Viewport width =
July 25, 2019 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Being a male feminist is hard (but being a woman is probably harder)


The #MeToo movement was founded by Tarana Burke in 2006 and gained traction in 2017. Since then, there seems to have been an uptake in men who self-identify as feminists. Call me a cynic, but this raised my skeptical hippo eyes (Google it—you won’t be sorry). #MeToo was about (some) women feeling safe enough to publicly disclose their experiences of sexual violence. Men then hijacking the momentum to “come out” as feminist felt contrived to me. It’s never really been unsafe for men to declare themselves feminist, so to do so alongside this movement felt a little “I’m trying to make sure I don’t get lumped in with the bad men” (because #NotAllMen). 

My cynicism isn’t without precedent. There are countless examples of men who have stood up for women and labelled themselves as ‘feminists’, only to later be outed as misogynists. I recently came across a well-respected gender scholar, who has been celebrated as an ally for the feminist cause for decades and has built a career out of being a male feminist. After engaging with his work, I came across several articles revealing accounts of him taking advantage of his position of power to solicit sex and other non-academic favours from young female grad students. Despite the outcry against his misogynistic behaviour, he was recently awarded a major academic award for his lifelong work “supporting” the feminist cause. 

TL;DR—men should be feminists, but we maybe haven’t been doing the best job at it.

In theory, being a male feminist (or pro-feminist ally) should be straightforward: Stand up with (not for) women, and acknowledge the ways in which the decks are stacked against them.

In reality, though, it’s confusing. It seems to change so frequently—it feels daunting. I feel you, dude! So here are a few things that I’ve realised as I’ve continued to read, learn, and have discussions with feminists and pro-feminist allies. Too often, the white cisgender male takes up more than his fair share of oxygen in the room, and while men should be feminists, I think there’s still some confusion about how to be part of the movement in an appropriate way. 

It’s not an exhaustive list and I certainly don’t claim to be perfect. But I’m trying, so here are some ideas you can try out too: 


*Listen to the voices and experiences of those who you are allying yourself with, and give (or create) space for their perspectives.* Seek them out. Go online and look for activists, bloggers, authors, artists, and other voices from marginalised communities. Their personal stories and experiences will really help to inform your point of view. Learn what marginalisation can look like. When you see it, do not speak for women, but use your privilege to pass the torch to them—especially when their voices are in danger of being silenced.

*Understand that identifying yourself as a feminist or ally is not your call to make.* Feminism is activism—enact and demonstrate your feminist principles in your personal actions, but remember you’re not doing it for a cookie. You’re doing it because it’s what is right.  

Living by feminist values means supporting your sisters (because they’re the ones facing actual discrimination based on their gender) and educating your fellow brothers on how they, too, can support other women to forge a more equitable society. Aspiring to such an ideal of ally-dom is noble, and hopefully you can achieve it every now and then…. but in reality, you will slip up. Own that shit; keep learning and keep growing. 

*Acknowledge and call out fucked-up aspects of masculinity.* Get schooled on the consequences of believing in a rigid, tough-guy version of manhood. These distorted understandings and expectations of masculinity lead to higher rates of  violence, depression, suicide, excessive alcohol consumption, and lower levels of overall happiness in men. You’re allowed to cry. You’re allowed to show emotion—don’t repress that shit.

‘Toxic masculinity’ is bad for everyone. I hate that notions of “being a man” are linked to how much money you can make, or how many girls you’ve slept with, AND that making money and sleeping with girls means you should be entitled to more money and more sexual partners. We need to expose and dismantle these messed-up societal attitudes that keep us in boxes reinforced with misogyny, homophobia, and violence. Feminism can help us to carve a new space of our own in masculine culture, and create support structures and communities for us to fall back on when times are tough.

Be intolerant of intolerance. Call that shit out when you see it! 

*Remember, this is a process. You will fuck it up along the way, and it will be uncomfortable.* When someone points out your errors, offer a sincere apology and be ready to learn from the experience. You will grow and be a better and more empathetic person for it! 

If you’re vocal about feminism, you might be challenged. But, like I said before, you’re not typically going to have your safety threatened because of it. The same can’t be said for women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, or disabled people—all of whom don’t have the safety net of privilege to protect them when they call out the same things.  

Choose to go beyond the inappropriate notions of masculinity drilled into us by society. Learn from the myriad examples of how not to be a male feminist. We, too, are able to be understanding, empathetic, and fucking great allies. 



About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required