Mindy Kaling writes in her book, Why Not Me, “I want a guy who is a feminist, someone who knows that all that means is that men and women are equal.” This chapter is aptly titled, a perfectly reasonable request.
My feminism, just like Feminism has had waves to it. I read this book at a time when my feminism was trying to shed its pick me ways; I believed in the equality of the genders but I also didn’t want to lose my desirability to men. So this assertion was aspirational as it was timely to me. I was trying to hold on to a friendship with a guy that had sucked me dry, crippled my self-esteem and left me feeling undeserving of love and friendship. But this man wasn’t a misogynist (no, the irony isn’t lost on me.) I was fighting to fix this friendship with this guy because him “getting it” was right up there with the usual frivolities of not wanting to let go of someone you love. For a long time, he was the only man I was sure wouldn’t hit me with “not all men” if I needed to go on a feminist rant.
My bar was so ridiculously low. Yuck!
I wanted to be like Mindy Kaling. I wanted to think desiring a man who is a feminist is a perfectly reasonable request because at the back of my mind, I was worried about the little matter of dying alone. Goddamn it, I didn’t want to die alone. I craved romantic heterosexual love in ways that I find nauseating now. I was working on being a little easy to love and on some days that meant accepting harmless misogyny (as if!) I wanted love so bad, I didn’t dare dream of finding a guy that was a feminist. Because those are so few and I was so love sick it was killing me. Now I know it’s funny because I realise that the kind of guy I would have settled for would have probably killed me in more ways than one.
Now, I don’t even trust men that identify as feminist. I have gone from “please be somewhat decent” to “I think you identifying as a feminist may be a red flag.” Growth people, Growth!
I still do want a man that believes in the equality of the genders. That by definition would be a feminist, but I’m also skeptical when a man introduces himself as a feminist.
My skepticism isn’t even so much about the men who claim to be feminists but don’t really understand it or use it to score points with women. I am scared of men who actually understand what feminism is, beyond the dictionary definition, and have actually decided that this is an identity they would proudly take on.
For starters these men think they deserve cookies for this. They think they deserve recognition. They believe being reformed misogynists mean they are beyond reproach. So, they are offended when they are called out for their internalized misogyny. Listen, we’re all raised in a patriarchal society. This means that all of us regardless of gender, have internalized misogyny. Given that a patriarchal society mostly benefits men and thrives at the expense of women, men can go their whole lives without ever having to interrogate, let alone unlearn their sexist conditioning. So if a man decides to unlearn his sexism, the first item on that agenda should be the idea that being pro-women is an act of benevolence on his part. Men don’t deserve rewards for believing in female equality. This is the bare minimum and we’re not in the business of rewarding fish for swimming. Because really, what is the alternative? Believing women are inferior things that deserve rape and mass murder?
Male feminism isn’t intersectional and devoid of historical context and nuance. It does nothing to build on existing feminist work and therefore doesn’t advance feminism. At a forum last week, we had to throw out (away?) this guy that kept mumbling “fuck the gays.” He had proudly introduced himself as a feminist just a few minutes earlier. Even as people were yelling at him to get out, he didn’t feel remorseful. He honestly thought that because we are in Africa, our feminism wouldn’t be wary of his homophobia especially if that homophobia was brought to light by a non-black woman. He was okay with women discussing how to work towards a more feminist (inclusive) democracy as long as it didn’t include “the gays.”
A while ago, there was a discussion on Twitter about how men are being scammed by women. How men have been saddled with bills they weren’t prepared to pay because the women dragged their friends to dates, or ordered expensive shit, or just left it up to them to pay because, masculinity. I found it infuriating that the male activist recognized that this burdensome expectation for men to pay was an aspect of toxic masculinity but he didn’t seem to know or care that women have had to “scam” men because we have been denied economic power and stripped of financial agency since the beginning of time. Now I’m not excusing these women’s discourtesy, but if you’re gonna be an activist, know your shit, all of it.
Male feminists are -or pretend to be- oblivious of their privilege and will demand to be centered in female spaces. At the same forum, another man that proudly introduced himself as a feminist, asked how women can accommodate male feminists; how feminism can be a little less hostile for male feminists. I’ve said this before, but that is not how you ally. Men don’t deserve to be comfortable at a table that exists to make women uncomfortable. Because when you ask that women make feminism comfortable for you, you are essentially asking that they put away their pain and consider your discomfort. And that is a huge ask. We get it, as a man, it is hard to hear all the ways in which your gender has oppressed women, but asking women to consider you isn’t the best way to deal with that guilt. Asking women to accommodate you is essentially tone-policing which is a weapon of silencing the oppressed. You are demanding that women package their pain in ways that do not hurt your feelings when you have been benefiting from women’s hurt. Shame!
You don’t ally by invading women’s spaces. You ally by taking your feminism to men’s spaces. Because as sad as it is, men listen to men, they don’t listen to women. So use that privilege, that voice, and talk to men about the rape culture, the pay gap, hell, the orgasm gap. Quick sidebar: did you know the orgasm gap is actually a myth? Women don’t generally take longer than men to orgasm. We have been conditioned to think that because it excuses men from actually giving a crap about pleasuring women and also makes women believe that our bodies, our sexual needs, are complicated thus somehow defaulted.
Fathers that become feminists after getting daughters get a dishonourable mention. These men claim that they finally believe in women’s rights, that they finally see women’s humanity because they wouldn’t want their daughters dating men like them. And it’s creepy and disgusting. First of all, it plays into the dangerous narrative that men can only care about, thereby humanize, women they are related to (read own.) And even if we’re to indulge this idea, did you not think of your mother, sisters, wife as people deserving of safety before this epiphany inspired by your daughter? Lastly, are we just going to skip past the stomach churning nastiness of a father sexualizing a toddler?
The thing with male feminists is that they enamour women because we automatically believe that they are on our side. This makes them uniquely positioned to gaslight feminists if they aren’t constantly checking themselves: their privilege and internalized misogyny. Because if you believe someone is on your side, you’ll question yourself when they tell you something isn’t so. Male feminists are more likely to make feminists feel like we are exaggerating our oppression, like we are overreacting to our pain.
Question: do you believe men can truly identify as feminists? One: for women, feminism comes at cost, usually violence. In a patriarchal society men will never experience violence-outside of harmless ridicule by the keepers of toxic masculinity-for being feminists. More often than not, they’ll get rewarded for it. Some people argue that if we consider this, men will never earn their feminist stripes. Also, can men be fully committed to dismantling the patriarchy given that they benefit from it? I’m not sure how I feel about this so I would appreciate your thoughts. Please comment below.
So You’re probably thinking, this was so good and I hope she continues to write things like this. Well, you can do that. Just go here and see what you can do. Thank you:) @cherriekandie did and I’m super grateful for it.