Talk

Advanced search

Can men be feminists?

(54 Posts)
IsSamNormansDad Mon 24-Sep-12 15:42:35

This is my first post in FWR, so please be gentle.
I was chatting with DH about random stuff and he remarked that girls always seemed to be portrayed playing with 'house stuff' and boys seemed to be portrayed being 'actiony' (his words not mine).
I agreed, and said that with a DC of each sex, he best get used to his daughter being told she couldn't/shouldn't play with stuff that's not 'girly', must wear pink etc. he got a bit annoyed that it would be assumed that she wouldn't be as strong as her brother etc.
He was really quite pissed off when he realised she might not have the same opportunities as her brother just because she's a girl. I told him that I think he is a feminist, but DH thinks only women can be feminists. He's wrong isn't he?

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Mon 24-Sep-12 15:44:43

Some feminists do believe that only women can be feminists. I forget the rationale - something about how you have to be part of the oppressed group to identify fully with it I think.

The more mainstream view is, yes, men can be feminists.

monsterchild Mon 24-Sep-12 15:49:47

Of course men can be feminists. I don't think a lot of men choose to call themselves that, but equality is the same by any name, right?

It may be more common for men to call themselves "pro-feminist" but certainly some men no identify themselves as feminist.

monsterchild Mon 24-Sep-12 16:01:13

sorry, do identify as feminists.

sooperdooper Mon 24-Sep-12 16:10:16

Yes, of course men can be feminists - being feminist is basically believing in equal rights for both sexes, so no reason why a man wouldn't believe in that

KRITIQ Mon 24-Sep-12 16:12:31

Speaking personally, I don't have an issue with men who espouse feminist ideals as feminists. However, I am aware that there are many feminists who feel the term should be reserved for women who espouse feminist ideals, as it is a concept women should feel able to own. In a similar vein, there are ongoing debates about whether white women should be able to use the term "womanist" to describe their views, when this term was first used by women of colour to describe their feminist views when they felt their perspectives were being marginalised within mainstream feminism.

I think the test here really would be to ask a man who sees himself as a feminist, "Would you be okay not referring to yourself as a feminist, but as pro-feminist because many feminists feel the term should be "owned" by feminist women?" If they say, "yes, of course I recognise the importance of women owning the term and leading the movement," then that's cool. If they get defensive and insist that they should be able to use the term feminist if their beliefs are feminist, then I'd question whether they GENUINELY understand gender and sexual oppression, genuinely acknowledge their own male privilege and can even truly call themselves any version of the term feminist.

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Mon 24-Sep-12 16:47:06

KRITIQ - I think that's quite a high test for most men who aren't well read on feminism and would just see the issue being as believing in equal rights for women and eradicating obvious sexism. That's a good starting point, so I wouldn't necessarily write a man off because he didn't automatically get all the naunces straight off. I agree, defensiveness would be a big warning sign though.

AnyFucker Mon 24-Sep-12 16:51:10

Good question.

Im my opinion, no. I think that men can have feminist viewpoints, live their life and bring up their children according to feminist ideals. But to really understand the dynamic, you have to be a woman.

OneMoreChap Mon 24-Sep-12 17:00:26

Mostly, I couldn't give a toss about how I'm identified.

I can't believe I live in an environment where we seem intent on denying vast swathes of our population the ability to contribute to the extent they wish. Vastly women.

I hate the "women can't"/"girls shouldn't" schtick we still see practiced

I detest the continuance of sexualised advertising in almost everything

I abhor the way we try and convince ordinary looking people that they have a shit body - fashion industry/magazines I'm looking at you

I hate the way women are cast as gatekeepers of sex and seem to be balancing - still - on the pinnacle of some Madonna/whore pedestal.

I can't believe how many men seem to want to father kids on women and not bring them up - or even damn well pay for them.

I'm not a feminist, as I don't think I qualify... in some eyes. Maybe I'm a fellow-traveller.

KRITIQ Mon 24-Sep-12 17:16:34

Yes You'll Laugh, it is a pretty tough "test," and a bit of a trick. I agree that there are many men who aren't yet in a position where they are truly aware of all the mechanics of gender discrimination, or male privilege but that doesn't mean they should just be written off. Same goes for women who are at different stages on their feminist "journey."

I suppose the tricky bit is trying to discern which guys are genuinely committed to learning, to having their preconceptions challenged, to fighting against what they've been conditioned from birth to believe, to be even. Some like to "talk the talk," but aren't willing to acknowledge, let alone give up their privileges.

One of the privileges that those who have a higher status in society (not just men, but white folks, non disabled people, straight people, etc.) is that they feel within their rights to "name" things. So, the point of this "mini test" would be to see if a bloke recognised that insisting on being called a feminist, against the wishes of some women, was actually evidence of asserting male privilege (and therefore, not a very feminist thing to do!)

YoullLaughAboutItOneDay Mon 24-Sep-12 17:24:59

Oh yes, I totally agree. I just think that actually, you have to have been taught a fair bit about feminism to understand about the privilege of naming things. I would treat a man at the start of the journey who wanted to be called a feminist in the same way as a woman who did - I would accept that as a positive statement made in good faith. I'd wait a fair while before debating that particular point with them.

Where I would totally agree with you is the 'insisting' on being called a feminist bit. If we were having the discussion, I would totally agree with that.

Kashmiracle Mon 24-Sep-12 17:25:33

In my opinion I think saying someone 'can't' be a Feminist based purely on their gender, kind of flies in the face of why people are Feminists in the first place?
When we women get told we cant be something based purely on the fact we are a woman then we don't like it.
It's not a case of gender, its a set of beliefs, opinions and ideals. I know our gender may well colour the way we view things, but I don't think women have a divine right to the term.
However, it's easy for some slimey male politician to say 'of course I'm Feminist' because it's a nice buzz-word, and I think men who say it to get us on side are doing a massive disservice to those men out there who genuinely feel as strongly about gender inequality issues as we do.

AnyFucker Mon 24-Sep-12 17:27:38

IME, the men that I have met that insisted on being called "feminists" were actually very far from being so

KRITIQ Mon 24-Sep-12 17:45:51

Yep Any, that's what I meant. I've encountered a good few white folks in anti-racist movements who are similar. They want all the kudos of being "right on" and anti-racist, but want that to be on their terms (including not getting to hard a time from Black folks because hey, they're good white peeps and deserve cookies not criticism, right?) smile

PanofOlympus Mon 24-Sep-12 17:52:23

Am pretty much with OMC here. Not really bothered about labels.
The only thing I'd add is that it's much more important to apply your values and beliefs and make a difference. Some people, men and women, do that much better than others.
There's also the male posturing that they hope gets them into bed with a woman.

AnyFucker Mon 24-Sep-12 18:09:30

Most of those blokes I am talking about were perfectly decent blokes, I hasten to add

Just not feminists

messyisthenewtidy Mon 24-Sep-12 19:06:43

Yes of course they can. It's seems mighty mean, if they have gone to the bother of examining their own privilege and tried to see things from the other side, to not them in the cosy circle!

OP, your DH sounds like a very caring father that he would be upset on behalf of his DD.

messyisthenewtidy Mon 24-Sep-12 19:08:50

YY to what Pan said BTW. I've known one or two to use the feminist line just to get their leg over. Once the leg is over, the gloves come off and the macho comes out....

ChristineKochanski Mon 24-Sep-12 19:30:20

Thank you for all of your replies. I just don't think DH realised how women and girls tend to be shown - it was like a lightbulb moment for him when we were looking at a toy catalogue together. He says he 'gets what I've been going on about for the last 18m. He is a great dad and a lovely husband, I'm lucky to have chosen such a good one to marry and have DC with smile

ChristineKochanski Mon 24-Sep-12 19:31:20

Oops I forgot I nc for the Red Dwarf thread smile

LaFataTurchina Mon 24-Sep-12 22:04:24

I think yes.

I can call my self anti-racist and I'm white.
I can call my self a socialist, or say I'm anti poverty and I'm middle class.
So IMO yes, men are perfectly entitled to call themselves feminists if they want to.

Snorbs Tue 25-Sep-12 09:17:43

It's a tricky one. In real-life conversation I (as a man) have called myself a feminist as it's simply quicker to say than "I firmly believe that there are deep societal issues regarding how women as a class are seen and treated, that these issues need to be fixed and that there should be equality between the sexes."

Interestingly, in real-life conversation I've never been pulled up on self-identifying as a feminist. Until I'd been lightly toasted here on MN over the use of the term I'd never heard of feminist men as being a problem. Maybe the people I was talking to secretly saw me as some over-privileged male cock who is trying to jump on the bandwagon in an attempt to get his leg over. It would be a shame if they did.

Maybe I should just describe myself as anti-sexist in the same way I identify with anti-racism?

MrsClown Tue 25-Sep-12 13:12:27

IMO men can be feminists. My husband considers himself a feminist and has been out on activist things with me. He also went to Feminism 2010 with me and went to the workshop for men. I do understand that he cannot possibly understand what it feels like to be oppressed but he can fight against it. I look at it a little bit like the Civil Rights Workers in the USA in the 50s and 60s. White people marched with the black people - they may not have been oppressed in the same way as the black people but could certainly support them - they were still Civil Rights Workers. Thats just my opinion though. I know some feminists are very elitist IMO. I was at a feminist meeting once and a woman actually said to me that she thought you had to have been to university to be a feminist! I have been a feminist for 40 odd years and have never been to uni!

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Wed 26-Sep-12 20:40:39

I'm not sure. I am sure ds wll be though grin

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Wed 26-Sep-12 20:45:27

think the test here really would be to ask a man who sees himself as a feminist, "Would you be okay not referring to yourself as a feminist, but as pro-feminist because many feminists feel the term should be "owned" by feminist women?" If they say, "yes, of course I recognise the importance of women owning the term and leading the movement," then that's cool. If they get defensive and insist that they should be able to use the term feminist if their beliefs are feminist, then I'd question whether they GENUINELY understand gender and sexual oppression, genuinely acknowledge their own male privilege and can even truly call themselves any version of the term feminist.

See, I like this but I also feel like only a few people in any group with many different ideals and many different directions and paths shouldn't be allowed to decide the party line. Wouldn't it be fair for the guy in question to say, I identify as a feminist because many women within feminism think it is important than men are proud to identify as feminist?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now