Friday, July 5, 2013

Can A Man Be A Feminist?

Recently, I commented on one of my favorite blogs, The Feminist Current, which is a pithy and sharp and feminist critique of feminism. Meghan Murphy the main writer is radical while remaining in touch with reality. For example, she once blogged about a club she sometimes visits with her friends and the pictures of objectification that resulted, which everyone seemed to put on their facebook which reifies male-gazing, etc. To the contrary, she admits that sometimes she goes out and has fun, dresses they way she wants, but there's a line crossed when these nights are immortalized through pictures and the internet and substantiates the status quo. I also really liked when she said just because you're a feminist and like Game of Thrones doesn't make Game of Thrones feminist. 

I mistakenly called myself a feminist on Feminism, Writing, and Doing Womanhood Wrong. I say it was a mistake, because really, we're not anything- Buddhist, Feminist, Anarchist. And as soon as we say something like that, we make a binary, and you set yourself up to be logically dismantled. 

Has anyone ever dismantled you? It hurts!

I wrote too conversationally on her post. I was feeling a very light hearted and very friendly, and I over shared and got was coming- someone wanted to tear me down. A commenter said this:

"Men shouldn’t call themselves feminists. In fact, when you really think about it, they can’t be. Feminism doesn’t fundamentally change a man’s mindset and worldview as it does a woman’s because he simply cannot grasp what it is like to be a woman. If you cannot think about and analyse the world through a female-centered perspective, not only are you unable to fully understand and support the views, experiences, and goals of women, you also cannot possibly have anything of value to contribute to feminism. And that’s why men who invade feminist spaces constantly speak over and silence women, and insult those women they disagree with. Just wait until you see a man trying to call out a woman on her “internalised misogyny,” real or imagined, so that he can be lauded as a ~brave and enlightened~ hero of feminism. I’ve heard it said that men’s reactions to being told that they can’t be feminists justifies their exclusion from both the label and the movement."

Meghan Murphy went on to say this:

"They don’t call themselves feminists. I call them feminist when I talk about them. If my male friends called themselves feminists I would think they were douchebags and definitely not feminist. Actual feminist men don’t go around identifying as feminist — it’s about showing not telling, as far as I’m concerned — though I’m ok with them calling themselves ‘allies’ or whatever…"

What's great about being eviscerated in a comment section is you vow to never be nasty again. I've been critical of a lot on this blog and other blogs, but I've only had my feelings hurt a couple of times. However, on this gutting, my feelings are more than hurt, I feel undermined, dis empowered, othered, and born to lose. Although I was not called directly an invader, a douchebag, and unable to contribute ANYTHING to feminism, it's implied directly in a passive aggressive sting. What's wrong with passive aggressive implications is that they lack the Adrenalin/endorphin rush, which helps you stand under the onslaught of an aggressive-aggressive attack, but includes all of the pain. 

And I disagree. I'm not feminist to  "analyse the world through a female-centered perspective" but to challenge patriarchy. Can I challenge patriarchy? Everyday. Do I need to? YES! Why is it important to me as a man? Because as bodhisattvas we vow to end greed, hate, and delusion. At the top of this is patriarchy, then capitalism, then ecocide. I don't need to be lauded as a brave and enlightened hero among feminists. I need freedom from the sensation of being alive and having my skin crawl in our samsaric world of suffering. This transformation takes place through the inside and the outside (which is really the inside).

I'm reminded of Derrick Jensen's t-shirt that features a bomb, a wrench, a spray paint can- it represents all tactics, and how a movement can be dismantled from the inside when different factions attack each other instead of a common target. I feel like that's been demonstrated on a micro level here- dismissing would be allies with insults. Maybe a gentle reeducation was called for, but insults? There's nothing to discuss when insults are flying. 

And on this question, can men be feminist, a quick search shows it's all about a community's agreement. In my circle, if you want to challenge patriarchy, you can be a feminist. I won't call myself a feminist in other circles where they have a different definition of what being a feminist means. But you can call yourself the Mickey Mouse Club if you want, and as long as you challenge patriarchy, I'm in solidarity with you. 


  1. The feminist blogosphere is really challenging for anyone who doesn't toe a certain line. I've been skewered in a similar way that you were. And nothing you say once the dogpile comes will help. The lack of compassion on some of these websites is painful. I say that because it's not just feminist-minded men getting such treatment. Women of color regularly run into walls with majority white women commenters. Poor women run into walls with financially privileged women. And the list goes on. What I have noticed is that the well known feminist blogs tend to be dominated by white, liberal, able bodied, college educated women in their 20s or early 30s. They control the "appropriate" language and tone, of which violations frequently solicit sanction, backlash, and the rest. When it comes to male commenters, we tend to get lumped all together. Except those who figure out the dominant voice and go along.

    The thing is as practitioners, we can let go of a need for the identity and labels. I don't really call myself a feminist unless a situation seems to be calling me to do so in some way. At the same time, though, it would be nice to be able to have conversations about issues without all the blasting, controlling, and name-calling. Which I think is hard to find with the major feminist blogs. I quit commenting awhile back because it took too much energy. I wouldn't label myself anything. I would do my best to avoid words or phrases that seemed to upset folks. And it just didn't matter.

    1. Yes, yes. Lesson learned, titles relinquished. Just This Person of No Rank!