What is a Male Feminist?

October 13, 2011 by So to Speak
Filed under: Opinion 

I thought I might start my first blog post here on So to Speak thinking about feminism from a male perspective (the only perspective I have). What is a male feminist? Instead of just getting my take on things though I thought it would be more interesting to go out and ask four random people, 2 female and 2 male, what their thoughts are on the matter. Their ages (18, 20, 20, 23) actually worked out to hopefully give us a good look of what we might expect to find across the board, but I thought it would be more interesting if I didn’t tell you who said what. See if you can guess.

In your own words, how would you define a male feminist? What specifically makes him a feminist?

-          “A man that thinks women should have equal rights as men. Asks practical advice of men and women. Believes both pay and opportunities, social and work, should be the same.”

-          “I never thought about it before. I guess a male who supports women’s rights. I don’t want to make too big of a generalization, but I believe they would take more of a ‘female’ role in a relationship, if they’re in a relationship, doing a lot of the cooking and cleaning. Maybe he’d go to all the protests.”

-           “He is more understanding. He puts women on a pedestal when it comes to rights.”

-           “A male struggling for women’s rights. He probably pushes it politically. I mean, women feminists are extreme, so a male feminist must be really extreme.”

How many of your male friends would you consider to be feminists?

-          2, and maybe 0.5% of the whole population

-          None

-          Half to 2/3

-          1 or 2

Think about these answers for a second. I understand that at this point it’s cliché to say people have a hard time with the word “feminist,” that they don’t have a true grasp of what the word implies, but I was surprised at how much harder it was for three of the people I interviewed to grasp the feminist concept when placing the word “male” in front. For two of them even, it was as if “feminism” and “woman” were synonymous, so that in their mind I was asking them, “How would you define a male woman? What specifically makes him a her?” Understanding those kind of assumptions doesn’t make their answers valid, but it does show an interesting train of thought. Knowing where people trip up on the term is important if we are ever going to rectify how it is perceived.

The other problem I noticed with three of the interviewees was that because I am a male asking them my questions seemed to be ironic in nature, that I was looking for evidence to refute feminism, not build it up. I’d be curious to see if the interviewees would give the same answer if a woman was asking the question. I think not. Gender differences are always going to be at the heart of the issue. How are men and women perceived? I just forgot to realize that the normative perception of men might have slanted the answers I received. It’s important to keep in mind the idea that even though I register myself as a feminist, because I am male other people won’t. That has to change.

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends these same questions. Maybe even think would your answer change whether a man or woman asked you.

After everything is said and done, one of my conversations stood out from the others. After finishing the questions with one of the women, she told me a heart-wrenching story about how she had always grown up wanting to be a police officer. When she told a bunch of her guy friends her dream they only laughed at her and said that because she had blonde hair, was pretty, and a woman that she would never command respect, that she could never do that job. She was crushed.  It’s horrible to think about how common this type of interaction is between men and women. But I still have hope for her. She told me that right now she is studying Criminology and wants to work in the CIA. So maybe she will end up being a police officer, or maybe she’ll end up something better.

-Mike

Comments

5 Comments on What is a Male Feminist?

  1. Alyse on Fri, 14th Oct 2011 11:52 am
  2. Great post, Mike. I love how you phrased the problem with the term as men trying to imagine a “male woman.” That’ s so interesting and really encapsulates the kind of paradox that many people seem to see with the phrase “male feminist.” Can’t wait to hear more from ya.

  3. Sheila on Sun, 16th Oct 2011 7:33 pm
  4. I think you are so right in wanting to get back to the meaning of words before we make assumptions of them in pop culture. And it is sad that when you do this, irony has to play a part in decoding symbols. What seems to be the most resonant of your message here is the ability to ask and question. Ask and question the communities with who you affiliate and the ones you don’t.

  5. Mike on Mon, 24th Oct 2011 2:53 pm
  6. Thanks for this Mike. Your story about the young woman wanting to be a police officer was moving and very in-line with the way gender roles are prescribed in popular culture. Women can’t be cops. Females cook and clean. This quote had me in stitches for its blatant gender role stereotyping: “I don’t want to make too big of a generalization, but I believe they would take more of a ‘female’ role in a relationship, if they’re in a relationship, doing a lot of the cooking and cleaning.” Until we break down and discuss gender roles we will never understand their construction. I cook and I clean and I am a feminist, I find NONE of these an affront to my masculinity. The more informed one becomes (on gender roles) the more one finds over time these roles have changed, particularly in the brewing industry. But this is a whole ‘nother topic which I will get into in a separate blog post. Well written and well done!

  7. Riv on Wed, 16th May 2012 2:24 am
  8. I found your blog by accident when trying to find writings about how hard it is to be a feminist and to keep non-feminist friends.

    Anyway, to your question, What is a Male Feminist? I want to tell you my answer is: A Good Friend!

  9. Men’s Feminist Voices : So to Speak on Mon, 18th Mar 2013 9:45 am
  10. [...] What Is A Male Feminist? By Mike Kern [...]






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