Is it a Necessary Concession?
Something is troubling me. Well, okay, many things trouble me, but at this time of writing, there is something at the top of the shit heap that is looking me in the eye and smirking at me.
It’s the whole male feminist thing.
In theory, I really have no trouble at all with men getting on board with advocating for women as full human beings and supporting them liberating themselves from sex-based oppression. In an ideal world, the word ‘feminist’ wouldn’t even exist because all men and all women (if we even retained those words) would exist outside the deeply damaging gender binary and everyone would go about their lives in an endless liberated, safe space. But as it is, we are nowhere near that ideal, and we have this thing called ‘feminism’, defined in a myriad of different ways and with some sometimes worrying underlying goals. I’m currently taking a hard look at motivations of those men who choose to put on the mantle.
When a woman who calls herself a feminist, especially a feminist activist, and behaves in ways that support the label (actions are much more important than labels – always), she talks about rights for all women. I have never once heard a true activist feminist talk about what she expects feminism to do for her. This type of person doesn’t see social movements in terms of what she personally is going to get out of it. The best feminists I’ve met or read or listened to act for those less fortunate, less able, less privileged than themselves. That is, in fact, how social change works. When you act as an individual to benefit an individual (i.e., yourself), you’re not part of a group or a movement. I’m not saying that it is wrong for one to act for oneself – what is wrong is when one claims to be part of a movement/group and demands acknowlegdement of that status.
And so I come to the male feminist.
I have never heard a male feminist talk about what he is (purportedly) doing for those less fortunate than himself. What I so frequently hear when male feminists talk (whether they are writing their own articles, or more commonly, hijacking an online thread in a women’s space) is that men suffer in the Patriarchy toooooo. Women are oppressed, but men are oppressed by having to conform to masculine ideals, the poor fuckers.
Give me a break.
While, yes, I think that life probably isn’t as deep or fulfilling when you lack empathy as so many men do after being socialized in our cock-worshipping world, by the very definition of Patriarchy, MEN DO NOT SUFFER LIKE WOMEN DO.
Of course, masculinity standards suck, but they are not degrading, repressive, disempowering, harmful, expensive, painful, or dangerous like femininity requirements are. And when you do perform femininity, the rewards are not quite as automatic or awesome or cut-and-dry as those for masculinity performance are (e.g., you can still find yourself degraded or raped cuz you look like a perfectly made up, conforming, hot slut).
Sure, it must blow if you have to hide a tiny cock away in your pants in a world that worships big cocks, but it sucks even more when you’re not safe just walking down the street while wearing tits on your chest, regardless of size, hidden or not.
It’s a given that life is hard when, as a dude, you’re relegated to relatively well-paying construction or car sales jobs when you don’t have an education, but it is hell on earth when, as a girl or woman, your only option for survival (sometimes despite a university degree) is to be raped for money as a prostitute.
Patriarchy is so very hard on men, as you can imagine.
When charities approach corporations for badly needed donations, they often frame the donation in terms of what giving that money will do for the corporation. It’s usually along the lines of it improving the image of the company and thereby increasing profits. It’s yucky, but corporations and capitalism are dudely inventions, so go figure. When I see feminists doing the same thing to garner support from men for the feminist movement, I feel a more than a little sick. “Join us, we know you are hurt by the Patriarchy too.”
Hey! Men don’t suffer from sex-based oppression. Women do. That’s why it’s called Women’s Liberation, Feminism, etc.
When men sign on as feminists so they can improve the currently horrible male experience, they are missing the plot. But is that all we can expect of them? They are, after all, members of the oppressor class. Privilege breeds blindness and self-centredness. Women are seldom allowed to claim quid pro quo when dealing with men (especially), so participation in a movement is not really a huge step for them. But I really have yet to see a man do anything that doesn’t involve him expecting something out of it – even if the something is just recognition – for himself. Is a selfless act, nay, a selfless life, even possible for men at this point in time? Must women downplay their own oppression and fabricate victim status for the oppressors to get them on board as honourary members?
Jeezus cripes. I think that making such a serious concession can only come back and bite feminists in the collective oppressed ass later on. We already see it, for example, in places where men have taken over “Take Back the Night” marches and insist on standing at the front of the group. (Men aren’t safe at night either!!!! Fucking ‘ell.) But it can get so much worse. Personally, I think we don’t need to invite men to participate if they can’t understand what’s going on. If they choose to participate – which is always better than conscription – they must first accept the idea of ‘support role’ and then let go of the whole what about me-me-me approach they take in most things they do. And personally, I don’t hand out special recognition or awards for acting like a human.
Hell, is a real movement even possible at this point?