Can men be feminists?

I think it is fair to say that feminism today is very different from 60 years ago. It is constantly changing, and as it has evolved it has grown increasingly complex and we are confronted with more and more questions about its meaning and aims. One question which is gradually gaining relevance as the feminist movement grows in prominence, is whether or not men can or should be involved in feminism, and if so, how should they be contributing?

Aside from discussing the obvious contradiction of excluding men whilst campaigning for gender equality, one point that kept surfacing was that ‘feminism can only become truly successful when it becomes the norm’. Surely then, this means that gender equality can only really be reached once everyone is a feminist, including men? Issues such as toxic masculinity and male gender stereotypes are also an important part of gender discussion and, therefore, fall under the umbrella of feminism too. UEA student Sarah Teague discusses how there are lots of problems with men being seen as ‘less emotional’, and how this has led to certain inequalities, particularly in childcare and custody issues which are ‘often geared more towards women than men’. Having considered such points, it seems to me that excluding men from feminism is not progressive and, if anything, it would reinforce divisions between men and women rather than dismantle them.

Having said this, the fact remains that feminism is still very much a movement belonging to women with female empowerment and women at its core, and this is something that men engaging with feminism need to be thoughtful of. Although my friends all believed men should be included in the feminist movement, they were all quick to follow up with examples of the problems that can arise when men interact with feminism without thinking. Most prominent were examples of men preaching their own definitions of feminism or even correcting women on what they think feminism should be. Fellow student, Andrea Meyer, says ‘mansplaining is 1000 percent a thing’, and this is where men can overstep the line. Feminism is not for men to dictate or to empower their own egos, because, let’s face it, this is the very problem that women are fighting against. Women do not need men to tell them what they want. They already know.

What feminism does need from men is support in condemning other men who practice misogyny and are perpetrators of sexual abuse, and for them to continue this even when there are no women around. It needs men to help women who are victims of this kind of behaviour by not turning a blind eye and, if it is within their power, it needs men to give women more platforms to voice messages about gender equality in the media, arts, academia and the workplace. Finally, instead of preaching their own ideas on feminism, men can play a part in ending gender inequality by listening to what women are saying and forming their actions and understandings according to this.

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Daisy Brown

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September 2021
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