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Feminism + Men

February 13, 2012

Today, in a short discussion with a professor of mine, she jokingly referred to me as a “fourth wave feminist”. I don’t even know what that means really (feel free to call me out on my lack of feminist knowledge if you like). What I did know though is that it might be something I feel passionately about.

In true gender-rebellion feminist fashion, the whole ‘gender’ topic just irks and frustrates me sometimes. I think the majority of my professors tire of me questioning the ‘biological inherency’ of gendered traits and yelling about social constructionism. To them I would say, “I don’t want to undermine your authority or anything but uhh, get used to it”. Maybe I’m just naturally a doubtful person (see what I did there? “naturally” hahaha), but red flags constantly go up when I hear someone say the words “natural” or “it’s just a gay/guy/lesbian/girl/bro/bi/etc. thing”.

The reason I write this post is because of this article I read this morning from The Atlantic that documents the, what the author terms, downfall of Hugo Schwyzer in the (online) feminist community. Now I’m definitely not the first person to be an ardently *female* feminist. But I couldn’t help but get my feathers ruffled when the author (Raphael Magarik) quotes Zoe Nicholson, notable feminist activist, as saying:

 I do believe that a man can be a contributor to empowering a disenfranchised group of women. I believe that it would be done by getting behind, by getting underneath, by doing fundraising, by stepping away.

I just don’t agree. I can understand having trepidation about a mans involvement in feminism and definitely never ceasing to question the stances he takes, how he is helping (or perhaps hindering) the community, etc. Sort of like we do with all feminists already (or at least that’s how it feels sometimes to be in the community, walking on thin ice and trying not to be a “bad” feminist (something I have yet to write about but will soon)).

But to say that men cannot play the same role as women in feminism, or any other gender than a cis woman cannot play an equal role in feminist causes I feel would make feminism pretty irrelevant.

Yes, it took women’s voices for us to get here, yes, patriarchy is this ever present force to struggle with, yes, including other genders will be difficult and not without moments of failing. But to unequivocally say that men must play a smaller role in feminism does us no good.

If women are just speaking to women about women then how are we going get the other percentages of the population on board? I know I just wrote a piece that mentioned using the masters tools to dismantle the masters house. And men in feminism seems sort of like that and might be a problem. But for the love of all things wonderful in this world, like baked mac n’ cheese, if we don’t try to include everyone, instead of just saying “as a man you must be emblematic of patriarchy and therefore can’t do much for feminism”, aren’t we selling ourselves short as a movement?

I’m about to get a little personal here so, trigger warning, if descriptions of sexual harassment aren’t your cup of tea. This morning on my way to campus for a class, sparing you all the details of the event here, a guy pulled up in his car to ask me for directions and then asked me to watch him for 2-3 minutes while he “relieved” himself. And by ‘relieve’, he meant masturbate. He said he would pay me $20 as he began to do what he had intended to all along.

This, right here, is why I believe we have got to include all genders in feminism. Because I don’t want to be running around claiming to be a part of a movement that won’t be as inclusive of all genders as it is of women. Because if I can’t teach men like that guy in his car offering me $20 why that was wrong, or couldn’t raise him as a child to teach him that that was wrong, then I would hope somewhere, somehow there is an ardently feminist father, teacher, or role-model who could. Who could impact him like I couldn’t because I’m not a man.


Photo of No boys allowed sign

And if I actually agreed with hanging up this sign on feminism's door, does it have to be freaking pink?

Sorry, just had to get that out there. I mean, really, as a social construct, it’s terrifying. As the reality we live in, it’s impossible. Yes, Schywzer sinned (in the feminist, not religious sense of the word, ‘cuz I don’t play that game), yes, we have every right to and should question his and men’s involvement in a feminist movement. But should we tape up a sign on our bedroom door that says “No boys allowed”? Hell no. To bar men from feminism, or even allow them less significant roles in feminism as Nicholson advocates, sounds suspicious to me.

So, dear professor, I don’t know what you meant when you called me a fourth wave feminist and laughed, but I think you might have been alluding to my staunch frustration with gender as a construct, word, idea, reality, or whatever you want to call it. And if you were, you would have been correct.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2012 11:32 pm

    I agree – gender does suck.

    Barring men from the feminist discussion is not productive and will slow progression of the cause. Extreme feminists that have a narrow focus of who feminism can include in its fight are not helping!

  2. Collin permalink
    March 20, 2012 5:37 pm

    Hey, I just wanted to say thank you for writing this blog. I’m thanking you because I’ve been doing a lot of self pondering lately and I think I might be a feminist. Ever since my early teens I’ve been usually uncomfortable hearing about women being treated unfairly or even watching it in the movies. Now that there is a large debate over birth control in our country I feel a great urge to join the fight. The problem is i’m a man. I always thought that was an issue because men are not usually in this movement and I heard a lot of feminist’s negative opinions about men in the cause. Am I a male? Yes. Am I sexually attracted to women? Yes. Should I be restricted from Feminism for the previous two reasons? NO! I believe Feminism is about gender equality. If men aren’t aloud to be active, or voice there ideas/opinions then isn’t that doing more harm than good? Isn’t that just hurting your own cause? I understand why some feminists would disagree with me, but I just want to be supportive I want to help you. If you gain male supporters you are obviously doing the job right. I just had to get this out there. Once again thank you for posting this, it was very reassuring.

    • March 20, 2012 6:10 pm

      Collin I’m so glad that this post was meaningful to you and even happier to hear someone say “I’m a feminist”!
      If you’d like to get more involved with all of the things going on nationally with birth control, etc. visit to Thanks for commenting, always glad to hear happy feedback!

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