Feminism is for men too!

Feminist MenCheck out this article from Dave Hill at Comment is free, “Gender stereotypes hurt men too.
I think Hill brings up a lot of important points about the ways in which sexism damages men, but I wish he would identify feminism (at least more concretely) as a movement that’s already working to help men as well as women. For example, Hill writes of gender stereotypes affecting men, “Sensible, grown up, non-sectarian feminism recognises all of this and seeks ways for men to combat it.” I’m not sure what “grown up” feminism is, but the feminism I know has always talked about the ways in which the movement can benefit men.
Thoughts?
Pic from longlostcousin.

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27 Comments

  1. Nora
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I think it’s important to distinguish “gender stereotypes” from “feminism.” While gender stereotypes are damaging to men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, transgendered people, etc. etc. etc., feminism and feminists are not out to hurt men, and feminism is about a lot more than gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are definitely damaging to men, but the feminist movement exists because women suffered and continue to suffer discrimination going beyond gender stereotypes. Unequal pay, spousal abuse, reproductive rights, access to adequate birth control/education, and rape are just a few examples of some of the challenges beyond gender stereotypes that women face.

  2. Posted July 8, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I guess he could have been a little more explicit about his endorsement of feminism, but I thought he did a pretty good job of making it clear that feminism- real feminism, not the weird distorted version that the media likes to push- works towards the betterment of all people: “the point is that the best and wisest feminist ideals – the sort that don’t interest the media – have things to offer men too.”

    Sensible, grown up, non-sectarian feminism recognises all of this and seeks ways for men to combat it. This is not a matter of asking men to forgo every traditional bond and pursuit in favour of their “feminine side” but of inviting them to see that such distinctions are limiting and very largely artificial. It’s not a matter either of unmanning the alleged essential male, but about men flourishing and developing in all areas of their lives, including as parents and in the home.

    I think his point about “sensible, grown up” feminism is meant to contrast his opening paragraph (the sort of stereotypical representation of feminism as man-hating and extreme), but, yeah, it’s an odd word choice.
    Personally, I think a lot of what he’s saying is spot on. I think that feminism is good for everyone, and that while we men stand to lose certain unearned privleges, the benefits that we (all of us, not just men or women) stand to gain are not insignificant. There are definitely issues that men and boys deal with that I think that feminism is working to change, but the media message about sex and sexism often obscures that. It’s good to see a guy in such a major publication embracing feminism.

  3. Shira
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    That’s what the feminist movement really needs: sensible grown-ups! And objective “non-sectarians!” And of course that means men!
    Because really, who better than men to understand and rank the various feminisms?

  4. Jamorris
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Well,I know quoting Steinem is cliched, but “women’s liberation is men’s liberation”. That was always good enough for this feminist dude.
    I agree with most of what roymac said(about Hill being spot on), but Hill’s take reminds me of many discussions I’ve had with men (and women)about feminism. You know, the old “I don’t have a problem with feminism, it’s just the radical extremist feminists who take it too far.” Needless to say, when asked to name one of these radical man-haters, they can’t name one. And neither does Hill.
    On a more positive note, I’d like to think Hill is heading in the right direction and it’s always good to see old white men saying that (any kind of)feminism isn’t too bad.

  5. ed
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Nice article. From the first paragraph, I’d interpret the whole thing as a defense of and endorsement for feminism.
    Regarding “sensible, grown up” feminism. Although many feminists are interested in improving men’s lives through equality, the ones that aren’t can be very vocal. For instance, some of the people who are quickest to defend a woman’s right to pursue casual sexual relationships are the quickest to assert that men who pursue casual sex are disrespectful of women and probably rapists. I suspect this seeming double standard is well-intentioned, but it can seem alienating and immature to a lot of feminist and feminist-friendly men. To me, “grown up” feminism is the kind that involves discussion and critical thought, the kind that sometimes gets overshadowed by intentionally confrontational feminism.

  6. orchid
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I have argued that when over half of the population is oppressed, and sexism drives qualified women out of certain professions – it hurts all of us, or hurts “men too”.
    This is different than his point, but I think his point is also valid, i.e. one of Feminism’s goals is to break out of the gender box women have been put in by a patriarchal society.
    But that same society has put men in a gender box too, and I guess he is arguing that men should be pro-Feminist, since they have a stake in the breakdown of gender stereotypes.
    I think men should be pro-Feminist because it is the right thing to do, even if they have nothing to gain (which they do).

  7. Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Being a male feminist, I always get annoyed at this kind of rhetoric, and the general assumption that I’m doing out of some identity-based desire for personal gain. No-one demands any identity for self-described conservatives, liberals, socialists, greens, anti-racists – but when it comes to feminism suddenly it gets reduced to a (one-issue) identity struggle. (Being a good feminist I’m for identity politics. But it’s not my identity they’re fighting for.)
    I’m a feminist primarily because I agree with the analysis, just like I imagine marxists are marxists because they think Das Kapital rings true. Feminist analysis is insightful, good at predicting behaviours and events, reaches futher in a better way than most other analyses and is generally the strongest school of political science/sociology around. Many of my favourite theorists are feminists at the base. It also is able to provide a framework for all my other concerns (race, class, sexuality etc.*), through the writings of “multi-way” feminists and those who write about intersectionality.
    How on earth isn’t that enough?
    * Just imagine someone writing a piece on “why white people should care about racial equality”. Ridiculous!

  8. Jamorris
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m also glad Hill didn’t call himself an “Equalist” or something like that.

  9. hydrogen_jukebox
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I want to know where I can find an example of these crazy, man-hating feminists that the people who commented on the article keep citing. In my experience, I’ve seen this rarely, if at all. The exposure I’ve had to the current feminist community is intelligent and inspiring, and it’s a shock to me that more people don’t realize that this is a good thing.

  10. Posted July 8, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t read Hill’s use of “grown-up” as a pejorative or derogatory but rather as a way of explaining that feminism has evolved into more than a movement by and for women. And it’s true: I do think feminism has evolved to embrace all marginalized peoples underneath the umbrella of feminism, regardless of gender. Ironically, the study of gender is itself gender-neutral, in that it seeks to dismantle attributes that have naturally been associated with one gender or another.
    Semantics aside, I have to echo RoyMac above in that I find it very reassuring to see someone — a man, no less — printing a pro-positive piece on feminism in mainstream media.

  11. rileystclair
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    i’m with rorymac, i appreciate the article and think it was spot-on. the grown-up word choice is a little bizarre but based on the rest of the article, i think hill meant no harm.

  12. gordon.gekko
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Feminism has been incredibly beneficial for most men. Everyone still tends to see traditional genders roles as inherently pro-male. Perhaps this was true for the doctors, lawyers, artists, and politicians but what about the other 99% of men. Most men worked long hours in dangerous, unsatisfying jobs to support their families. Now, thanks to feminism, both men and women share that responsibility almost equally. And hopefully in the not to distant future feminism will further equalize the number of hours each sex works outside and inside the home. This means less work at the office and more time with the kids for most men.
    However, a more authoritarian feminism that determines gender roles by fiat should be feared by both men and women.

  13. Maggie
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    When I went to a women’s college, which was not all that long ago, I refused to call myself a feminist. The people around me who identified themselves as “feminist”–students, faculty, academics I read but never met–were often very knee-jerk in their feminism: contributions by men were inherently less valuable than those by women, regardless of topic. I read an article absolutely reaming a perfectly good analysis of an equally perfectly good 2000 year old text because the analysis didn’t address questions of gender in the text. The analysis wasn’t about gender. It was about theology, or something, and while I’m sure there could have been fabulous gender analyses done on this particular text, this particular one wasn’t going that direction. So it was sexist.
    Also, it was perfectly okay to wear t-shirts that said things like, “Boys Are Dumb,” but I guarantee you that if some man had tried the opposite there would have been campus marches and sit-ins.
    So yeah, I’m totally okay with differentiating “grown-up” feminism from the crap I was introduced to, which just wanted to replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy.

  14. CalliopeJane
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    “authoritarian feminism”
    is a contradiction in terms, gordon. yet another imaginary faction of feminism…sigh….

  15. wolf_22
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I think sometimes the same gender stereotypes that harm women can hurt men as well.
    look how we (society) claim all women are made to be good mothers. not only does this suck for women who don’t want kids, but for fathers who want their kids in custody battles. and obviously this hurts a kid with a bad mother and a good father because the court will stick them with the mother 9 times out of 10.
    I’ve also read a bit about when men are battered and they did that great experiment on 20/20. obviously most people need to realize any abuse is unacceptable. period.
    I do love how feminism has worked with queer issues and rights. I did however, read one comment in another blog that left me dumbfounded – what do we do with men who would rather be lesbians? where do they fit?

  16. EdithMcFall
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    The word Feminist–has meant so many things over the last 150 years. As women shouldn’t we let the word be fluid and inclusive?? Frankly, as an older women I am encouraged that younger women take ‘feminism’ for granted! Isn’t that what we fought so hard for—that women wouldn’t need
    to fight for everything they deserved! I saw this wonderful little video that comments beautifully on the history and relevance of feminism–Great Girlfriends from Women’s Herstory:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrBBOg51Okw

  17. cruithne
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Agree 100% with that article…many women (and men) I know *are* pretty blithely chauvanistic towards men without realizing how bad they are being.
    Hmm, reading this article spawned the following thought:
    I have always considered myself both a feminist and a female men’s activitist.
    But I have to admit, even as a woman, I’m getting tired of the word feminist. Not just because it has been demonized, but because by it’s very nature it is one sided. It is not a gender-neutral word, but it is a woman-word…and thus by its nature about woman things. Even if it helps men on the side. Words, thoughts, they create our reality, and thus I do feel a bit squidgy using a female-centric word when I really care about equality for both sides.
    And so, I think I am going to make up my own word, and go on a personal crusade to spread that word. *ponder* It needs to be easy to say and fun to hear, though…”gender equalitity-ist” is a bit wordy.
    Genequist.
    Yeah, OK, that works, I’m a Gen(der)equ(ality-)ist.
    Or maybe it stands for Gen(eral)equ(ality-)is, so it can also cover things like race, class, etc. The “treat all people the same” label.
    Wish me luck. :P
    Though, heck, if anyone knows of an existing easy-to-roll-off-the-tongue word that is already gaining ground, I’ll switch to that.

  18. Posted July 8, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Two words, hydrogen_jukebox:
    Biting Beaver

  19. Lear
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    hydrogen_jukebox -

    I want to know where I can find an example of these crazy, man-hating feminists that the people who commented on the article keep citing.

    “I Blame the Patriarchy” at left, although the blog seems to
    have mellowed a bit lately due to a horse.
    If that’s not strong enough for you, go to the
    Den of the Biting Beaver
    a subscription is required now for that blog – http://bitingbeaver.blogspot.com/
    You can get info second order info about things the Biting Beaver has
    said & done in the past by Googling her.

  20. tommythegun
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    “…but the feminism I know has always talked about the ways in which the movement can benefit men.” Part of the problem here frankly is that there may have been talk about helping men, but perhaps not so much listening or effective doing. That’s not an indictment of feminism, which like other social change movements arose in answer to specific needs of specific people in specific historical contexts (and changed itself, through first, second and third waves, in response to the resolution of old challenges and the identification of new ones). But there’s a gulf that hasn’t been crossed to make it very relevant to men’s issues in and of themselves. In all fairness and honesty, while I’ve heard mention of men’s issues in feminist contexts before, mainly as they relate to primarily and pre-existing feminist issues, I frankly haven’t yet heard a clear, concrete and comprehensive case from any quarter on how feminism is “…already working to help men as well as women”, in relation specifically to men’s issues rather than feminist ones that men’s issues may incidentally coincide with here or there. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone here to provide me with examples that I haven’t seen.
    I can remember one case in point at Berkeley’s Gender Equity Center (GenEq) that maintained a rather paltry listing of men’s resources, almost as an afterthought. The only thing that they had on men’s health was something on eating disorders. I wouldn’t want to minimize the pain and destruction that disordered eating can cause for men with a serious problem with it, but it isn’t a very common problem among men (compared to women, and compared to many other serious preventable health issues that men specifically face). Eating disorders are a particularly feminist issue, as they deal with women’s health and well-being specifically in relation to a problem created by gender roles promoted through society and the media. Suicide, by contrast, is an issue that specifically affects college-age men’s health much more seriously, both in the seriousness of outcomes and in an incidence several orders of magnitude greater, than disordered eating does. It also affects men (kills them) very disproportionately compared to women, and thus probably has a gender role factor. Nothing at GenEq on suicide among men.
    Something of a new movement, one that can take its inspiration from feminism but will pick up in relation to men’s issues where feminism leaves off, might be the answer (and NO! I’m not talking about MRAs, who as far as I can see are mostly about complaining and blaming rather than critical analysis and actually addressing problems. The movement I’m talking about I don’t believe yet exists). It would take many of the relevant and useful insights of feminism (critical analysis of gender roles in society, for starters, but I’m not getting into an exhaustive list here), perhaps would leave some of the less relevant and applicable (to men’s lives) lessons that have come out of feminism’s specific and unique experiences and battles. It would be descended from and inspired by contemporary feminism, but would be an intellectual movement all its own, with the freedom and independence to freshly build, expand upon, and revise its own intellectual canon and address its own issues. Many of its conclusions and issues will probably be linked to feminist issues. Many will be relatively independent and specific. And some may ultimately contradict or revise feminist conclusions, in the light of men’s own experiences (not disprove them, but rather come to conclusions more applicable to the experiences of men).
    This isn’t so radical an idea. Many social movements spawn and inspire descendants (think of socialism, in its various Marxist, democratic, Leninist, Gramscian or other interpretations; or Christianity’s descent from Judaism) in answer to different experiences.
    At least, that’s what I would suggest, if the point is to make a sincere and thoroughgoing effort to help men.

  21. A male
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    “Just imagine someone writing a piece on ‘why white people should care about racial equality’. Ridiculous!”
    And yet, just such works are still necessary, because mainstream Americans can’t get beyond their own privilege to understand why people of certain shades or class can’t “bring themselves up” to the rest of society, decades or centuries later, or worse yet, “keep themselves down.”
    We even have regulars here who don’t understand why certain kinds of people would dare to have children, knowing the burden on society they will probably be, and “taking” “other people’s” money. It sounds no more progressive than Margaret Sanger 70 or even 80 years ago when she preached “conservation of the race” and forced sterilization of the “unfit” for those exact same reasons.
    We also have regulars (of unknown ethnicity, educational achievement or economic class) who believe that the rest of society has the same kinds of choices they do regarding careers, or how much they would like to work vs. spending more time with family.
    Again regarding my female Filipino coworkers in health care, I just found out this morning that one young woman with constant bags under her eyes, and incredibly coincidentally hails from the same Filipino rural hamlet of 2,000 where my ancestral roots lie; has three jobs (including a 24 hour shift with a private homecare client) and does things such as WORK FIVE CONSECUTIVE SHIFTS to support her family (her husband also works nights – her mother sponsored in from the Philippines looks after the children). Even the other Filipino women with two or three jobs (again note – they all have husbands or even children or aged parents, who also work to support the family), who work at least six days a weeks and with whom double shifts are common, consider her extreme. Even more incredibly, they still believe that that looking after the home and children (and serving their husband) is the woman’s responsibility. (Sound disgusting? Well, try changing their minds or disagreeing and see what happens.)
    When I say there is no such thing as too much money in middle class households in Hawaii, I mean it. Forgive me for not agreeing that Title IX is high on my coworkers’ lists regarding what feminism and the rest of society has done or can do for them or myself.
    “Most men worked long hours in dangerous, unsatisfying jobs to support their families. Now, thanks to feminism, both men and women share that responsibility almost equally.”
    I do not want women or men to be unsatisfied or hurt at work, but I am looking forward to the day there is no such thing as “male dominated” or “female dominated” occupational fields, as identified by such as the Bureau of the Census. Of 472 occupations they track, a full 106 are 90% or more male, and “only” 14 of them 90% or more female – “Men hold an overall edge of 21-to-1 in the 106 occupations they dominate. The employment totals: 20.9 million males, 992,000 females.” That’s right, these specialized or “dirty” jobs average 96% male. Male nurses and preschool teachers (98% women)? Female coal miners and “heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics” (99% men)? I’m all for it, and for support systems necessary to make such a thing come about.
    http://www.bizjournals.com/edit_special/12.html

  22. Peter
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    This was a pretty good article. I pretty much agree with most of what he wrote.
    It’s certainly a difficult point to get across to unenlightened men: that feminism is not a threat to them, that the patriarchy is actually harmful to both genders – although, obviously, women get by far the worst end of the deal.
    This is a hard concept to get across to many men, I think. The media certainly stereotypes the feminist movement, and its hard for the true core of feminism to be understood by men. Certainly, there will always be the knuckle dragging neanderthals who will always view feminism as a threat to themselves. But, I think the points made in the article is something that many normal guys could be made to ultimately understand. Although there are a lot of institutional biases in media, in culture, in politics that prevents this sort of message from getting widespread consideration.
    I know that I have been enriched and empowered by being with women who are feminists, or are my peers and respected co-equals. I totally get what this guy is saying: that one doesn’t have to give up any core essence of being male, in order to live in a more egalitarian and co-equal way with our female partners, and females at large.

  23. Peter
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    This was a pretty good article. I pretty much agree with most of what he wrote.
    It’s certainly a difficult point to get across to unenlightened men: that feminism is not a threat to them, that the patriarchy is actually harmful to both genders – although, obviously, women get by far the worst end of the deal.
    This is a hard concept to get across to many men, I think. The media certainly stereotypes the feminist movement, and its hard for the true core of feminism to be understood by men. Certainly, there will always be the knuckle dragging neanderthals who will always view feminism as a threat to themselves. But, I think the points made in the article is something that many normal guys could be made to ultimately understand. Although there are a lot of institutional biases in media, in culture, in politics that prevents this sort of message from getting widespread consideration.
    I know that I have been enriched and empowered by being with women who are feminists, or are my peers and respected co-equals. I totally get what this guy is saying: that one doesn’t have to give up any core essence of being male, in order to live in a more egalitarian and co-equal way with our female partners, and females at large.

  24. Peter
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    This was a pretty good article. I pretty much agree with most of what he wrote.
    It’s certainly a difficult point to get across to unenlightened men: that feminism is not a threat to them, that the patriarchy is actually harmful to both genders – although, obviously, women get by far the worst end of the deal.
    This is a hard concept to get across to many men, I think. The media certainly stereotypes the feminist movement, and its hard for the true core of feminism to be understood by men. Certainly, there will always be the knuckle dragging neanderthals who will always view feminism as a threat to themselves. But, I think the points made in the article is something that many normal guys could be made to ultimately understand. Although there are a lot of institutional biases in media, in culture, in politics that prevents this sort of message from getting widespread consideration.
    I know that I have been enriched and empowered by being with women who are feminists, or are my peers and respected co-equals. I totally get what this guy is saying: that one doesn’t have to give up any core essence of being male, in order to live in a more egalitarian and co-equal way with our female partners, and females at large.

  25. A male
    Posted July 8, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    “Certainly, there will always be the knuckle dragging neanderthals who will always view feminism as a threat to themselves.”
    Yes, because as pointed out on feminist sites, “loss” of male privilege such as the old boy’s network in the workplace, which never should have been in the first place, is seen as a threat, because it is “taking” from the men on behalf of the women, or to directly hand power over to the women. Worst of all is when direct forms of power over men (in legislation or criminal or family court) is perceived as being handed over to women. That’s how that kind of men see it, and call them neanderthal if you will (they are selfish or naive at best), I believe this kind of men who may go by the label of MRA or antimisandrist, is becoming more vocal, if not increasing in number – they organize, they vote. It’s a serious problem for feminism in the US.

  26. Alice
    Posted July 9, 2008 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    The Neanderthals, contrary to certain hateful assertions, did not drag their knuckles. They walked with the same upright gait as humans, to which they were contemporaries for much of their history. If they weren’t as intelligent as humans, they were certainly very close, as they are known to have used controlled fire, projectile weapons, and to construct complex shelters. Even with a lower mean intelligence, the bell-curve nature of that trait would ensure there was a lot of overlap, and that it is nearly certain that there existed rare Neanderthal individuals who were more intelligent than most modern humans.
    This attitude that the Neanderthals were so much less than they actually were follows from the anthropocentric and outdated idea that humans are smart and everything else is stupid, which is just wrong.

  27. Steven
    Posted July 10, 2008 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    The following is why I think some feminist get a bad name. The link is to an article written by our own Jessica Valenti, and it is the first two paragraphs that should concern you:
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080324/valenti
    So, this woman with 20 years of advocacy in the woman’s movement becuase she voted ‘boy’ instead of ‘girl’ in a Clinton/Obama primary.
    Several commenter to the Feministing Community have already pointed out some of the problems with the name feminist. The name of the movement does not transcend the ills of sexism, despite the intent of most if its members. Also, the name brings those who do not WANT to transcend gender problems
    Then there are some members that want to replace god with goddess and patriarchy with matriarchy. Giving up the rule of one gender for another in inherently hypocritical.
    -Steven

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