The Male Feminist Paradox

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The concept of male feminism seems almost oxymoronic at first. Being an openly-feminist woman is something that is becoming more accepted by people all over the world and especially in the western hemisphere, but one thing in particular that the western hemisphere boasts is its number of growing male feminists. I would speculate that the reason behind this is partly due to cultural differences and the role that males play in Middle Eastern countries. North and South America appear to be more accepting of feminism and many men are joining the movement. However, the emerging number of male feminists have brought along with them a string of controversy. I’ll be honest—I had to go bra-less and blast Kelly Clarkson for an hour to get my creative juices flowing in preparation of this post. I still have mixed feelings about male feminists, but I’d like to introduce some of my guileless thoughts here.

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First off, I’d like to start by unscholarly pointing out how attractive male feminists are. After all, what could be more enchanting than a man who values and respects women and pledges equality for all? OK, now that that’s out of my system…let’s get to my first point: my last statement was completely biased! A person advocating equal rights for men and women should not be considered valiant or hyper-irresistible—it should be a normality. I’ll admit that even I have been caught up in the allure of male feminists, but it is so counterintuitive (the allure, that is). Although the feminist movement has come a long way over the years, this is a prime example of just how far we still have to go. The fact that we have a special word coined to define an equality movement says a lot. If an issue did not exist, we would not need a word to describe it, and we certainly wouldn’t be praising people for acting like decent human beings.

feminism3My second observation is: I think that some men (some), might be a smidge confused about feminism. While a lot of men attribute feminism to social equality (and this is still very accurate…), what they may forget is that it is also about female emancipation; advocacy of female worth and rights, not just equality. It is more than equal pay in the workforce or ending violence against women; it is about raising women up to the same level as men (think women in the NFL, infantrywomen, female technical systems engineers). Not only do women deserve equal and respectable treatment, they deserve equal opportunity.  Take this quote from Joseph Gordon Levitt, for example: “What [feminism] means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are – you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever.” Sorry Gordon, but I think you may have confused feminism with gender equality in this statement.  While they share many similarities, feminism differs greatly from gender equality when it comes to the part about female liberation. While the term has evolved into a movement of equality for all, it was originally defined by its originator Charles Fourier as being specifically about women’s rights.

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(Male feminists Joseph Gordon Levitt, David Schwimmer, President Barack Obama)

Finally, is it fair for men to call themselves feminists when they can never understand firsthand what they are defending? It is very easy to have misogynistic characteristics without even realizing it. Part of misogyny is the sexual objectification and/or belittling of women. That being said, any man who cannot look at a less-than perfect woman in a bikini at the beach without having negative thoughts towards her body cannot truly say he is against unrealistic female beauty standards. Any man who has ever watched pornography participates in the belittling of women as sexual objects of entertainment. Any man who internally berates a woman passionately voicing her opinion instead of allowing her an equal platform for self-expression engages in prejudice. While I definitely appreciate and support male feminists, I do not think they are capable of ever being as fervent as women in feminism simply because they cannot experience the same discrimination and prejudices that women do. In fact, many male “feminists” might even be contributing factors.

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The feminist movement was started by women and is majorly defended by women. The idea that men might come in and advance to the forefront of this movement is entirely paradoxical. Please don’t get me wrong! I wholeheartedly embrace and support male feminists and their willingness to project in a society still very much under the ideals of male dominance. It is, however, important to recognize the differences between males and females when it comes to feminism. A large part of feminism involves allowing women room and occasion to progress the movement. Men, please do join us—just respect parts of the concept that can never be empathetically appreciated.

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