"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Linky Goodness: On How to Spot the Faux Feminist Man

Some interesting discussions going on about men and their place within feminism, and how to spot the men who call themselves feminists, but aren't really:

Kameron Hurley of Brutal Women stands up for her male friends who live feminism.

Janice Earlbaum sketches out some stereotypical non-feminist men who call themselves feminists.

Hugo also chimes in on the subject, at the request of Loaded-Question Guy.

Kameron is actually (in part) reacting to Janice's post, and it's interesting to read the comments in Janice's post. She has apparently nailed some of the stereotypes, as people are chiming in with variations of "Right on!" in the comments. And I have no doubt that these are common stereotypes, and that there are enough men who fit 'em to account for the chiming in.

And I see myself in some of them, unfortunately. In fact, to somebody who doesn't know me well (or perhaps to those who do?), I could be immediately placed in any of those categories at the outset. And yet, I don't consider myself a misogynist (at least, to the degree that I'm able to overcome my training toward misogyny from being part of this culture). What gives?

Well, apparently, a tell-tale sign of being the kind of anit-feminist-feminist man is shouting from the rooftops (to whatever degree) that you are a feminist. The key to picking out the fake feminist men, according to Janice, is to take those who proclaim being feminists with a grain of salt:

As a matter of fact, it's caused me to realize that most of the men I've personally known who have made a huge hairy point of identifying as feminists have been either date rapists, mom fetishists, porn addicts, or bear daddies inflicting their frustrated pseudopaternal tendencies on women. They are some of the most passive-aggressive, patronizing, out-dishing without it-taking twerps on the planet, and they are poisoning the women's movement from the inside by sapping the hell out of everyone's goddamn energy.

I think I see her point. It's a pretty straightforward Freudian/Shakespearian thing, isn't it, for a misogynist to proclaim himself a feminist, and loudly. Something along the lines of 'methings thou dost prostest too much' or something.

And yet.

I think it's important for men who identify as feminists to shout it from the rooftops. To make a big, hairy deal about it. And here's why: It's too easy to keep one's feminism to oneself, as a man. It's too much in line with the traditional masculinities that I think screw men (and other genders) over: Men are strong and silent. They show by deed, not by word. They're not too bright, so they should keep sorta quiet (and that makes them somehow more manly). They should just do feminism, not talk about their identities as feminists.

So: How do you spot the fake male feminists? Well, they're the ones shouting it from the rooftops that they are feminists. You can spot the real feminists by watching what they do.

That doesn't make enough sense to me. And this is why: You spot the 'real' male feminists both by word and deed. They are the ones who are shouting it from the rooftops, making it a big, hairy (love that it's a 'hairy' deal--another traditionally masculine trait) deal about it; and then, they're backing it up. The ones who make a big deal about it and don't back it up? They're fake, yep. The ones who don't make a big deal about it--maybe they're doing feminism in their own way, but to my mind that's not the only way to do feminism; and, to the extent that that way just buys into traditional masculinity (the strong, silent type), it's actually not helping as much as shouting it, and then doing it.

Update: Lindsay of Majikthise says a lot of what I've tried to say much more eloquently, and from a different perspective:

It takes a lot of courage for a guy to self-identify as a feminist outside his women's studies class. A man who's willing to tell his drinking buddies that he's a feminist is taking a risk. He's putting a little of his privilege on the line when it counts. That's a choice that commands respect.

Some feminists argue that men don't deserve "extra credit" for doing the right thing. I don't consider it extra credit to acknowledge the distinctive obstacles that men in our society have to overcome in order to get right with feminism.

Any guy who's willing to stand up and be counted as a feminist deserves to march under our banner.
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