I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time, but I’ve been scared. Scared of the reaction and scared to come out of the closet as a feminist. This seems strange to say but there are feminists out there who aren’t comfortable with men identifying as feminists.
In her speech at the UN, Emma Watson eloquently addressed the reasons I have been struggling to resolve my relationship with feminism since I first properly encountered it. I was studying a course in Critical Social Psychology with the Open University and began to realise that many of the feminist ideals resonated with my beliefs of what was right and how society should be. The problem for me came down to the fact I am male. I read many articles and blog suggesting I could be a ‘feminist ally’ but not a feminist and I lacked the necessary characteristic that defined them; being female.
Fighting for women’s rights has too often been synonymous with man hating.. This has to stop
– Emma Watson
As time has progressed, I have been to many conferences and met many feminists who seem to move along the spectrum from having the opinion that Men can and should be feminists to the other extreme, the vilifiers of all men. Luckily, the later have been in the minority. This minority can, in many ways be the noticeable voice of feminism and what can create tension with the ideals feminism purports.
At a conference I attended, one particularly vocal individual was talking about advantage and inequality and gestured to me as she referred to the problem being ‘you white middle class men’. This positioning of me into a category based on my gender, ethnicity and presumed class took me aback. I am not about the deny being any of these, I have a stable income, a house, am certainly white and last time I checked I was also male. What I will contest is that this approach to inequality is the wrong one and I think Emma has hit the nail on the head.
Addressing inequality is not about an us versus them approach who a battle of who has the most or least privilege but should be seen as an alliance to invoke change. Yes, a patriarchal system has caused many of the challenges women face on a daily basis but addressing these is about changing the mindset of those in power and winning them over to the side of equality, not about simply telling them they are wrong.
I sincerely home that the he for she campaign launched with Emma’s speech begins to get people to think in this way and that men in my position in future won’t be afraid to come out as a feminist for fear of being vilified or ridiculed by those who believe. Maybe men will never truly understand what it is like to be in the position of some women, nor might they really understand how much privilege they do hold by luck of a genetic draw but a desire for equality is not genetically linked to gender. Embrace the men that want to fight for equality, don’t fight against them if they are men, fight against them only if they believe that inequality is just and the status quo should remain.