Male Feminist? You Gotta Walk the Talk

imageI just read an excellent article, So You Want to Be a Male Feminist? Here Are 11 Simple Rules to Follow: A Beginners Guide for Men, by Derrick Clifton on mic.com/identities.  Clifton is a Staff writer covering identity, culture and politics

Briefly reflecting  on the many male celebrities who have “come out” as feminists on the heels the new #HeForShe and #ItsOnUs campaigns,  Clifton acknowledges that there is a place for male allies in the movement for gender equality. However, he reminds all men that they should educate themselves about the history of the women’s movement; listen to and respect the authority of women’s experience in setting an action agenda for change; take responsibility for educating other men about gender equality; and to step back and learn to follow women’s leadership.

I encourage men and women alike to read this article to grasp the full, nuanced agenda that Clifton puts forth, instead of my brief synopsis.  I introduced readers to his piece to add a few more simple rules that men who wish to be feminist allies can incorporate into their everyday personal lives  and encourage other men to follow as well.

1. Stop playing video of games that justify violence and sexual assault against women. We can’t have gender equality and at the same time pretend to rape, beat and murder women as a form of entertainment.

2. Stop singing along with, dancing to and buying music and music videos that glorify the sexual objectification of women, glamorize pimps and refer us as “bitches” and “ho’s.”   We can’t have gender equality and at the same time denigrate and dehumanize women in music.

3. Stop economically supporting the commercial sexual exploitation of women. Here’s what that looks like: Stop going to strip clubs. Stop buying pornography. Stop buying women for sex. Each of these multibillion dollar businesses are driven by economic social and economic inequality between men and women. Each is compounded by racism and sexism. Each is the result of exploitation, coercion and outright violence. We cannot have gender equality if women are reduced to  objects in the market place to be bought and sold for sex.

One more thing: stop making excuses for yourself and other men who undermine gender equality by availing themselves of male privilege by engaging in these behaviors.

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7 thoughts on “Male Feminist? You Gotta Walk the Talk

  1. I have to second each of your points. I’m a male who doesn’t self-identify as a feminist but who is concerned about the creation of a just world in which all are encouraged to flourish. As long as women are objectified, trafficked, or treated as suitable objects for violence, justice is absent.

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  2. Thank you for your comment Bob. I think you touched on an important point. How we label ourselves is not the most important factor – although it has become trendy among men and women alike (especially celebrities) to identify themselves as feminists. What is important are our values and how we incorporate them into our everyday lives. It is apparent that your attitudes toward women is congruent with your values to create a just world.

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  3. I get your point about the video games and songs and pornography – in an ideal world that is how it should be. However, do you think it is possible in the near future? And what steps do you think we should take to get there?

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  4. When I was a very young feminist I would have answered your question with an unequivocal yes. At first I thought if we just exposed the sexual and economic exploitation that drove the sex industry, the coercion and violence that was used to create the final product, if women came forward and shared the soul numbing experience they endured, many beginning in childhood, that it would end. It didn’t. So we turned to the courts. Surely there must be some remedy for these women and girls. Some way to prevent others being used in this way. There wasn’t. Instead we found ourselves head to head with rich and powerful pornographers and their ACLU attorneys who patiently explained that these were only pictures – even the most vile and violent. Pictures. Even children penetrated by adults. Just pictures. And as such were protected by the First Amendment. Now bring them a crime and by golly they would persecute it to the fullest extent of the law. But these were just pictures.

    These pictures, pornography has embedded itself in out culture. It is no longer pictures of sex, it is sex. So no, I no longer believe that will change culturally. And that is sad. First for the women and children used in its production. Secondly, for creating a culture that degrades women and views them as sex objects. And thirdly, because when I was young I still believed that the most intimate form of communication between two people could be expressed through sex. Pornography has destroyed that for us. Men and women alike.

    So what’s left? I think individual men (and some women) can choose not to let pornography dictate their intimate lives. I think we can raise our children in a more egalitarian manner. I think we can teach our boys from the youngest age appropriate that girls are not sex objects and we can stop allowing our school age girls to dress like pole dancers not because they’re “asking for it” but because the sum total of their value isn’t in their sexual availability.

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  5. Another excellent departure from the many rather black-and-white articles I have read which state it is simply impossible for a male (or even, in my case, a male-born creature) to meaningfully identify as a feminist. “Impossible” is a very essentialist term, but what this does show is that the unravelling of poisonous social programming can certainly be no small feat (but not impossible).

    Sexually violent video games have been around since the early days, alas, when you would have thought the crudeness of the graphics alone would have dissuaded people from making them, but apparently not (“Chiller” being a particularly egregious example). Though I will defend the genre as a whole (and as a lifelong nerd): some recent games have been very affirmative. I particularly like the representation of female characters in the “Mass Effect” series. As screwed-up predictions of the future go, at least they seem to have finally nailed equality…

    Pornography / the sex industry is just an infuriating subject. Banning it altogether seems tempting, but that seems 100% likely to push it underground and do nothing whatsoever to combat its worst forms, which are already illegal anyway. Hopefully future progress will render it obsolete organically, without the need for possibly counterproductive draconian measures.

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