Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Male feminists: do they really exist?

By Kim Huynh - 7 July 2016 54

malcolm turnbull

Male feminism is arguably on the rise.

During the federal election campaign Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed that he’s a feminist even though Julie Bishop thinks the label is “not useful”. The ultra-cool Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has promised to talk about his commitment to feminism until it’s regarded as normal and “there is no more reaction to it”.

Given Canberra’s progressive bent, egalitarian ethos, and relatively small gender pay gap, it’s a likely place to find male feminists.

Even so, it’s worth considering if being a male feminist is feasible or whether it’s like professing to be a white-Asian or gay-heterosexual. And if we accept that male feminists exist, how should these fellows express and enact their support for the sisterhood?

First, what not to do.

A big mistake is to profess to be a male feminist in a such a way that, “It’s all about me, the man”.

In this regard, offering the label as an icebreaker can suggest excessive eagerness and a staged sympathy: it’s as if you’re seeking a pat on the back or gold star for your sensitive new age stance.

People are also rightfully wary of men who seek personal advancement by flaunting their progressiveness.

I once had a discussion with a mate about whether we should put our time and experiences as stay-at-home parents on our CVs. Stay-at-home mothers are sometimes encouraged to highlight how their domestic engineering or home management skills are valuable to business and bureaucracy.

In a man’s case, however, the same act could be regarded as undue peacocking; that is, seeking kudos for doing what women have been doing for generations with little public recognition.

Another common mistake of male feminists is to overstate their experiences of oppression and capacity for empathy.

An analogous situation occurred when Treasurer Scott Morrison asserted that, sorta like Senator Penny Wong, he was the victim of “quite dreadful hate speech and bigotry” because of his opposition to marriage equality. The lesson here is that being criticised because of your beliefs and actions is not that same as being systematically discriminated against because of who you are.

A long time ago I suggested to a woman that, as an Asian man, I too had been unfairly stereotyped as an incapable driver. The comment was not received all that well, which taught me that different experiences of prejudice are not always equivalent.

How then can men show their support for feminism without co-opting or mansplaining it?

One tip is to focus on causes that have shared relevance and value such as promoting work-life balance, affordable child care and support for carers.

Male feminists should also be prominent in the fight against hyper-masculinity and misogyny.

In this regard, Malcolm Turnbull and Justin Trudeau have stressed the need for men to be exemplars to one another and to boys when it comes to respecting women. It’s also important for men to have a say in formulating an ethic of care that can disrupt and replace patriarchal structures.

It is in this context that we can better understand ally movements such as the white ribbon campaign to prevent male violence against women, and also Australian of the Year David Morrison’s efforts as a Male Champion of Change in promoting gender equality.

Even within these parameters, ‘male feminist’ is a vexed label.

In a New York Magazine article entitled, ‘So You Want to Be a Male Feminist? Maybe Don’t’, Kat Stoeffel argues that there are no exemptions even for well-intentioned men when it comes to patriarchy.

“Maybe you didn’t, personally, do anything wrong, but you were still born into a power structure that gave you unjust rewards…. You can’t opt out of the privileges you inherited at birth.”

As Ambassador for Tackling Violence, Raiders legend Alan Tongue acknowledges that many men think that they are not part of the problem, but stresses that all of us are part of the solution.

Are you a male feminist? Do you know self-proclaimed male feminists and how seriously do you take them? In what ways can blokes show their solidarity with sheilas?

Kim Huynh teaches international relations at the ANU. He has published a collection of (free) novellas entitled Vietnam as if…. Tales of youth, love and destiny (ANU Press).

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
54 Responses to
Male feminists: do they really exist?
gooterz 6:35 pm 10 Jul 16

dungfungus said :

bj_ACT said :

Define Feminism?
Todays For-her-ism isn’t traditional Feminism.
Traditional Feminists would roll over at the thought of what many ‘Feminists’ do today.

agreed. Feminism has become the antithesis of what it was originally meant to do. Certainly has nothing to do with equality of genders thats for sure.

I’m sorry, but do you have any examples of how contemporary feminism is the antithesis of what it was “originally”, or “traditionally”? What do they do today that is so radically departed from the good old days?

Until women have equality in the work and home spaces, and until the go-to jokes about them are not sexualised, until they stop being patronised in the public sphere, we still need feminism. Feminism is a broad social movement that aims for equality – when we’re closer to achieving that, maybe the name will change to ‘equalist’, or similar. This goes for men as well. Men should have the freedom to choose to be a stay at home parent without ridicule, as should women. There do not need to be jokes about “who wears the pants” in relationships. Until we’re closer to social and economic equality, we still need feminism.

There are three waves to feminism.
Equality is an overused and abused term. Equality is giving everyone the same and letting them achieve different things based on how well they can do it.

Should we have tax equality? Everyone pays the same dollar amount in taxes irrespective of what they earn?

How do you see women getting equality in the home? Are you going to put quotas on the family court to ensure children are on average 50% with mum and 50% with dad?

A traditional feminist would have huge problems with current domestic violence campaigns which paint women as weak and powerless individuals whom are incapable of violence or helping themselves.

etc.

Mysteryman 9:41 am 10 Jul 16

2. I don’t care if you find the term offensive, there is no offence inherent in the term or it’s meaning, so you will just have to go ahead and be offended.

I’m glad you’ve clarified your position. I look forward to seeing how you respond in future when you’re told that others don’t care if you’re offended by the terms they use to refer to you, and to get over it.

chewy14 4:02 pm 09 Jul 16

2. I don’t care if you find the term offensive, there is no offence inherent in the term or it’s meaning, so you will just have to go ahead and be offended.

Tut, tut, don’t you know it doesn’t matter if you intended offence? If offence was taken, you should apologise and refrain from using such language in the future.

Why are you trying to deny his lived experience?

Mordd 4:49 pm 08 Jul 16

JoueurBoy said :

rommeldog56 said :

… at the hands of cis men…

We find that term offensive. You should refer to us as “straight males”.

1. Cis is not gender specific: Cisgender (often abbreviated to simply cis) is a term for people who have a gender identity, or gender expression, that matches their assigned sex. Cisgender may also be defined as those who have “a gender identity or perform a gender role society considers appropriate for one’s sex.”[1] It is the opposite of the term transgender.[2]

2. I don’t care if you find the term offensive, there is no offence inherent in the term or it’s meaning, so you will just have to go ahead and be offended.

Mysteryman 1:41 pm 08 Jul 16

rommeldog56 said :

… at the hands of cis men…

We find that term offensive. You should refer to us as “straight males”.

Mysteryman 1:40 pm 08 Jul 16

dungfungus said :

bj_ACT said :

Define Feminism?
Todays For-her-ism isn’t traditional Feminism.
Traditional Feminists would roll over at the thought of what many ‘Feminists’ do today.

agreed. Feminism has become the antithesis of what it was originally meant to do. Certainly has nothing to do with equality of genders thats for sure.

I’m sorry, but do you have any examples of how contemporary feminism is the antithesis of what it was “originally”, or “traditionally”? What do they do today that is so radically departed from the good old days?

Until women have equality in the work and home spaces, and until the go-to jokes about them are not sexualised, until they stop being patronised in the public sphere, we still need feminism. Feminism is a broad social movement that aims for equality – when we’re closer to achieving that, maybe the name will change to ‘equalist’, or similar. This goes for men as well. Men should have the freedom to choose to be a stay at home parent without ridicule, as should women. There do not need to be jokes about “who wears the pants” in relationships. Until we’re closer to social and economic equality, we still need feminism.

1. It’s commonly accepted that feminism has gone through a number of stages, characterised by the differences in objectives and the methods used to get there. There’s also division amongst those who call themselves feminists as to what equality actually means/looks like.

2. People will always make irreverent jokes, regardless of the topic.

devils_advocate 12:32 pm 08 Jul 16

It’s a bit of a shame that someone who is responsible for shaping young minds in an educational role, accepts so unquestioningly that a gender pay gap actually exists.

Harvard Economics Professor Claudia Goldin debunked the gender pay gap myth already.

I for one don’t believe in compensating members of society for choices they have voluntarily made, including in relation to career choices. I would prefer to conserve society’s resources and effort for real cases of discrimination.

chewy14 11:41 am 08 Jul 16

dungfungus said :

bj_ACT said :

Define Feminism?
Todays For-her-ism isn’t traditional Feminism.
Traditional Feminists would roll over at the thought of what many ‘Feminists’ do today.

agreed. Feminism has become the antithesis of what it was originally meant to do. Certainly has nothing to do with equality of genders thats for sure.

I’m sorry, but do you have any examples of how contemporary feminism is the antithesis of what it was “originally”, or “traditionally”? What do they do today that is so radically departed from the good old days?

Until women have equality in the work and home spaces, and until the go-to jokes about them are not sexualised, until they stop being patronised in the public sphere, we still need feminism. Feminism is a broad social movement that aims for equality – when we’re closer to achieving that, maybe the name will change to ‘equalist’, or similar. This goes for men as well. Men should have the freedom to choose to be a stay at home parent without ridicule, as should women. There do not need to be jokes about “who wears the pants” in relationships. Until we’re closer to social and economic equality, we still need feminism.

“traditional” feminism was about gaining equal rights with men in areas where there was legislated discrimination.

(Some) proponents of modern feminism now believe and extol “equity” where it’s not about gaining equal rights, it’s about gaining extra rights to ensure equality of outcome.

steveu 11:23 am 08 Jul 16

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-police-aim-to-raise-female-recruits-to-50-per-cent-20160307-gnc9ep.html

http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/men-will-will-have-to-lose-jobs-to-make-way-for-gender-equality-transfields-diane-smithgander-20151013-gk7kzt

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-18/melbourne-university-opens-up-jobs-to-women-applicants-only/7426704

There’s three examples where employment practice is heavily influenced (if not determined) not on merit but on gender. This isn’t feminism, this is sexism.

I think you may find that women in the workforce (1) make a choice to stay at home and look after the kids – there are billions of dollars spent federally in a childcare industry so that neither parent needs to stay home under most circumstances; (2) women generally are more choosy about their employment paths (I haven’t seen many female tradespersons certainly here in the ACT, for example) which limits career and wage options.

Blen_Carmichael 11:21 am 08 Jul 16

I so love these identity politics discussions.

madelini 9:09 am 08 Jul 16

dungfungus said :

bj_ACT said :

Define Feminism?
Todays For-her-ism isn’t traditional Feminism.
Traditional Feminists would roll over at the thought of what many ‘Feminists’ do today.

agreed. Feminism has become the antithesis of what it was originally meant to do. Certainly has nothing to do with equality of genders thats for sure.

I’m sorry, but do you have any examples of how contemporary feminism is the antithesis of what it was “originally”, or “traditionally”? What do they do today that is so radically departed from the good old days?

Until women have equality in the work and home spaces, and until the go-to jokes about them are not sexualised, until they stop being patronised in the public sphere, we still need feminism. Feminism is a broad social movement that aims for equality – when we’re closer to achieving that, maybe the name will change to ‘equalist’, or similar. This goes for men as well. Men should have the freedom to choose to be a stay at home parent without ridicule, as should women. There do not need to be jokes about “who wears the pants” in relationships. Until we’re closer to social and economic equality, we still need feminism.

Mordd 7:56 am 08 Jul 16

I am a male feminist, but it’s not about me, it’s about women’s rights and equality. I have also experienced first hand as a queer person the similar type of treatment women regularly suffer from at the hands of cis men, so I can relate although they are not exactly the same thing.

steveu 7:28 am 08 Jul 16

bj_ACT said :

Define Feminism?
Todays For-her-ism isn’t traditional Feminism.
Traditional Feminists would roll over at the thought of what many ‘Feminists’ do today.

agreed. Feminism has become the antithesis of what it was originally meant to do. Certainly has nothing to do with equality of genders thats for sure.

gooterz 9:08 pm 07 Jul 16

Define Feminism?
Todays For-her-ism isn’t traditional Feminism.
Traditional Feminists would roll over at the thought of what many ‘Feminists’ do today.

Frunkensteen 8:00 pm 07 Jul 16

Do male feminists exist? Well, yes.
Is it normally worthwhile thing to announce such a claim. Probably not.
Supporting equality does not necessarily need announcements.
I believe actions speak better.

1 2 3 4

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site