In an age where being an independent, confident, no f**ks given type of girl is the most prestigious persona of a modern woman, it’s time we appreciate the men whose names we may of never knew that punched in some of the glass ceilings for us. Being a feminist is much more accepted today with kick-ass woman like Emily Ratajkowski, Amber Rose and Hillary Clinton are rallying and campaigning for equal rights to be embedded into policies and thus the attitudes of a nation. However, I still find if I confidently drop in “I’m a feminist” into a conversation with a straight male peer, I get eye-rolled and laughed at like I’m part of a loony bin. At the essence of the words definition is to equalise the treatment and rights of men and woman. So sorry fellas, if your brought up a decent and moral person to believe woman are your equal…you my friend, are a feminist.
It’s important to recognise that although Douglass, Mill, Stoltenberg, and Jones are all male feminists, their engagement with feminism takes a range of forms. Douglass’s commitment was an outgrowth of his involvement in abolitionism. Mill’s feminism was part of his general liberal politics. Stoltenberg used feminism to think through issues of masculinity and misogyny, which he saw as both personal and political issues for men. Jones is connected to feminism through his research on genocide and gender. For all of them, feminism involves a mix of altruism, community, intellectual interest, political beliefs, and personal investment—which is probably something you could say for most female feminists, as well.
More recently Andy Murray, the number 3 men’s singles tennis player in 2015, has impressively called out sexism in professional sports and is calling for other men to do so as well. Murray criticised Wimbledon’s scheduling (they put number one womans player Angelique Kerber on the Court 2 rather than one of the two main show courts). He admitted many suggestions publicly saying “We need to find a way of allowing for an equal split of the men’s and women’s matches across the tournament rather than just looking at one day..it’s not fair”. In another incident when confronted after winning gold in the olympics by BBC reporter said in an interview: “You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals,” to which Murray he intercepted “I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each”. He has spoken extensively about the inherent sexism in the idea that a woman can’t coach a man with other pro tennis players mocking him for hiring a female coach (“maybe you should tell them tomorrow that you’re considering working with a dog”) and blaming her for his lost matches whereas when working with males he gets the blame personally. In pushing toward total equality in sport he admired the professionalism of woman in the statement; “A lot of the top men are very, very emotional on the courts. I don’t handle my emotions particularly well in comparison to a lot of the women.”
In 2013 Mark Ruffalo spoke about reproductive women’s rights at a rally outside of Mississippi’s last abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization and I quoted two paragraphs of his speech below because it is quite the read:
“I am a man. I could say this has nothing to do with me. Except I have two daughters and I have a mother who was forced to illegally have an abortion in her state where abortion was illegal when she was a very young woman. It cost $600 cash. It was a traumatizing thing for her. It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different.
So that is why I am lending my voice to you and your movement today. Because I actually trust the women I know. I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of Abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that Right at the risk of death or jail time”
The dazzling Daniel Radcliffe proved he was feminist in showing he believed in the humanity of women be stating on the topic of ‘friend zoning’; “Do I think men and women can be friends? Yes, absolutely… I definitely think the idea of friend zone is just men going, ‘This woman won’t have sex with me.’ Wow, he really understands the struggle just from being empathetic and thinking of tough situations from a woman’s perspective.
Director Chris Green of The White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) (a male-led charity that seeks to confront violence against women in the UK) spoke about equality of the sexes: “I am often uncomfortable with the disproportionate praise we receive. It just points to how few men are willing to confront the issues”.
Now if your wondering, ‘why are some men still afraid of feminism?’ I’ll give you a few insights straight from Michael Kimmel’s book ‘The Guy’s Guide to Feminism:
- Men now have to compete with not just half, but all of humanity for job opportunities
- Males used to have recreational time outside of work hours, enjoying life without the responsibilities of childcare and domestic work and now they are expected to do their fair share
- Workplaces used to be full of “locker room talk” (aka inappropriate banter) and today sexist behaviour is challenged, making work less fun
- No matter the individual abilities of men, they were automatically valued by society as they are seen as stronger, more rational leaders and in some religions considered closer to God
- In relationships they good food bad for them, clothes bought for them, cleaned up after and emotionally stroked
- They could have power in getting sex and now they will get put in jail for things that not so long ago were seen as men’s rights
- They now have to share the power in decision-making in families which used to be primarily up to the male
- Now that woman are asserting their strength, power, smarts and sexuality and saying they can do anything a man can do,i t takes the power out of the sails for men. They fear they have less to offer, contracting their experience of power and the ideal standards of manhood society once expected
From the points illustrated it is clear some men are afraid of feminism because it challenges forms of men power and privilege that half the worlds species foisted on the other for thousands of years. Changing embedded behaviour and sharing the reigns is a challenge.
All in all, moving forward a women-only stance towards feminism sends out the wrong message: “As women it is our responsibility to educate our brothers, lovers, fathers, friends and sons. Men need to be brought on board so they can understand that they have certain advantages and privileges purely on the basis of their biological sex. This will never be achieved by groups that are women-only. Men’s involvement should be actively encouraged”. And I hope by reading this, you are reminded that male feminists are neither new nor perfect, but they make important contributions to the advancement of women that should be applauded and there courage emulated in future advancements.