by Logan Miller
I’m a feminist. I’m also a guy, in case the beard didn’t give me away. I haven’t always been comfortable claiming this title. However, I’ve set that unease aside because I want to share why feminism is important to me and why I think feminism is a men’s movement too.
This October, an opinion column was written for CNN.com that hinted at feminism’s image problem. This isn’t news to me. Man-hating, militant radicalism comes up a lot when I talk about feminism. I’m used to it. Friends have dismissed my entire point-of-view, claiming everyone is already equal or that feminism casts all men as the enemy.
I wish it were otherwise, but my friends aren’t wrong. During the 1960s and 1970s, some feminists argued that women were at odds with a common male oppressor. At the most extreme, this idea led writers such as Sheila Jeffreys and Andrea Dworkin to claim heterosexual sex was oppressive and that women who chose not to abstain were enemy collaborators.
I don’t want to neglect the real progress these feminists achieved toward equality, but what can anyone say in response to being told their entire existence is characterized as oppressive to another? It isn’t the only message out there. Feminism can have more than one voice. While these ideas are still professed by feminists today, they do not represent a holistic view of the movement, past or present. In her book “Feminism is for Everybody,” bell hooks argues that while they didn’t receive the media attention man haters did, many feminists came to understand that it was institutionalized sexism or patriarchy and not men that they were struggling against. In light of this understanding, men were seen as companions in the fight.
This is what John Brougher, the author of the article, wants us to consider. Like me, he’s a feminist. He’s also the founder of MaleFeminist.com, and he contends that instead of shying away from the label, like many have done, both men and women should embrace it.
Why? For Brougher it’s all about equality. Gender discrepancies within job fields and political offices, the pay gap, slut shaming, the blame heaped on rape survivors, and everything that gets attributed to patriarchy are things Brougher thinks all genders need to come together to continue to combat.
I found it interesting that he never mentions men except to say we can help women. Yes, feminism is about equality. Women are still confronted with sexism everyday. Men have privilege in this system, but at what cost do we gain this privilege? Just as patriarchy holds that men are superior to women, it also contends that, as men, we must act in certain ways.
Patriarchy forces identities on everyone, and these identities cause damage. It has certainly caused a lot of conflict for me. In particular, my sex life is under constant scrutiny because it does not conform to what it ought to be. I find it unsettling that I, as a straight man, am required to be the instigator. I don’t mind doing so, but it has taken a long time for me to feel comfortable with the practice, and it runs counter to so many things I felt were natural parts of my personality growing up. I want to be pursued in equal measure. I want to feel some reciprocation that I don’t feel otherwise.
In the bedroom, I try to balance dominant and submissive impulses. Often, I don’t want to be aggressive. I can be, but just as I want to feel pursued, I want a woman to tell me what she wants. Sometimes, I want her to be the aggressive, domineering one.
The women I pursue are also under scrutiny. I imagine most people have a type. I like women with short hair, that are rail thin and whom have small breasts. Since I’ve been able to express what I’m most attracted to, I’ve had to contend with criticisms of my masculinity and orientation. Real men like long, flowing hair. Real men like curves. Real men like big tits. Real women have these things and because of this I’ve been called both gay and a pedophile.
The conflict isn’t just a part of my sex life. I never played sports as a kid. I was soft spoken and quick to tears. I am and have been obsessed with fashion. I talk with my hands. I’m a chatterbox. I have never been stoic. So many things that are or were a part of my identity have felt wrong, and I have suffered self-esteem issues because of this. I know I’m not alone.
I don’t want to say masculine behaviors aren’t worthwhile. I camp. I fish. I carry a big knife. I’ve changed the oil and rotated the tires of my car every 5,000 miles since I was 16. Just as I recognize all the ways it doesn’t, I know where my identity conforms to the expectation. I don’t want only half of me to be recognized as worthwhile. Feminism affords me the same opportunities it gives women in combating patriarchy. This is why I’m a feminist.
Logan Miller studies English. He can be reached at email@example.com.