Watch: High school boys talk about why they are feminists

In my opinion, the only thing more tiresome than a conversation about women identifying as feminists is one about men doing so. But after Pharrell said he doesn’t “think it’s possible” for him to be a feminist since he’s a dude — and in the wake of #notallmen, #yesallwomen, and #allmencanThe New York Times is (as always) asking the tough obvious questions: “Is it possible to be a male feminist?”

I think it’s probably clear what my answer is. Though I agree with Alexandra that disrupting patriarchy means men will have to give up power they currently take for granted — a project that many might not be on board with — I’m of the bell hooks “feminism is for everybody” school. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or comfortable — but then, if we’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be for anyone.

Somewhere between the two extremes of “Being a feminist is a piece of cake! You just have to believe!” and “No men allowed!” there are plenty of guys who are just quietly doing the hard work of learning about gender inequality and doing what they can to help end it. Here are a few of them — seniors in Ileana Jiménez’s high school feminism class — talking about what feminism means to them.

Transcript below with many thanks to commenter Zed!

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/mollyrose94/ Molly Rose

    I actually thought this was really cool! Although they should hardly be congratulated or admired for being functioning human beings who dont condone rape or hate crimes. I feel like everytime a man realises that feminism isn’t about bra burning or killing men that it’s a little bit of a win!

    Molly – empressof10000screamingworldsofterror.blogspot.co.uk

  • http://feministing.com/members/azed/ Zed

    [black screen]

    Male Voice: A feminist is anyone who wants equality because they or a different group of people are being subjugated because of who they are.

    [ White lettering: "Feminist?" ]
    [ Animates into "Are You a Feminist?" ]

    [ Variety of young man of varied ethnic backgrounds speaking sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs.]

    Bruke: My name is Bruke Abraha, I’m a senior at LREI, and I am a feminist.

    Russell: Uh, I’m Russell, I’m 18, I’m in 12th grade.

    Max: I’m Max Fried, I’m in 12th grade, I’m 18.

    Noel: My name’s Noel Diggs, I’m a senior in high school.

    Cesar: My name is Cesar Siguencia, I’m in 12th grade.

    Nathanial: I’m Nathanial Magloire, I’m in 12th grade.

    Luis: My name is Luis Rohas, I’m 16.

    Emmett: My name is Emmett Dienstag. I’m 17 years old, I’m in 12th grade, and I’m a feminist.

    [ Camera goes back to the men previously introduced, as they finish their sentences also with... ]

    One after the other: … I’m a feminist.

    [ Interviewer talking to these young men ]

    Interviewer: What were your reasons for taking a feminism class?

    Cesar: Feminism, the class, kind of appealed to me, the curriculum, and the reason I joined was because I kind of wanted to know what feminism meant.

    Bruke: My reason for taking the feminism course is that, especially in high school, there’s not opportunities like this that come around, ever.

    Luis: My sister had just … my sister attends Lehman college, and over there she was taking a feminism course, a woman’s studies course, and she seemed to enjoy it. It was very new. I had never heard of women’s studies, prior to LREI.

    Noel: I didn’t have a concrete definition of feminism before the class. I knew it wasn’t the perceieved idea to the majority which is like that, feminism is all women and like a total hatred towards men.

    Emmett: My definition of feminism was that any woman that wanted total equality between the sexes.

    Noel: One of the biggest concepts we’ve learned in the class was this idea of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the idea that feminism goes beyond just the equality for women. It’s equality between races, gender, class, sexual orientation and so forth.

    Nathanial: At one point we wrote intersectionality essays, you know, that taught me that nothing is really one-dimensional. I can’t just be black, I can be black and gay, or black gay and disabled, you know, there are many different things that don’t relate to the master narrative set in place by America. I would take that as the most important thing that I learned, that nothing is just one-dimensional.

    Emmett: We’ve been doing a lot, I know we just moved into trafficking, sex trafficking, amongst girls and amongst any age of children, and before that we were doing things like harassment, and acid attacks, which was pretty brutal.

    Luis: What impact did the class have on me? Hm…

    Cesar: Feminism opened my eyes to just so much in the world. I wasn’t… there were a lot of things I just didn’t know about until I came into feminism, and it really just shocked me.

    Narrator: How do you see the world differently now?

    Russell: Just everytime you read a magazine, every time that you listen to a song, you can hear the misogynistic undertones.

    Max: And I’ve been able to change my silence into action. If I see something I don’t like, I’m not afraid to speak up now. I’ll address that.

    Noel: So, a little bit after the class, me and Iliyana teamed up again. We spoke at a conference for AEUW against the sexual harassment of students at at school.

    Bruke: I would encourage a friend or peer in joining the feminist movement because, once again, it really does embody more than just equal rights for women, or it embodies more than just benefitting only women. It can help us all.

    Luis: I really try to tell them that it’s a life-changing course. It’ll test who you are as a person. It’ll really impact you.

    Russell: My definition would now be equality for all genders, but also for other oppressed groups.

    Nathanial: My definition of feminism is anyone that believes in equality for (garbled), whether it be gender, race, sexuality, you know, that is what a feminist is. A feminist is not one-dimensional.

    Interviewer: What do you see as the future of feminism?

    Nathanial: Us! *laughs* We’re the future of feminism right now, that’s why we have to keep the ball rolling. I was asked a while ago, if, you know, as women, like, are they good, or as feminists, are we good where we stand, and a lot of people said yes and I say no, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

    [White lettering on black background]

    Made by senior boys who took the feminism class at LREI in New York during the 2012-13 school year

    Taught by Ileana Jiménez (feministteacher.com)

    Special thanks to:

    Bruke Abraha, Class of 2014

    Russell Lasdon, Class of 2014

    Max Fried, Class of 2014

    Noel Diggs, Class of 2014

    Cesar Siguencia, Class of 2014

    Nathaniel Magloire, Class of 2014

    Luis Rojas, Class of 2014

    Emmett Dienstag, Class of 2014

    Shot and edited by Bruke Abraha & Noel Diggs

  • http://feministing.com/members/drewfinch/ George

    I consider myself a feminist. However, I don’t feel like it is anything that makes me special or that should be celebrated. To me, being a feminist is simply synonymous with being a good human. I teach social studies at a girls therapeutic boarding school. It is my singular goal to empower every girl I teach in every way I can. I try teaching history in a way that is equally inclusive of women. But again- I don’t think I should be applauded. I simply think I’m doing what is right, and what everyone should do.