One of the biggest movements that have caused a lot of dialogue over the years would arguably be on feminism. And most probably just by looking at the title you’re like ‘huh?’ Well, allow me to break it down into a couple of questions and then share my opinion as we go on yes? Can men be feminists? How does a man become a feminist, by resisting the forces of patriarchy? Is it the man’s decision to label themselves a feminist or it takes a woman to call them one?
I remember listening to Chimamanda Adichie’s talk on the TEDx Euston edition on how all men should be feminists. At first I was like wow this is a dope movement that I would like to be part of. Following weeks (or maybe months) I began to research on feminism just to make sure it’s not some cult or anything like that, this is where I was like ok, wait a minute. No doubt, feminism is broad. It encompasses a lot of aspects and school of thought. It’s a touchy subject especially coming from a guy because we are ‘protected’ so to speak by the veil of patriarchy. This alone to some extent disqualifies us to be called feminists as men because striking a balance between patriarchy and advocating for woman rights is an oxymoron. Let me take it from the definition and continue.
In simpler terms, feminism is the belief that genders are equal. This definition may make it look so simple: you believe men and women are equal then you’re a feminist right? But wait, can we say men and women are equal? I don’t think so, but men and women definitely deserve equal opportunities, now this may confuse some. Historically, women have been oppressed by men knowingly or otherwise hence for a man (any men) to say they are a feminist raises a lot of questions. The best that men can be is be allies or supporters of the movement and in the process ditch their patriarchal veil. Another question arises: can men (practically) ditch their patriarchal belt? From research and interaction I have learnt that most (if not all) women are feminists by experience, hence a man who has been brought up in a patriarchal set up to say they are a feminist would need a massive back up, almost an impossible one to get.
Also I’ve encountered instances where people claim that online feminists are making the definition of feminism less appealing by being bitter. Who wouldn’t be bitter if they aren’t getting opportunities best fitted for them because of patriarchy? Who wouldn’t be bitter if they are not able to wear what they want without being shamed or fear being raped? Who wouldn’t be bitter if they have to work extra hard for the same task a man works half as hard for (or not work at all?) Also there is another form of bitterness that I have noticed is being thrown to feminists when in fact belongs to sexists. Let me give a simple distinction between the two: feminism is the belief that genders are equal whilst sexism is the belief that one gender is greater or lesser than the other. So next time you see someone elevating a particular gender above another, call them a sexist not a feminist.
Still on that I might as well touch on the #AllMenAreTrash hashtag that trended in the greater last quarter of 2016. The first time I saw this hashtag I dismissed it for a bitter hashtag by twitter feminists to discredit all men (yes including the men feminists) of their existence and efforts basically. With more research I then noticed that the hashtag served the purpose of doing away with the privileges of patriarchy and since all men are recipients of patriarchal privileges then none were spared. It was also meant to show the magnitude of their frustration and say ‘hey enough is enough, it’s time you pay attention…’ Women can’t freely wear what they want, they can’t go wherever they want, they can’t share their opinion, and all this is because of men. So by saying all men are trash, it was a gamble meant to make men inquire why and hence start the education or rather information dissemination on how women are being unequally treated knowingly or unknowingly through actions like body shaming among other things.
Men, vested in privilege, can surely do quite a lot to bring down that veil and pave way for more women to be heard and actively participate in civic spaces, especially those that affect them. Men can best contribute to the movement by shifting their mindset and educating one another on such issues. I do not however take away anything from men who identify themselves as feminists, actually I applaud their courage to be visible with their support for efforts by women to strive for equality. So this is me, can men be feminists: yes, I think they can be. Should men be called feminists, no I do not think so. In my research I read an interesting take on men and feminism by Drew Bowling which I think has been working for me: “To take one step further, I think men can be most effective by working as feminism’s silent partners.” This is to say, we (men) really don’t need the tattoo or placards to show we’re feminists. I think this is a better utopia. Personally I can never say I’m a feminist because for starters I do not even know half the things required to be called one and my experiences alone are also inadequate, although I do feel women deserve equal opportunities with men.