“Not All Men”

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

The problem with male feminism

By Jessica Berget, Contributor

In the midst of October and with Halloween coming up I thought I’d talk about the three things that scare me the most: Snakes, spiders, and male feminists.

As a woman and a self-entitled feminist killjoy, there are few things that irk me more than seeing a movement that advocates for women’s rights and freedoms being discussed by a cisgender, straight, white male, or any cisgender male for that matter. Male feminists should know that men have the power dynamic over women in any situation because we live in an inherently misogynistic society. Even, sadly, in feminist communities. This means that opinions on feminism and how women handle their oppression are often taken more seriously coming from a man than a woman. Some male feminists utilize the label to justify sexist behaviour, to impress women, or to use the attention of women as a seal of approval in the feminist community. Which brings me to my main point: Beware of male feminists.

It seems women can’t escape oppression even within their own movement. Men advocating for basic women’s rights are often seen as more remarkable than any woman who calls herself a feminist, as any woman advocating for their own rights is not seen as unusual or significant by virtue of their gender. Across all social movements, the issue at hand is often not viewed as valid until it is supported by members of the “other side.” Men speaking on feminism would be like me, a white woman, speaking on the Black Lives Matter movement. I support it, but it is not my place to speak on the experiences of black men and women living in an inherently racist and Eurocentric society. I recognize my privilege as a white woman and I understand that my opinion may be more highly regarded on the matter, therefore I do not speak for it. So why can’t male feminists do the same? Calling yourself a feminist does not mean the work is done. I myself am constantly re-educating, and re-evaluating my place in the feminist community and recognizing my place and privilege in it as a white woman.

Similarly to how men advocating for women’s rights gives more attention to the movement, women who dismiss or belittle feminism can be used to justify the sexist beliefs of others. Many men only respect the views of women when they are passive and non-controversial, or when they support their sexist ideals. They don’t respect when these views challenge them on their behaviour. Most men only respect and agree with the arguments of another man, as the opposing opinion of a woman is seen to hold less value. She is always presumed to know less about the subject, even when it is directly relevant to her experiences.

So women, heed thy warning. Beware men who tell you what it means to be a feminist. Beware men who read this article and insist that “not all men are like that.” Beware men who think they know more about feminism than you do. A man is never more potentially dangerous than when he claims to be a feminist.