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Can men be feminists?
It seems like such a simple question, right? With the word "feminism," it's likely that you immediately think of feminine things. Women's rights, women's health care, equal pay for women in the work place – these are all very commonly discussed feminist topics.
Feminism is about equal rights for men, women, trans people, and nonbinary individuals of all walks of life. But, if you actually look at Tumblr sites and bulletin boards that discuss feminism at length, you'll probably notice that most of the posters are women.
That being said, for all intents and purposes, yes, men can be feminists – but only if women let them into the discussion. Here's why.
Feminism Doesn't Have A Gender
Feminism is about gender equality, sex positivity, and LGBTQIA equality. That means that "feminist feminism," "female-friendly feminism" and other exclusionary terms floating around on the net are misnomers. Feminism, in its purest form, has no gender.
There are very supportive feminist men who want to see women earning more, taking control of their healthcare, and just doing what they want to do. There is a multitude of trans people who are outspoken feminists because of the fact that they, as a gender, need feminism in order to be recognized as people. Nonbinary people, such as myself, straight up need feminism because other people won't believe we exist.
Feminism is a discussion and a movement, all in one.
Can men be feminists? Absolutely. You don't need to have a vagina - or really any equipment down there - to be a feminist. You just need to have a voice and a yearning for egalitarianism.
Feminism Is Vilified
The most common reason why people don't believe men can be feminists is because feminism itself is mismarketed. Outside groups tend to see it as a movement that is either anti-male, hypocritical, or otherwise just unfriendly towards men. How can men be feminists if that were the case?
The focus on women and non-gendered issues tend to be one of the biggest issues men have with feminism. Rather than seeing the entire gender binary as oppressive, many feminists come off as seeking to better women's lots in life rather than everyone's as a whole.
Many men, whether they realize it or not, enjoy the privileges that patriarchy and toxic masculinity in our society give them. They don't like seeing an even playing field because competition gets harder and the things that they took for granted no longer are there for them.
Additionally, though men often will acknowledge that there are major differences in how women are treated, the fact is that many men feel like feminism is an attack on them. They also may feel like odds are stacked against them, even if, institutionally, they're not.
This perceived attack makes them lash out at women, which in turn makes women get very hostile toward men discussing women's rights, equality, or anything else related to feminism. The very men women want to join their cause often will refuse to, simply because they see feminists as a "strawman" to problems that come from an increasingly competitive world in which they are not the center.
Women, reacting to this, often become wary of letting men into certain feminist forums because they worry about having the discussion turn into an argument. After all, who would want to have a man lecturing women why "not all men are like that" in a sexual assault discussion? It's invalidating and often just rude.
In certain forums, the very women men say they adore are the topic of ridicule, simply because they want to discuss women's rights. It's easy to see why many women don't want to hear about men labeling themselves as feminists.
That being said, there are also certain women who choose feminism as a means to spread misandry. However, from what I've personally seen, they tend to be a minority in the feminist world.
As a result, many men think feminism is unfair to them - or even detrimental or hateful towards them. How can men be feminists if they feel like they're being attacked? Moreover, how can men be feminists if women are so wary of them?
The misconceptions of feminist discussions, forums, and policies often causes both women and men to believe that men can't be feminists. As a result, people often just assume feminism is a "women only" affair.
How Can Men Be Feminists, Then?
How can men be feminists? Very easily, actually.
Men can rightly call themselves feminists when they support equality, respect, and tolerance towards people of all genders. Yes, it's possible to be a male feminist.
Men can be feminists by simply respecting women as people. They can respect women's right to stay single, the right to reject them, the right to have sex with them, consent, and more. Anytime men stop writing women off as "all the same," or acknowledge someone's orientation, they're doing an act of feminism.
Men can also be feminists by talking about some of the legitimate injustices men face - such as not being believed when they are sexually assaulted, or not being able to report domestic violence. There are discussions about this, and sadly, they aren't as highlighted as they should be.
Communication is necessary. Women feminists need feminist men in order to actually see the goals of feminism happen. Male feminists also need the input of women, transpeople, and nonbinary individuals to ensure that things are equal.
That being said, it's up to women to make sure that men feel welcome in feminist circles. How can men be feminist without others to encourage and support them?