All aboard! Even the men
I love a good flowchart, they are my second favourite after writing lists. I especially like the one’s you get on medical websites: ‘Do you have a fever?’ if ‘Yes’ follow this arrow, if ‘NO’ go to question 117. All of which always end in a scarier place than you ever wanted, when actually all you have is the cold. I mention this not because I have no social filter and a tendency to come out with whatever is in my head…no, no. My niece is currently studying and she mentioned this as a technique while we were writing. I really wanted to just draw a flowchart for this blogpost but it really didn’t make a lot of sense. On the right is the most reasonable I could come up with and actually, kind of sums it all up well.
But in between her study breaks she mentioned something much more interesting and much more relevant to why you have decided to read this. She talked about men being feminists. This has always been a hot topic in feminist circles – an argument that comes down to ownership of the movement. But the conversation always assumes that a man wanting to engage in the movement, needs to have or is even looking for any ownership. In my opinion, they should be able to engage, be educated about issues and fight them alongside women. What they shouldn’t have is decision making power. They shouldn’t be leading the debate or defining it on behalf of women. It seems pretty simple in my head, but somehow for others it is not and becomes a bit of a stumbling block. Men need to be involved, like it or not, they are relevant to the movement – because they, unfortunately, hold the keys to many of the gates we want to get through. Getting them to understand why their privielege is wrong and engaging them in the fight will mean we get a set of keys too, and faster. Surely the point is to live in an equal society – that only happens when attitudes are changed – that means mens’ too.
My niece told me of a guy friend of hers who was reading this blog, he posted it on facebook, because he, I presume, believed in what he was reading, or at the very least, found it interesting. Within 5 minutes of posting, he received offensive comments telling him to ‘grow a pair’ or telling him that he was ‘so gay…’. This annoyed him and so as to not jeopardise his social networking reputation, he quickly deleted the post and joined in the harmony of the lad culture choir. (You can read about the Lad culture in a previous post). My niece found this difficult. She mentioned that he is a really loud and confident guy, and wondered how he could let one little thing like this get him and let it change his opinion. She was quite angry with him. In all honesty, I was strangely sympathetic (I’m not known for my empathy). It takes courage to question the norm or go against the grain, especially if those you are going against are your friends. This guy in particular didn’t have that courage.
There needs to be a place for men to have these discussions and I would prefer for them to have them with us, women, so they get it right. I read an article a while back about men as feminists and instead of arguing whether or not this is a good way forward for feminism, the article spend paragraphs focusing on semantics. Whether they are entitled to use the term “feminist” or should we come up with something new. I understand why, but surely this isn’t the priority? Surely we should be encouraging the word to be used, rather than finding synonyms? BUT we do need to make sure it is used in the right way.
Now this is important, because I have encountered many times where men use the word ‘feminist’ to describe themselves inaccurately. They use it simply because they know it’s the right thing to say; followed by something along the lines of ‘Of course I understand women’s rights, some of my best friends are women.’ Bravo. These men are better known as ‘Fauxminists’ now, I would explain this in detail, but here is a brilliant article which does so in a much more articulate and witty way. Read it.
These men are a problem, because they think they get it, but they don’t, which means when you try and correct it – they don’t listen. A friend of mine has a younger brother, he’s 22 and when he heard me talking about this he said:
“I believe in feminism, I mean all those girls that put on so much make up to try and make themselves look good and wear tight clothes should know they don’t have to do that, it doesn’t even look good. Natural beauty is much better looking to guys” Why thank you kind Sir, now that you have told me that I need not wear this make up and that my natural beauty pleases you, you have released me from the shackles of oppression.
WHAT?! How is this your understanding of feminism?! You have taken a generational struggle for political, social and cultural equality and whittled it down to how we look – reinstating everything that we need to fight and then had the audacity to label that feminism. Walk away. Quickly. Far too many men (young men…God I’m old) have jumped on what is quickly becoming a bandwagon, rather than the third/fourth wave of feminism we are all hoping for. I’ve heard it more often than my fragile ears can handle. Comments like:
“I know how to treat a woman with respect, because I’m a feminist too, I buy my girlfriend flowers and I always pay for dinner” or how about “I’m a feminist, I let my wife have a job and work, like I do”. ‘LET HER’?…wow. No, feminist is not what you are, but you could be, if you actually learnt about the term you are using.
I have, however, had the privilege to work with and be friends with actual male feminists. One’s who understand what it is actually about, one’s who understand that it is not aesthetic – it is about deeply entrenched inequality in our society which, as times goes on, is going more unnoticed and unchallenged.
I was on a panel for International women’s day last month and was asked and interestingly worded question “Can a collective of men ever fight for women’s rights or are they just another collective of patriarchy?” It all comes down to intention. If a collective of men wants to support women to create an equal society, where women are given the platform that they deserve and should already have been given, than it is of course helpful and works towards eradicating that patriarchy. However, the minute this collective stops supporting and attempts to lead, the cause is lost. It’s a fine line, but not one that we should avoid walking.