that ALL people should be feminists. To assume men are never feminists would mean that you think that men have some inherent quality in them that makes them incapable of wanting women to have rights. That’s sexism! Whenever I hear female feminists going crazy over a guy who is a feminist, I think that they are really showing their sexist attitudes towards men.

    “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?’”

    You described that perfectly lol. Whenever women do anything by themselves people are put off and don’t like it, but if there’s a man involved that makes it okay lol.

  • dare2believe @ at 9:01 am, December 2nd, 2009

    You are absolutely right. You put it all perfectly so there’s really nothing I can say ;) . Good job!

  • Steph @ at 10:52 am, December 2nd, 2009

    I agree so much. I used to identify as a male feminist, and I think there’s definitely a need in the movement for more men, especially (cis) men.

    And Deanna, we need the word ‘cisgendered’, because otherwise, there’s ‘trans’ and ‘normal’, which doesn’t help trans people.

  • Xenu01 @ at 12:09 pm, December 2nd, 2009

    why is my comment still awaiting moderation?

  • Morgan @ at 5:28 pm, December 2nd, 2009

    Thanks Matt for writing this.
    I agree that we shouldn’t have to look twice at a man tabling a feminist group/issue but the reality is that we do and probably will for years to come because typically only women are feminists.
    Good point about people thinking that because there was a man in the group it makes it more legitimate. It’s stupid that this is the case but … it is. The thing is, we do need/want/should have men tabling feminist groups (along with women) because we need to have this a joint effort otherwise this turns into a whole “us vs. them.” There are men who believe in women’s rights and they should proudly say it.
    I just really don’t understand people who say they aren’t feminists. Maybe they just hate the F-Bomb (the word) because of what it stereotypically means, but its our jobs as feminists to promote what it really means and end all this man-hating bullshit.
    Men need to join the fight (just as much as women do because there are still women against some women rights issues) because we need to show people that everyone can be and should be a feminsit. I mean, who wouldn’t want equal rights for all?
    Jezebel also wrote an article about men, masculinity and feminism:
    http://jezebel.com/5401332/do-young-men-need-a-new-kind-of-masculinity?skyline=true&s=x
    ALSO (sorry this is getting long) the book “Getting off: pornography and the end of masculinity” – Robert Jensen wrote a really great (dead-on) book about masculinity, feminism, society and pornography.

  • Xenu01 @ at 7:19 pm, December 2nd, 2009

    To clarify? I was not referring to the OP as a false ally.

  • Toongrrl @ at 12:35 pm, December 3rd, 2009

    Matt, you are doing great. Good luck with the idiots though.

  • a @ at 12:28 am, December 4th, 2009

    Cool, should have guessed this blog was from Ithaca ;)

    I also find annoying the thought that it would be in any way surprising that a male would be feminist.

    I am a feminist because I’m a humanist.

    Actually, I’m a pretty embittered humanist…maybe I’m a feminist because I dislike everybody equally…

  • Amy CT @ at 6:07 pm, December 4th, 2009

    I second Zoe – thank you for this!

    Despite attending a very liberal ‘High School’ (VI form) in Britain, where practically everyone holds the same political beliefs, and female feminists are almost commonplace, I don’t think I’ve ever actually met a guy willing to tell me he was a feminist, too.

    Which is a shame.

    You should all check out this article; http://www.mookychick.co.uk/opinion/riotgrrl/pseudo-feminism.php

    ^^ Feminism shouldn’t be “Sisters doing it for themselves”, but “Siblings doing it together”

  • Xenu01 @ at 8:52 pm, December 4th, 2009

    Thanks a lot. I actually feel quite silenced. I suppose I should be used to being shut down, being female and all, but I guess I had expected more from fellow feminists.

  • Critical Masculinites @ at 8:42 pm, December 26th, 2009

    @ Xenu01 – as someone who tries to be a good ally I know what you mean about younger men paying lip service to feminism. I think it’s quite common and very frustrating and damaging to male involvement with feminism.

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  • Mr. Happy @ at 6:42 pm, May 20th, 2010

    In response to Zoe, everyone should then take a mens studies class to learn what its ok and not ok to say around guys. People discriminate against guys too

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