Many people, particularly men feel uneasy about using the word ‘feminist’. Men often think it means ‘crazy women who want to take over the world’ and don’t understand the actual definition, or why people consider themselves feminists. But there are men who not only understand the meaning of feminism but also identify themselves as a feminist. I met up with Reuben, a 19 year old student, who does consider himself a feminist to find out if a man can truly be one.
One of the main reasons it seems that men are excluded from feminism is because they obviously have not gone through the same injustice as women so it can be hard for some to understand why a man is a feminist. When I asked Reuben why he identifies as a feminist he stated that “Many women all over the word still face disadvantages in life compared to men, and that is something that needs to be addressed.” Society embeds many misogynistic and sexist thoughts into our minds and as women, we often find ourselves unlearning what we have been taught by society.
So as society empowers the man and not the woman how does a man learn to be a feminist? Is it us who are not teaching our sons, nephews, cousins enough about feminism? Luckily for Reuben “my (his) mum ‘knocked out’ the internalised misogyny that everyone has inside them, growing up you pick up social norms that then need to be knocked out, for instance slut shaming, which his mum educated him about.” Reuben also says that the use of social media to debate has educated him about sexism and feminism after hearing about other peoples experiences.
With Reuben talking so passionately about equality and feminism I can’t help but feel bad that a lot of men seem to feel segregated fro the feminist movement, I asked Reuben why he thinks that some feminists do not like to include men “a lot of feminists are probably feminists because of things that have happened to them with men…Men can’t empathise with the struggle women go through, but we can help support the movement.” My personal thoughts on a male feminist is that to be a feminist it must be harder for them, if a female feminist makes a slightly sexist comment she is forgiven, however if a male feminist does the same it seems he would be scrutinised.
I wanted to know if, as a male feminist, he feels like he has to constantly think about what he says and does “to an extent yes, but it’s important that everyone watches what they say, it’s a healthy way to interact with people.” He claims that in social situations he does feel pressure to act in a misogynistic way, but he likes to think he can resist that pressure, although he feels that he can openly call himself a feminist in any social situation Reuben does however feel it depends on the situation and whether the person is up for a debate or looking for confrontation.
Although I understand not wanting to have an argument I feel that the people who are likely to start an argument are exactly the people we should be talking to. It is sexism that affects these types of people the most, they are the ‘man up you pussy’ ‘men don’t cry’ types of people, and use things that are associated with being a female as an insult, and to confine their own ‘feminine’ traits, Reuben thinks that the best way to talk to these people are through social media platforms as it is less confrontational than in person.
So how do we make feminism more approachable to men? How do we educate men in understanding that feminism is not a bitter revenge plan or a hatred of men, but a movement for equality? It effects men just as much as women, and the answer seems very simple ‘we need to actually sit down an educate people about feminism and what the word stands for, although it is tempting to shout at them for being sexist we can’t keep doing that because it just isolates people.’
After talking to Reuben about the aims of feminism I feel that men can be feminists, and are in fact vital to the movement. They may not have the same disadvantages as women, but that isn’t important, what is important is that they realise this and promote the need for equality.