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What’s in a name? Pro-feminist males or simply feminists?

So, I wanted to write about the misogynistic and patriarchal idea of how some claim two people of different genders can’t “just be friends,” because there’d be too much sexual attractions, but instead, I’ll write about something a poster asked of me last night: why I call myself a pro-feminist male rather than a feminist.

The value of this post is not about activism, but rather, feminist theory. I’d like to know what you think on it.

 So, the following are the reasons I call myself a pro-feminist male.

1) The feminist movement has been and was created for and by women.  For me to call something that was created for the purpose of women’s rights my own is the very definition of patriarchy – and I have a big problem with that. While I can be an ally and a suppoter, I’ll never, ever truly know what the female plight is like. It seems if I were to call myself a feminist, it would trivialize the importance of women’s rights.

 2) To own and have possesion to something is to have power. Thus, the feminist movement empowers women. As pro-feminist males, we’re always encouraged to give up our male privileges (at least birth-right/unjustified privileges anyhow). By taking the feminist movement as our own, all we’re doing is holding on to those privileges, and gaining from them.

3) In the end, all of these are merely semantics, but I believe we must highlight the differences in privilege that we have. Even within the feminist movement, there are differences in class and privilege – often based on race, gender, age and areas of focus. While I might just be able to say that I am simply a feminist, I am not. I get more privilege as a male, no matter  how we slice it. To merely call myself a feminist would mean to reject that fact that I am still privileged for being male.

 Often times, those who are privileged don’t feel the need to recognize or acknowlege such differences, because they aren’t being treated any differently or aren’t losing perks because of the differences. But for me, as a pro-feminist male, to think that we are all one, and are treated the same, is to be irresponsible.

When I look in the mirror, I may see “just a person,” but women are still looked at as women, and with that, comes limitations cast on by society (whether we like it or not and how much we hate it, we are gendered by society because we’ve been trained to be that way.) This is merely a way to highlight and remember that, so we don’t lose sight of what feminism truly is about.
Thoughts?

Marc

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6 Comments so far
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That’s very progressive of you. Thanks. Naming the issues is one way to begin the process of moving forward and changing cultural values for the better.

Comment by crowlie

Crowlie, I agree. Your comment made me remember “the problem with no name.” It’s almost like that. I’ve never been a big fan of language-based feminism, but I am starting to be more comfortable with its notions. 🙂

Comment by profeministmale

I think the problem comes in when men get male privilege even within the feminist movement. So let’s look at how that happens.
1) Men are seen as doing something extra special by being feminist/pro-feminist. What a great unselfish person. Have a cookie.
2) Men can use feminism to impress and pick up women.
3) Men may get their voices heard disproportionately often within the movement. Looking around that doesn’t seem true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if within some feminist dialogues it happened, because sometimes we’re socialized to think male opinions matter more and because men are socialized to interrupt and dominate conversation.

So I’m more concerned with feminist/pro-feminist men fighting this privilege than worrying about nomenclature (although I am very concerned about language most of the time). I also think that people have great intentions for using the pro-feminist label but that it probably has unintended bad consequences. When I first saw it I thought it was a cop-out, a way to say “yeah, I like women’s rights, but I’m not an actual feminist, because feminists are unpopular.” If other people think that too, it might keep people from realizing how un-insane feminism actually is. I don’t think that’s a problem for you, being “the face of feminism” on your campus, but for some people it could be worth considering.

So. How do you think feminist/pro-feminist males can go about renouncing their privilege within feminism? It’s funny…normally I think men are crucial to make feminism work, but this part might be best done by women. I think we have to say, no, you don’t get a cookie for supporting human rights and being fair, no, the fact that you’re a feminist isn’t enough to impress me, and hell no you did not just steal the floor from me or invalidate my opinion. But those things are hard for us to do, and not made any easier by the socialized fear that we’re overreacting and asking for too much. So I think you guys can help us out by not expecting any privilege and acting accordingly when we deny it to you.

Finally (sorry this is so long), I don’t think it’s hijacking feminism to call yourself a feminist, because you’re still not calling yourself a woman and thereby implying that you know what it feels like to be a woman. Saying you’re a feminist, in my opinion, is saying what you believe in and care about, not who you are. But of course, it doesn’t bother me that you call yourself a pro-feminist male.

Comment by judgesnineteen

Firstly, here’s to mutual linking 😀

Secondly, the concept of supporting Feminism, by whatever name, is fine by me. Yes, the issue of male privilege particularly where it relates to the opinion of men being more important or heard with more authority than those of women, is a big problem but with men beginning to say to other men that yes it’s okay to listen to women and no it’s not okay to continue taking advantage of us or reducing us to sex-object status we’re beginning to move forward in addressing issues of who is heard and by whom.

Comment by crowlie

I’ve always thought of feminism simply meaning supporting equal rights for women, and that anyone could be a feminist regardless of gender.

Just as if I were advocating for civil rights for african-americans, or for homosexuals, I would call myself a civil rights advocate, not a pro-civil-rights white heterosexual.

I see the points you’re making, and I see them as valid and appreciate them. However I’m also hesitant to divide us into further groups, b/c I’m not sure that helps the situation. If only women can be called Feminists, then aren’t we alienating a huge part of the population, by not allowing them to join us in this fight (even if it’s only a linguistic barrier)?

Comment by Marcy

Awesome Post. My compliments to the author.

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Comment by TearIzUp




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