I am a man and I am a feminist.

I strongly believe that the way our gender system works even in our ‘enlightened’ era is messed up, and that we should all, men included, be doing something to change it. I don’t agree with the notion that feminism should be a women’s only endeavour for two obvious reasons: one, there are women in my life that I care about, and the prospect of them suffering because of their gender galls me. Two, gender roles are damaging to men too.

As to the first point, the simple fact that your loved ones are liable to be harassed because they’re female should be enough to move you. A glance at the website everydaysexism says a lot about what many women suffer. It’s a reminder that we have not yet reached equality. The women in these stories (of which there are a sickening number) could be your mother, sister, niece, aunt, friend, partner or daughter. The spectrum of harassment reads as unpleasant and demeaning: from wolf-whistling and aggressive come-ons, to stories of women whose rapes were dismissed because of the way they dressed. It’s horrifying. Many of the stories are from under-16s. Some of them are from men, being harassed for not being masculine enough, or by women, that seem to believe that since all men only think with their dicks, any attention should be welcomed.

Which brings me onto my second point, a world without feminism can be pretty crap for men too. Granted, you get the advantages that a male dominated world brings, but only if you fit the pre-supposed definition of masculinity. Those who do not fit the norm suffer. If you have long hair, if you’re not strong, if you’re anything other than aggressively heterosexual with many sexual partners, that makes you lesser than other, ‘real’ men. These issues may seem ultimately inconsequential, but the consequences of such attitudes can be very real.

Suicide disproportionally affects men. In many countries, the UK included, significantly more men die from suicide than women with the most commonly proposed reason being the expectations of masculinity and individualism placed upon men. It’s not manly to feel depressed, let alone seek help. You should just ‘toughen up’ and deal with it. But toughening up isn’t a viable cure to a mood disorder, and many men can’t deal with it.

There are many misconceptions about feminism. One is that it’s about women being better than men, but this is reactionary drivel. Feminism seeks to, among other things, break gender roles. To object to the notion that women have to stay at home to cook and clean equally fights the expectation that men have to be workers and wage-earners. The idea that women should be dainty and ‘feminine’ for lack of a better word also quashes the stereotype that men have to be tough and ‘masculine’.

Young women and men are being harassed and treated as nothing more than sex on legs. We’ve all seen it in the pubs and clubs of Nottingham and even on the street. Many will have experienced it. Let’s change it; let’s make a culture in which that is unacceptable.

Don’t be a lad. Be a feminist.

James Motteram

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8 Comments

  1. October 5, 2013 at 14:31 — Reply

    I think there’s a great difference between a women-only movement and a women-led movement; and also a difference between feminism, masculinism, and gender-equality (the former two of which are a subset of the latter).

    Feminism is a movement led by women, and always should be, and it is up to that autonomous movement as to whether men should be involved and if so, to what extent. Very few women feminists I’ve spoken to would rule men out of the movement completely, as the support is normally welcomed, but it is important that it remains led by women and if women-only spaces are wanted, then they happen and they are respected by all those supporting the aims of the movement.

    The worst possible thing I feel men could do in feminism is try and lead the movement or the campaigns, as it is exactly that kind of men-ruling-everything attitude that causes such a struggle still, and only re-enforces a particular view of “leadership”.

    I’ll support feminism where I can, but if a self-defining woman tells me to back off, it’s fair enough.

    • Cara
      September 10, 2014 at 16:23 — Reply

      I disagree with this completely. Most guys believe that feminism is about women trying to prove that they are better than men, as James mentioned in his article. I think that women should be leading the movement, yes, since it is primarily our fight. But, since we do live in a patriarchal society, it is mainly men’s attitudes that need to change. Therefore, by including men within the campaign, other men are likely to start to realise, or speak out about how, it also affects them and more men becoming involved makes it more likely that the stigma associated with men wanting to be feminists will disappear.

      Also, from my experience, the type of men who consider themselves to be feminists, or at least egalitarians, are the kind of guys that I believe we should have on-side. I find it incredibly hopeful that there actually are guys who identify with feminist issues and expected gender roles, because it proves that not all men think in a sexist way. Guys that I have met who are like this are not alienating to women within the movement because they want the same things and actually empathise with feminist issues, i.e. they are not sexist so they are not the enemy. Women-only movements run the risk of alienating sexist men which means that they don’t identify with the cause and therefore don’t care to acknowledge it if they don’t actually think that they are real problems. Plus, it’s ironically sexist to want to exclude men from the movement: it makes it appear evident of women wanting to be separate from men rather than everyone just being on equal par.

      I can see your argument about it potentially being threatening to feminists if men were to, ironically, take over their campaign and how this could actually lead to resentment but the kind of guy who considers himself in touch with feminist issues is usually very respectful of a woman’s approach to doing things, from my experience.

  2. anon
    October 5, 2013 at 17:40 — Reply

    I am totally for gender equality and all the rest of it, nobody should be discriminated against. However I really must protest at the imagery and use of language SOME (not all) feminists use. There is still talk about a “gender war” which is (well for me anyway) alienating. Secondly, I dislike the term feminism. Of course men should stand up to discrimination in any form, but why should it be a female led movement? Why can’t it be jointly led? Why can’t it have a gender-neutral name like egalitarianism?

    Tl;dr gender equality is great, though disagree with some of the language used sometimes and the term feminism

  3. Anon 2
    October 5, 2013 at 19:28 — Reply

    Anon – the reason why the term “feminism” is used (the same way the terms “women’s rights movements” or “black rights movements”) are used is that, though feminism is still about gender equality, it focuses specifically on the female side of this (i.e. the inequalities women face). The reason for this is because, though the patriarchy hurts men too, it still has a disproportionately bad effect on women.

  4. Miss Understanding
    October 5, 2013 at 23:15 — Reply

    What’s wrong with just a Gender Equality group? Feminism is, by definition, fighting for Women’s Rights. There are male groups out there raising awareness of issues that only men face and that should be encouraged too. Unfortunately, it seems that these two groups are at loggerheads quite frequently but don’t let extremists of either group discourage what the silent active members intend to do and that is level the gender playing field.
    I support feminism but I am not a feminist. I am an Egalitarian.

  5. Poppy
    October 6, 2013 at 15:32 — Reply

    Why can’t men be horrified by the treatment of women simply because they are women, rather than having to attach value to women by saying ‘imagine if it was your sister’ as if only men with female relatives have a valid reason to care?

    • James Motteram
      October 7, 2013 at 01:54 — Reply

      Hi Poppy,
      It’s easier to empathise with someone close to you, irrespective of gender. If something terrible happens to your father or brother, it’s much more distressing than something that happens to a man you’ve never met. So it’s a more effective means of persuasion to say “Imagine this thing happening to this specific person you care for” than “imagine this thing happening to women” which is such a wide group it becomes faceless and nebulous, making it much more difficult to conceptualise and empathise. If men don’t think it’s bad, telling them “you should be horrified, because it’s bad” won’t work. Since most of them won’t have ever been on the receiving end of these kind of actions, it’s difficult to understand why it’s bad. Taking a more personal approach, saying imagine if this happened to a loved one, can help facilitate that understanding. It’s not about whether they should care, of course they should care, it’s about trying to make them care.

  6. October 7, 2013 at 11:09 — Reply

    Feminist groups exist because women have for centuries and longer been oppressed from anything between pay and voting, sexual objectification to rape.

    It’s undeniable that men face negative discrimination as well, but it’s nowhere near to the same extent as women previously have and still do. The law is getting better on it, but society less so.

    There’s nobody stopping men campaigning for gender equality through a masculinism movement, but the very fact that very few men feel passionately enough to join and lead such a movement is perhaps the most telling tale of the extent to which the imbalance of gender discrimination and difference exists.

    So yes, tackle both, but don’t blame feminists for focusing on feminism; blame men who complain about discrimination against men for not focusing on masculinism.

    As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you feel strongly about discrimination against men, do something about it.

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