Guest Post: Can Men Be Feminists?
Today’s guest post is from our first male contributor, Jared! We’re excited to have a Dude With a View share his thoughts and bring a little gender equality to the Damn Pants crew.
For many American men the mention of the word “feminist” brings a feeling of discomfort and often anger. They conjure images of militant “Femi-Nazis” marching in the streets and spreading their hate-filled message of misandry. Or they think of that “uppity bitch” they know who claims that all the world’s problems are because of men. This does not have to be the norm. In fact, it shouldn’t be the norm. Feminism is not a sex specific value system; it is collaboration between the sexes. So to answer your question… Yes, men can be feminists.
That being said there are many barriers to a more integrated view of feminism. For one, there is a very misinformed view of feminism among both men and women but specifically men. Feminism is NOT the promotion of women as being superior to men. Nor does it constitute the devaluing of traditional male gender roles. It is the belief that men and women are equal in a political, social and economic sense. Feminist blogger Sarah Zacharias puts it eloquently: “In spite of what some might tell you, feminists don’t desire to disparage men. We desire to stand with them equally… This means that instead of being bound to men by fear and force, we are bound by love and devotion.” To start to deconstruct the typical male view of feminism we must change our expectations of it. Our goal should be to teach our sons that “feminism” is not a dirty word and that feminists are not “out to get you”. Feminism, from a male perspective must be derived from personal integrity. Although men and women may be different in many aspects, how our brains work, how we interact in an interpersonal sense, etc. we are equal. Different does not mean unequal. Men and women have a wide variety of skills and talents, many that overlap, some that do not. We should acknowledge our differences and celebrate them not disparage each other because of them.
There is a deeply ingrained sense of superiority among men for several reasons; however it derives from one basic view. That view is that men are superior because we are, more often than not, physically “stronger”, i.e. we can lift heavier things, run faster, jump higher. Because of this generally accepted view men have been taught that physical “superiority” equals physical dominance. This has lead to the overwhelming historical (and modern) existence of violence against women, including sexual violence. As men we must detach ourselves from this idea of physical dominance. Once again, personal integrity comes into play. Just because you COULD physically dominate a women does not mean you SHOULD. However, we should not end up on the other end of that spectrum where we respect and care for women because of a mindset that they need our protection. This view still assumes the idea that women are weaker, which is untrue.
When you take a deeper look at the male perspective on women in modern western society we can see a constant image of female inferiority. Women are often viewed as objects or rewards for success and power. Just look at the term “Trophy Wife”. This term suggests the idea that if you are a powerful and successful male you are more deserving of a “beautiful” and “sexy” female mate. A quick look at our advertising and you can see how we portray women as rewards for power, success and sophistication:
We must re-establish the obvious disconnect that many men have with “other” women and our loved ones. We would not want a man objectifying our sisters, wives, mothers and daughters in this way, yet we continually support the idea that any woman that is not related to us is valued based on her sexuality. It is mindboggling when a father does not allow his daughter to wear revealing clothing for fear of her being viewed in a sexual way then goes to the golf course and laughs at a crass joke about the drink cart girl. Breaking this idea of equating the female body as a reward for male dominance is one of the first steps we must take on the road to change.