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Silly question maybe - can a man be a feminist?

(252 Posts)
biryani Sat 25-Jun-11 13:22:30

After a few glasses last night I got into a discussion with a male aqcuaintance about childcare etc. This man claims he's a feminist because he shares childcare etc with his wife, and has read Naomi Woolf and Andrea Dworkin. I said something like " you can't be a feminist because you're a man!", meaning that feminism arises out of a specifically female take on the world and that a man cannot experience this, being a man, and therefore cannot be a feminist as such although he may empathise and understand female issues.

now sober, I'm not sure. Who's right?

hatwoman Sat 25-Jun-11 13:25:26

a feminist is someone - anyone - who believes in equal rights for men and women. I know plenty of men who are feminists.

hatwoman Sat 25-Jun-11 13:25:51

including some who would declare themselves as feminists and some who wouldn't

Riveninside Sat 25-Jun-11 13:30:25

Yes i reckon.

TheMagnificentBathykolpian Sat 25-Jun-11 13:33:20

Yes, a man can be a feminist I think if he not only believes that men and women should be equal but understands that they are not equal atm and understands the many ways in which women are put down and controlled by a society that acts like women are the property of men and which reduces women to their tits and fanjos amd believes that men have the rights to both!

I think it is not enough for them to 'believe' in equality. They have to understand why we do not currently HAVE equality and be outraged by that. And they need to not be part of the problem.

And that means no objectification of women, no little women, women drivers etc 'jokes' (aka put downs) no thoughts of superiority in the workplace, no gender stereotyping...

buzzsore Sat 25-Jun-11 13:55:31

I'm more comfortable with men identifying as pro-feminist. It's very hard to recognise one's own privilege, and while one can fight for the rights of oppressed groups without being one of them, you can't fully experience that life. So I tend to think pro-feminist is a better fit.

WeDONTneedanotherhero Sat 25-Jun-11 14:04:36

I think men can be feminists. IMO as long as they are supporting the cause and their speech and actions relect that of a feminist I'm not bothered whether they call themselves a feminist, pro-feminist, equalist or don't label themselves at all.

vesuvia Sat 25-Jun-11 14:27:40

biryani wrote - "This man claims he's a feminist because he shares childcare etc with his wife, and has read Naomi Woolf and Andrea Dworkin."

At face value, that doesn't prove that his claim is valid. (The same applies to any other person).

People who do childcare can still not believe in equality between females and males. Feminist books are read by non-feminists and anti-feminists too. What counts is whether the person agrees with what feminists say and do, and then acts in accordance with those aims, to promote equality between the sexes.

It is important to know the details of what is included in the "etc" of the above quote.

bucaneve Sat 25-Jun-11 14:40:47

I think anyone who believe men and women should be treated equally is a feminist.

I'm a bit uneasy with pro-feminist/equalist etc. The term is 'feminist' and I think people who identify as such (especially men) should stick their colours to the mast because to me anything else just sounds wishy washy and I like saying 'I'm a feminist' is something to be ashamed of.

bucaneve Sat 25-Jun-11 14:42:30

Woah, my post had a distinct lack of grammar and punctuation there!

Lets try again...

and like saying 'I'm a feminist' is something to be ashamed of.

dittany Sat 25-Jun-11 14:47:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dadof2ofthem Sat 25-Jun-11 15:35:17

i consider myself a feminist, but i have the feeling some may disagree with me
i certainly belive that men and women should be treated equaly and there should be discrimination, in the workplace or where ever, glass ceilings for womens salaries and so on.
i've read la deuxeme sexe and the female eunoch, that doesnt qualify me i know.

turdass Sat 25-Jun-11 16:27:31

In theory I think a man can be a feminist. Why not? It just means you are committed to equality of the sexes. In reality, the type of men I meet who call themselves feminists tend to be a bit 'modern parents' ie when the shit is down, some nasty anti-women comments slip out. So - I have always tended to be somewhat suspicious of the 'new man feminist thing'.

TeiTetua Sat 25-Jun-11 16:57:15

I've been on Internet groups where there were some women who objected fairly strongly to this concept. Not that they wanted men excluded from the discussion, but they said that to be a feminist, you need to have the experience of living as a woman. But then there were other people saying no, feminism is a collection of ideas like any social movement, and anyone can have those ideas. So it might be best if men don't claim the label "feminist" because the women who wouldn't like it won't be annoyed at them, and those who would be OK with it won't be too concerned anyway.

Also I once saw a discussion of whether women would be more angry with a woman who said she was a feminist but then lapsed in some way, versus a man who did the same. And the consensus was it would be much easier to forgive a woman. That's another point--to claim a certain label and then not live up to it 100% (even in some more or less forgiveable way) might make it better to just go along with things and not get into controversies. A label's just a label anyway.

AliceWhirled Sat 25-Jun-11 18:44:11

I'm in the pro-feminist camp.

reelingintheyears Sat 25-Jun-11 18:53:35

Of course they can.

If they believe (and behave as though) men and women are equal then what's the problem?.

DP and i have an equal relationship...

We have our disagreements and we get over them.

We do not bully each other into anything.

Empusa Sat 25-Jun-11 21:07:46

I don't see why not.

celadon Sat 25-Jun-11 21:25:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dadof2ofthem Sat 25-Jun-11 21:46:50

yes of course i ment 'there should ne no discrimination' i'm deslecxic but i'm sure you can read through my typos.

i find you very strikt celadon

on an intelectual level i belive i am a feminist, given that feminism isnt a birthright but a collection of ideas and opinions. this, however doesnt stop me being attracted to women, thats my sexuality, i like women and i am aroused by erotica.
exclude me from the club if you like celadon, but i know many men who wouldnt give a shit what you think or bother to seek your approval never mind bare a consceince about how their arousal might effect/exploit/abuse.

celadon Sat 25-Jun-11 22:05:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blackcurrants Sat 25-Jun-11 22:25:34

I think my DH would describe himself as a feminist - but would also happily describe himself as pro-feminist or a feminist ally, depending on the requirements or preferences of the people he's meeting. He's respectful to the woman's movement, like that. He thinks that if a man is a feminist then his place is a listening and supporting place.

Which is why I call him a feminist. smile

I'm aware this post is rather "not my Nigel!" but in this instance, I'm also aware how lucky I am to know a man who knows his privilege.

allosaurusrex Sat 25-Jun-11 22:36:51

I said something like " you can't be a feminist because you're a man!", meaning that feminism arises out of a specifically female take on the world and that a man cannot experience this, being a man, and therefore cannot be a feminist as such although he may empathise and understand female issues.

I have a problem with this definition of feminism because it paints women as an equal, homogenous group which they patently are not. We are not purely oppressed due to our sex but due to our economic, religious and cultural circumstances. Similarities and comparisons can be made across the spectrum but if we exclude a man from calling himself a feminist because he cannot experience the world as a woman then we must admit to a great gulf between us very rich, largely white westerners and those in poorer countries facing very different and (to us) unimaginable problems. I don't think it's very fair to say we are able to empathise with a woman so far outside our experience because we both happen to possess a vagina.

Generally, I dislike exclusivity in feminism full stop. My personal definition would probably be broader than many.

Catitainahatita Sat 25-Jun-11 23:05:56

I think men can be feminists, providing as others have said, they don't just talk about it and agree with it in principal, but disregard it when it requires them to change their lifestyle or question previously held opinions (and yes, that's directed at you Dadof).

DaisyHayes Sun 26-Jun-11 10:27:59

dadod2, I am in the pro-feminst camp, definitely.

Further, I think that if men are going to identify as as pro-feminist then they have to actually get it. They can't just be some man who has strolled by because it might be interesting to theoretically explore feminist ideas and have a jolly good debate, and y'know, it all sounds very right-on, but someone who is an actual ALLY.

That means not telling women how to do feminism, not being defensive, and just copping the fuck to it when a woman points out that he is being dominant and exercising male privilege.

I also have a problem (here, specifically) with women being put in a position when they are saying, "men [as a group] behave in this way" to be expected to to always have to add, "except dadof2, obviously. And men like dadof2".

A feminist forum is not and should never be a place where women are having to big up the handful of men who are behaving like decent human beings which is no more than exactly how they ought to be behaving. The fact that dadof2 might not engage in that particular behaviour under discussion does not detract from the fact that men-as-a-group do engage in it.

How on earth can it be useful to feminsts or move feminists thinking forward for dadof2 to be piping up every five minutes to tell us that he is horrified by the issue we are discussing, it's awful that women have to deal with such things and of course he personally would never engage in such behaviour (thereby we all have to give dadof2 a big cookie for being such a Great Guy) . It is unacceptable for men to assume any kind of centralised position or dominating discussions. Men must get absolutely no kudos from women for being on here.

dadof2's view is not more valid than a woman's on here by dint of the fact that he sees himself as is unusual in that he is a man who identifies as feminist, and therefore has some kind of unique insight.

In actual fact, men are least qualified members to comment on most of the issues discussed here. As a white person, I would always bow to the actual lived experience of a person of colour in a racial equality group and not presume that my "white perspective" holds just as much weight and authority. So I definitely have no time for any man on here using the phrase "well, from a male perspective". We hear everything, all the time from a bloody male perspective. This is a rare place where male views aren't dominant and dadof2 needs to know that and be sensitive to that, not charging in with his opinion on every thread posted.

As a final point, if you want to really want to be helping the feminist cause in an internet based way, here's what I think pro-feminst men ought to be doing:

Not hanging around feminist forums looking for liberal kudos but by doing battle with other men.

This means going to horrible misogynist internet sites and arguing with the posters there. It means calling out misogynist men in the workplace and on the street.

In other words, doing stuff that won't get them pats on the back by feminist women but will get them grief from misogynist men. That's real pro-feminist work.

PS - Dadof2 - this applies to all male posters here. It's not personal - I've put your name in as you're the one asking these questions as related to you. Also, it's just my opinion. Other feminist have different ideas.

AliceWhirled Sun 26-Jun-11 10:59:32

Abso fucking lutely Daisy!

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