I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a male feminist lately. As the only man to be a permanent blogger on this very site until my colleague and friend Kile Jones came on board, I took my role, as a man in a traditional feminist (online) space very seriously. Although the ongoing struggle to be a male feminist is one continually wrought with dialogues about power and positionality (amongst a host of many other topics), I am often conflicted when I see male feminists take advantage and destroy the hard work that many, specifically on this site and beyond, worked hard to build and defend.
Not wanting to reopen old wounds or start new online battles, men have been involved in feminism for quite some time. From James Mott chairing the first women’s rights convention, to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin’s life partner John Stoltenberg, to Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman’s life long work to legitimize not only men in feminism but also what it means to be a man who works for gender equality, being a man in feminism isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be.
I’ve written on this blog that men often have to deal with an internalized misogyny that is a born characteristic trait that imparts the idea that men are not only dominant but are also more powerful than women, so they should, naturally, be atop of the proverbial pecking order. This internalized misogyny leads many men, who already or want to exist in feminist spaces, to speak up more than the women in the room when they should really be listening. However, what is more important than this internalized misogyny is how men, specifically, male feminists, fall victim to their ego by wanting to be the sole male feminist.
While I still believe that men are endowed with these characteristics as a result of purposeful and subconscious cultural, societal and religious imagery that shows men as Gods, it is important to realize that while the image of the one God may be something that many men idealize and aspire to, the idea of the one male feminist doesn’t exist and it is not supposed to. Those who strive to be the male feminist are doomed to fail and they hurt those who came along for their ego driven ride and the feminist cause they sought to be a part of.
When it comes to leading, men are told to get to the front of the line no matter what the cost or who they hurt and women are told to take a backseat. However, when it comes to feminism, especially men in feminism, men must to go to the back of the bus first and work their way up to the front fully knowing that although they may never reach that coveted front seat, the work they did to help the cause was just as important because equality doesn’t mean anything when there is only one voice screaming from the rafters.
Hopefully the hurt that has been caused as of late can be healed and as a result of more men join the cause to stop all forms of injustice that threaten not only women’s equality but also equality for all, no matter what.
John Erickson is a doctoral student in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests involve an interdisciplinary approach and are influenced by the GLBTQ and women’s rights movements. His work is inspired by the intersectionality of feminism, queer identity, and religious political and cultural rhetoric. He is the author of the blog, From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter at @jerickson85.
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