Can Men Be Feminists?
By Rod Van Mechelen
"Can Men Be Feminists?" Nyima Pratten says no, Alex MacDonald says yes, but they both demonstrate a remarkable ignorance about the true nature of modern feminism.
You canít be a feminist unless you have a vagina?
2012 Olympia, Wash. - The Voice asks, "Can Men Be Feminists?" My answer: "unfortunately, yes." Nyima Pratten disagrees:
You canít be a feminist unless you have a vagina. The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as ďthe advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality.Ē Yet this does not mean everyone who supports womenís rights can be called a feminist. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Nyima Pratten, The Voice, December 20, 2012
If only that were true! But it's not. And the OED definition is outdated, too. First-wave feminism may have been about sexual equality for women, but that's so fifty years ago. I define second-wave feminism as "advocacy of women's superiority on the grounds of stereotyping women as good victims and men as evil villains." But third-wave feminism seems to be more a product of the Anime world. I define it as, "boys are icky - you go grrl!" feminism.
But I digress. Pratten continues:
As much as some males may proclaim, men will never understand women. They will never have to experience life as a woman and everything that being the Ďfairerí sex entails. I am in no way confessing to be an ardent feminist. However I, as a rational woman, am a supporter of the feminist movement. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Nyima Pratten, The Voice, December 20, 2012
Sea Gals vs the Seahawks!
"Men will never understand women"? Funny, but men have been saying that at least since Freud asked, "what do women want?" Not that I agree. Being of the autistic persuasion I found women to be neither more nor less of a mystery than other men. When you get right down to it, most people are more than a little goofy. Take American football, which is a perfect example of what's goofy about men.
One of my best friends has 4 charter seats and 4 season seats at Safeco Field. About a year ago he and his girlfriend took me to my first SeaHawks game. Out run the Sea Gals. I'm all excited as I snap hundreds of pictures. Then fireworks and smoke and roaring thunder as the Seattle Seahawks charge out onto the field. Thousands of men stand and cheer.
Now, let's pause for a moment to put some perspective on the scene.
The Seahawks are powerful, muscular men dressed in skintight pants that accentuate every bulge and ripple. Their fans are...um...heterosexual men. The game is about powerful, muscular men dressed in skintight pants wrestling with one another to see who gets the ball.
Most of these guys are heterosexual, right? What's wrong with this picture?
In one of his routines, comedian Ron White says we're all a little gay. Yea, okay, I grew up reading about that, I read what Dr Anne Moir wrote in Brain Sex about there being 6 or 8 sub-genders, and that most people are a little light in the loafers, and I'm perfectly comfortable with that. But there I was, a nerd surrounded by thousands of hardcore heterosexual guys, and they were cheering the well-muscled men in skintight pants while I was cheering and clapping for the cheerleaders.
Like I said, goofy.
Women love fashion but men are to blame
But women are goofy, too. They spend hours looking at magazines filled with pictures of emaciated women wearing something called "fashion." These include shoes that nobody in their right mind would wear. Like high heels. They fawn over them, buy them, wear them, and then blame their obsession for footwear on men. And the money they spend on frou frou outfits is beyond belief. And again, men are to blame.
Feminists blame men for women's fashion, claiming we drive women to it to satisfy our evil male lust for women to make themselves look like Barbie Dolls. Except when the subject is sexual harassment. Then women's attire is about anything and everything but men. And men are stupid for thinking it has anything to do with them.
Like I said, goofy.
Feminist women have to dictate what it means to be male?
More from Pratten:
I do not need a man to dictate to me how to be a feminist Ė or even worse a woman. Feminism is about seeking the end to the oppression of women and I, for one, do not want to achieve this on menís terms, whether they claim to be feminist or not. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Nyima Pratten, The Voice, December 20, 2012
Men cannot be feminists because if a man could be a feminist, as all men are evil, women-oppressing bastards who have to dominate every woman around them, they will then take over the feminist movement and dictate to her what that is to mean. So feminist women have to dictate to men how we ought to be men.
Some people would say Pratten is being charming and mysterious when what they really mean is that her argument is irrational. No mystery there. It's just goofy. Either she assumes that, decades of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, female feminists will not attempt to dictate to her how to be a feminist (second-wave feminists have done it for decades), or she's content to be dictated to by women, but not men. Maybe she's a lesbian sub looking for a mistress. When it comes to personal choices I don't judge. But her argument is just plain goofy.
Men should be misandrists?
Sadly, it does not end, here. No, there's a male in the mix, too, and he argues that men not only can be feminists, but that they should be feminists.
It is not merely true that men can be feminists - they all should be feminists. How can you change society without changing the attitudes of men? I consider myself a feminist and I see no reason why this has to be a problem. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Alex MacDonald, The Voice, December 20, 2012
He's right, of course, men can be feminists, but like Pratten and much of the rest of the western world he confuses "women are good victims and men are evil villains" second-wave feminism and "boys are icky - you go grrl!" third-wave feminism with "advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality" first-wave feminism. Most of the goals of first-wave feminism have been achieved. Where inequalities persist, they largely favor women. Such as the military draft. Or they pertain to the 1%, where most men suffer the same inequality.
A flawed view of society
His view of society is also flawed.
There are certain attitudes that are more or less innate and almost instinctual. Most women and men reach a stage in their development where they instinctively want to knock boots with members of the opposite sex. The girls get shy, the boys get tender, they slobber on one another, share enzymes, bacteria and viruses, reproduce, play house and fight over who gets control of the remote and who has to take out the garbage.
Women drive men out of the house to hunt buffalo and bring home the bacon so the woman will dance with him in the sheets and then turn into a sixpack and the remote control.
Supposedly, men only want one thing (I was surprised to learn that for most men this is not a pint of Hagen Daz ice cream), which drives women to shop for shoes and frou frou outfits and to smear toxic industrial waste chemicals on their faces and behind their ears in an attempt to make the guy interested enough to keep hunting buffalo and bringing home the bacon, but not so interested that he keeps demanding Hagen Daz ice cream...or whatever it is that all men are supposed to be obsessed with.
These attitudes seem to be innate. There's no changing them. Although the elite seem hell bent on trying. Want to make the not-wealthy men more like women? Flood the environment with estrogen. Certain plastics leach an estrogen-mimicking chemical into the food and liquids we store in them. Many of the pesticides that saturate our food mimic estrogen. Toxic industrial waste chemicals sold as skin lotions contain chemicals that mimic estrogen. Worse, beer is loaded with estrogen. Yes, I know, but it's true: hops are rich in plant estrogen. Speaking of plant estrogens, flax seed oil, the one the doctors tell you to take to get your Omega 3 fatty acids, is rich in estrogen. I take hemp seed oil and pumpkin seed oil instead. No estrogen there, all testosterone...of the kind that makes manly plants.
That didn't make sense. But it's true!
Most men are fair minded
Beyond turning all of us 99% men into girly men, however, there's no changing the nature of the beast. We are what we are. Let's work with that.
Most of us are fair-minded, which could explain why so many of the first-wave feminists were men. What was the first state in the United States to give women the vote? The Mormon state of Utah. Who gave it to them? Men. And women would have achieved suffrage much sooner but for the temperance movement, which advocated suffrage for women so they could outlaw booze.
Men's attitude toward sexual equality for women is largely a done deal. With few exceptions, it's accepted. So what else is there? MacDonald explains:
I recognise the exploitation and harassment that women face at the hands of men and I find it repulsive. All men are capable of recognising it - just because the majority donít, doesnít mean that they are incapable. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Alex MacDonald, The Voice, December 20, 2012
By harassment he means "sexual harassment" and "sexually aggressive humour and casual misogyny." Catharine MacKinnon created the legal concept of hostile environment sexual harassment. I've written several articles on the topic. Probably the most readable of them is located here. There is a wide gulf between hostile environment sexual harassment as a legal concept and how it is deployed. In practice, it is little more than a prissy condemnation of male sexuality. And that is what MacDonald means.
Whenever you get a man condemning male sexuality, you know he's either trying to impress women with his sensitivity to advance his career or get good grades, or he's trying to get laid. Which is it for MacDonald, I wonder? Maybe neither, maybe he's just an ignorant nut burger. Read on.
The myth of male liberation
But feminism strives for male liberation, too - the great myth for men about womenís liberation is that it will somehow result in the marginalisation of men in society. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Alex MacDonald, The Voice, December 20, 2012
Feminism strives for male liberation? Yea, that's what Gloria Steinem wrote in a Washington Post article back in the 70s, and it's still a lie today. Feminism wants to "liberate" men from having any reproductive choices, and from having any rights as fathers, and they want to "liberate" men to pay taxes to cover the costs of many "free" health services for women but few for men, to receive longer sentences and harsher penalties for identical crimes, to be pre-condemned as inherently violent and treated like dangerous criminals though individually we have committed no crimes, and to be the first to die but the last to be loved. The only things feminists truly want to liberate men from is our money and our lives.
To make his case, MacDonald raises the standard feminist canard that we oppose women's liberation. That's nonsense. Unless by liberation they mean the "liberation" of socialism, in which the beneficiaries are "liberated" from having to support themselves because "society" (which for feminists means "men") do all of the dirty, dangerous and dull work, and pay all of the costs. The foundation of second-wave feminism is socialist, and third-wave feminism is not far removed, so this could very well be what they mean.
Socialism aside, I know of no man who opposes women's liberation. MacDonald asserts that feminists oppose sexist laws that penalize men despite that volumes have been written in Canada, the US and Great Britain, demonstrating that feminists support and often lobby for laws that penalize men.
The pay non-parity myth
Undeterred, MacDonald persists:
You donít have to be a woman to hate patriarchy. Itís simply inarguable that women are underpaid, undervalued and exploited. Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women working full-time in the UK are still paid on average 14.9 % less per hour than men. The media still objectifies and patronises women. - Can Men Be Feminists?, Alex MacDonald, The Voice, December 20, 2012
His assertion about women's pay is eminently arguable. Though Warren Farrell did his research for Why Men Earn More in America, because the behaviors he documents reflect fundamental truths about human sexuality, there is little doubt that his conclusions apply with equal validity to England. The pay gap has almost nothing to do with sexism, and the Man Woman & Myth Video Projct has done an incredible job of demonstrating that, among other things, the media also "objectifies and patronises" men.
Pratten is wrong, men can be feminists. But both Pratten and MacDonald demonstrate a remarkable ignorance about feminism.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.