Regarding Male Feminists

Art by Liberal Jane Illustration

I’m a dude. What’s more, I’m a dude who enjoys a wide assortment of “manly” things. Camping and sports and gaming. I listen to classic rock and drive fast. I can grow magnificent beard (I wish). And I’m a feminist.

I learned a lot of well-intended but flawed things about women growing up and it took a number of years to grow past it. Men have bad experiences when they start dating that they blame on women rather than looking objectively at themself and their own behavior. I had a skewed view of feminism that prevented me from understanding and embracing it.

Thankfully, as I get older, I get smarter and became more self-aware. We should stop getting mad at things we disagree with and start trying to understand them instead. We sholud see some of the flaws in our reasoning and revise our ways of thinking. In other words, we need to stop being a dumbasses and start trying to be an adult.

As there are many examples of how to be a dumbass, and very few examples of how to be an adult, I thought I’d share what I learned about being a male feminist with those of you who may be struggling with the idea. Here goes:

Lesson One: It is unseemly to split hairs over the definition.

If you’ve been on the internet, you’ve probably seen the “I’m for equality but I’m not a feminist” argument. Ad nauseum. A lot of people fall into. I fell into it for awhile. But here’s the thing: if you Google “Feminism”, this is the result
“the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”
So you can’t really say you’re “for equality” but that you’re not for the “political, social, and economic equality” of women and men. You’re either not really for equality or you’re really a feminist after all (I’ll wait while you process that).

Sure, you can drudge up other, more negative definitions, but literally no one means “Do you think all men should be castrated and killed?” when they ask if you’re a feminist. In the current vernacular, it means that you believe women should be politically, socially, and economically equal to men. Trying to dodge the issue by finding/inventing an inaccurate definition just wastes everyone’s time. Either you think women are just as much people as men are, or you do not, and you should own your convictions, whatever they may be. Don’t straddle the fence like a coward.

Lesson Two: You already owe women a debt you can’t repay.

Unless you are the magical test-tube baby I keep reading about in tabloids (and the team that created you was all dudes), you OWE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE to a woman. Even if you didn’t ask to be born, or whatever other crap kids say to try and get out of doing chores these days. Regardless, you are here because a woman took nine months out her life and then suffered immense pain to bring you here. No amount of cleaning up your own room, or washing dishes, or handmade Mother’s Day cards pays that kind of debt back. The only way to even get close is if your mom commits a felony, you take the fall for her, serve your nine month prison sentence, and then, on the last day, catch the most savage beating of your life. (I think I just wrote next year’s breakout indie film). And even then, you’re not really even because all the rest of your life is still something a woman gave you. No element of that makes you magically better than her.

So let’s not be ungrateful by pretending we somehow don’t need women or that they oppress us. We’re lucky they don’t consider us property (since they actually made us). Social, political, and economical equality is quite literally the least we can do.

Lesson Three: Even if you think you think men are better, you probably really don’t.

Consider the following. If you were in a horrible accident and you were rushed to the ER and the attending trauma surgeon was a woman, would you insist on waiting for a male doctor? Did you ever drop a class you really needed in college exclusively because the only professor teaching it was a woman? If you owned stock in a successful company, would you sell your shares (regardless of the market) just because the company hired a well-qualified female CEO? If you were flying in a plane and the captain turned out to be a women, would you refuse to take that flight? If you were on trial for murder, and the only lawyer who would take your case was a woman with a high win record, would you fire her and defend yourself?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should probably reexamine your life. But the odds are you answered no, which means you don’t REALLY believe that women are magically less-able to do “male” jobs. At least not to a level that harms or inconveniences you.

So keep going. Does having a penis automatically make you stronger than everyone who doesn’t? Does it make you smarter? More trustworthy? Nicer? Does your penis give you faster reflexes for gaming? No? None of those things? So really, you don’t believe that, by default, men are better than women. (Sorry for the binary language, folks, I’m just trying to make a point).

What your junk does get you (besides added convenience when peeing) is a higher level of respect from other people with similar junk, and this is the problem. Men treat each other as if being men makes them better than women, and they grow up believing their own hype. Even women start to believe it. But when you stop and think about it, it’s just hype. And we shouldn’t fall for it.

Lesson Four: Admitting there’s a problem is the first step in making it go away (by solving it)

No one likes to be the bad guy, which makes it difficult for people to admit that a group they’re part of is oppressing some other group. So we resort to tactics like “Well I’ve personally never…” or “Not all of us are like that” or “This one person exaggerated/falsified their suffering, so they’re all lying” or the old classic “I can’t be oppressing anyone because I’m suffering too.”

Just because you don’t think you’re part of the problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And refusing to admit a problem exists is generally just as harmful as causing the problem, because it prevents you (and others) from finding a solution. How well could you treat someone who was bleeding if you spent the whole time arguing that either they weren’t really bleeding or that you hadn’t caused it (or that you were justified in cutting them)?

Maybe you avoid admitting that gender equality is a problem because you don’t know where to go next (and you don’t like the “cut off all the penises” solutions that some people offer). But you can’t start looking for ways to solve a problem until you admit there is one. Once you accept that there is a problem, you can start to understand it. And once you understand it, you can start to understand the solutions to it. Or you can come up with your own solutions.

By calling yourself a feminist, you are stating that A) you believe in the social, political, and economic equality of men and women, B) you don’t think that society has achieved that yet, and C) you’re willing to do something to help make it a reality. You’re not accepting personal responsibility for every bad thing men have ever done to women. You’re not offering yourself up for public flogging and castration. You’re not swearing your total and undying allegiance to Anita Sarkeesian. You’re just saying “I can see that women are getting a raw deal and I’ll do what I can to make it right (or at least avoid making it worse).” Again, it’s less of a “big deal” and more of a “bare minimum” when you actually consider it.

Lesson Five: It may be a journey for you, and that is okay

Society tends to be this horrible pressure cooker that teaches from a very early age that being wrong is the worst thing you can be. That denying your mistakes is safer than owning them. That people will think less of you and treat you worse if you admit that you don’t know everything. And this affects people from all parts of the socio-economic scale. Everyone wants to be right all the time and it’s SO unhealthy.

There’s nothing shameful in realizing your shortcomings and doing something about them. In fact, the single most important attribute a organism (that’s you) can possess is the ability to learn and adapt. That’s why intelligence is so important and why people are the dominant species on the planet. Our minds let us compensate for millions of years of evolution in a matter of hours.

“Oh, what, it’s freezing? Guess we’ll have to slowly freeze to death while we wait to evolve fur. Hey, wait a second, I can just kill that thing over there and wear its fur!”* Boom. We’ve adapted from naked monkeys to cold-weather enthusiasts in five minutes. That’s amazing! That’s what makes us humans! There is literally no way for other species to keep up with that. (*No animals were harmed in the typing of this hypothetical story)

Now, let’s apply physical adaptation to mental adaptation. Let’s say that, through upbringing or life experience or natural impulse, you thought that men were naturally better than women. And now, upon reexamination, you realize there’s not really any foundation to that belief. The right and proper thing to do is to adjust your views and move on with life. The stupid (and thus shameful) thing to do is stubbornly justify and cling to views that you don’t really believe in. In the first case, you’ve chosen to make clothing and survive. In the later, you’ve decided to stand there and freeze to death because cold-weather survival didn’t come naturally to you.

You will never reach the point of being perfect. You will never know everything. You will never be right about everything. And that is okay because we’re not designed to know everything. We’re designed to learn and adapt. The only time anyone is really a failure is when we refuse to become better than we were.

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