Now, hear me out, Internet feminists. It’s 2014, for God’s sake. Dudes can be feminists, right?
This inquiry started off as a simple question. A newbie in a feminist group on my college’s campus asked: Can guys be feminists? A slew of hands shot into the air, a roomful of excitable feminists just waiting to give their opinion on this seemingly simple question. And boy, did the opinions abound.
Some thought no. If a guy is thrown into the mix, he’ll try to be the savior. He’ll ride in on his white horse or skateboard and save all us damsels in distress. He’ll be praised. What a nice young man, sticking up for those girls like that! What if a guy comes in and fixes everything? Doesn’t that defeat the point entirely? For those of this opinion, it certainly did.
Others, though, held the opposite opinion. Why shouldn’t a guy be a feminist? If they care about the equality of all humans, doesn’t that mean they’re eligible to join in the cause? Of course, they would have to be educated, and they’d have to understand that helping is not synonymous with saving. We need sidekicks, not heroes. We are our own heroes, but every Batman needs his Robin. Every Hannah Montana needs her Lily.
I didn’t know where I was on the spectrum. On one hand, if we keep boys out, like some preschool clubhouse, aren’t we perpetuating a sort of inequality? But I could see their point — I don’t need a guy’s help. But if they wanted to, who the hell were we to stop them?
That was just it, though: do they want to help? Do they think they can? Do they even know what the hell feminism is, or are they just going by the angry rants they’ve read online? (Read: we aren’t all burning our bras, nor do we all hate men).
The first person I asked didn’t know. My friend, 19 and sophomore at the University of Michigan, responded to my question of whether or not he would consider himself a feminist with, “No… Well, what is the whole movement about?”
This confirmed my theory. Once I explained to him that feminism is a movement to end inequality, obviously for women, but for all minorities, he told me, “Well yeah, I’m down for that. But I don’t associate that with guys.”
The other guys I asked had fairly similar responses:
“I probably wouldn’t label myself a ‘feminist’, but I think I’m basically aligned with the general concepts. It’s a tough question. I will say that a big reason I wouldn’t call myself that is because of the stigma that other guys put on it. Not the ‘women don’t need a movement’ assholes (because fuck them), but the ‘you’re only doing it to be the supportive figure for women’, self-interest thing.” — Senior, U of M.
“I’m not sure if feminists would even accept me as one. As a white guy, my opinion wouldn’t be taken seriously, I’m sure. It also doesn’t help that I’m not familiar with the movement, or its history.” — Senior, U of M.
“I support women being equal with men, obviously. But I don’t know anything about the movement, so, no, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist.” — Junior, U of M.
“I mean, I don’t know what feminism is all about, but I wouldn’t consider myself one, because I more consider myself a supporter of equality for all. That may overlap with feminism, but I’m more for advocating the rights of everybody rather than just women.” —Sophomore, U of M.
Only one of the guys I asked had a negative reaction to the very word “feminism.” He was the only respondent to say, flat out, no. The more we talked, however, the more he warmed up to the idea, saying:
“I don’t actually have a problem with feminism. I guess I just have a problem with irrational arguments, and a lot of the feminists I’ve encountered have a tendency to follow that irrationality. I wouldn’t consider myself one, but I guess not all feminists are bad.” — Senior, U of M.
Listen, I don’t want to tell you that we feminists need to enlist men to our cause. I don’t want to tell you that we need them; because if our history has taught us anything, it’s that we do not need men. We need ourselves. We need our own veracity and strength and wit. We sure as hell do not need knights in shining armor, because we’re too busy donning our own.
But, I believe that with a little education, we could have some willing allies. Because, in the words of one sophomore guy (and a good friend of mine): “Hell yeah, I support equality for women. Women can do everything men can do — just as well, or even better.”