This post originally appeared on Emily Has Books on September 17, 2013
Can a man be a feminist? I think so, and I know many others who think so as well. However, over the past few months I have seen a number of self-proclaimed feminist women claiming men are not welcome in the feminist movement. I really wanted to address this, not so much to say yes men can, but to start a conversation. As I stated, I believe men can, I know women who feel the same, so why would others make men feel unwelcome?
I am loaded with privilege. I am a straight – white – male, I was born into an upper middle class family. Even when my parents did struggle, I never felt its effects. In that sense, life was handed to me on a silver platter. I won’t be followed around a store by security (even with my body covered in as many tattoos as I have). I won’t be beaten up for my sexual orientation. When I apply for a job, my chances increase automatically for my sex and skin color. I did not ask for this privilege, and I do not wish to benefit from it, but I have it. The first step in defeating privilege is acknowledging it exists. If I pretended it did not exist simply because I don’t want it, I would be just as big a part of the problem as those exploiting it.
So now what? How does a privileged person in society deal with such a thing? How do I help eradicate it? Through hard work, activism and being loud. At least, that’s the path I have chosen. I stand for equality; on every issue that equality is a problem. Sexual orientation, race and gender. And when I say gender, I mean your stated gender, not what society has told you your gender is, but what you have told society your gender is.
So am I a feminist? Yes. Why? Because I believe my male privilege comes at a cost and that cost is female equality. I also believe as someone who benefits from such privilege it is my duty to eradicate it. I was even unsure how to do this. I was lucky enough however to attend the 2013 American Humanist Conference in San Diego, California. At the conference, Katha Pollitt (author, journalist, activist) was awarded the AHA’s Humanist Heroine award at the 2013 conference and gave a remarkable acceptance speech about humanism and feminism. Afterword’s she took questions and I asked the last question of the session. “What can men do to be more involved and helpful in the feminist movement, especially when I do not want to make any women feel like men are trying to overtake this movement and make its victories ours?”
Katha gave me a great answer. “Talk to other men.” If I am going to be helpful to this cause, I need to reach out to men around and me and let them know why I stand up for equality and women’s rights. Sometimes men will hear women speaking on these things and turn a deaf ear. They don’t listen, they don’t understand and I think in many parts of our culture, they think its just another whining feminist. As a male feminist, it’s my duty to talk about women’s rights to other men. Women are treated differently, women are discriminated against and something needs to be done. This sort of discussion can help lead guys out of their shells so to speak. When they know other men they respect care so much about certain issues, they may come around to understanding what the whole feminist movement is all about and get on board to help make change.
It is also my duty to teach others about privilege. This may sound silly, but many people are clueless to privilege. This is not taught to us. I did not even study privilege until I returned to college as an adult. I was always in a way aware that I had it easier, but I did not understand the social scale this privilege has. Now that I am aware, if I do nothing, no one is at fault but me. So to make others aware is to put this into their hands. If we are to solve the problems caused by privilege and eradicate the idea, we must all be aware it exists.
Change comes when all of society is on board with an issue. When I hear women attempt to exclude men from the feminist movement, I fear this causes the overall message more harm. The LGBT movement has never told me that as a straight male I am not welcome. I have been invited to march in parades and fight for their rights. In the fight for race equality, I have never felt unwelcome because of the color of my skin. In the fight for workers rights, I have not been turned away because I work in a salaried office position. I have been welcome in all because these fights need allies, all fights need allies and we should all be banning together.
So, I’m a male feminist because I believe with all my heart in the feminist movement. I believe in their goals and I believe our world will be a better place when those goals are reached. I believe I am welcome in this movement because of the overwhelming support I have received from women around the globe. For those who this males have no place in the feminist movement, I hope they are willing to rethink this stance, I hope they are willing to reach out and talk to those who disagree. I am willing to fight for you, if you will have me.
Dan Arel is a freelance writer, speaker and secular advocate residing in San Diego, CA. He writes on secular and humanist values on subjects such as secular parenting, church and state separation, education reform and secularism in public policy.
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