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.
Feature image by Dan Gold on Unsplash.
10 thoughts on “I don’t trust male feminists.”
In my experience men who identify as feminists do the bare minimum – e.g, understanding issues such as the pay gap and bringing it up in conversation bu, do little to talk about the politics/systems that feed into it.
OR, those that follow feminists’ work and are familiar with the lingo etc but end up showing their ass coz there true intentions werent to ally anyway.
I could go on and on.
But honestly, there is nothing to gain by allying. You ally coz you recognize oppression and not to gain anything from these spaces.
Just be decent. And intersectional. That is all.
So if male feminists aren’t really down with Feminism, then it just means that they aren’t Feminists, so them identifying as such is just misleading. I don’t know, do you think this nullifies my question?
I hear you. I feel you. I’m sorry for everything. Really.
I identify as a male feminist. And I say so unashamedly. Not to gain anything. Not to turn heads. Not to be accommodated. I am this because it stemmed from the gender based violence I witnessed as a child, especially from my father and uncles, on me, my cousins, siblings, mother and aunts. That from a young age I started questioning why our mothers were the ones crying all the time.
My father doesn’t like me for being closer to mama. I stopped looking for approval from him for anything. I had to work so hard on my post traumatic stress disorder because it led me into depression out of an abusive childhood.
All this was caused by patriarchy. It hurt us too. I’m aware of the much male privilege I enjoy for being a man today, but patriarchy has harmed me more than it benefits me. It’s unsustainable, void and selfish.
To counter it and many other oppressive ideas, I’ve learned people can identify as anything they want, but what matters is their discipline. Their true understanding of what they really stand for and what they do to show it. Doesn’t matter their gender, sexual orientation, class, or any other social background. It has made me be more self aware not to shoot myself by the foot as well as identify the thinking behind many people’s reasons for being who they are in an attempt to understand where society is and what I can do to fill any gap I’m in a position to first as a human being then as a man.
I definitely have a lot to say. But I see where you’re coming from. I acknowledge your pain and doubts about male feminists. To say “not all male feminists” as a formula to counter your ideas would be disempowering your thoughts. Your worldview where you are now is valid. We all have a lot to learn. Bottom line is, we have enemies to progress. And that is anyone who stands in the line of human rights, whatever they are. Men in general have a long way to go in understanding the value of equity. Because patriarchy has blindfolded us that it’s benefiting us while in reality, it only benefits a few men and destroys the rest of the pile. The few who benefit are the ones running real pillars of power in institutions that run our societies and communities. So many things would change if those guys change.
Because while men listen to men, the other reality is they only listen to “successful”, “powerful”, “more educated” men. Patriarchy also has men discriminating against each other. There’s a lot to talk about. I hope I’ve been able to give you some insight.
I’m sorry for the late reply. I only just saw this comment
I do see where you’re coming from.
And maybe because I’m not a man, I can’t possibly understand or believe you when you say, “the patriarchy only benefits a few men.” I think all men benefit from the patriarchy, the degree may differ but you all do. And that’s essentially male privilege: there are forms of discrimination and hatred you’ll never experience simply because you’re men.
I don’t know how I feel about men identifying as feminists. Days I think you can only ever be allies because when all is said and done, you’re conditioned to hate women and one can never truly be committed to dismantling a system that deems them superior to everyone else regardless of how harmful that very system may be to them. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced soul-crushing cruelty from men and it’s made me cynical, or maybe I’m right, or maybe it doesn’t even matter.
Whatever the case, I do appreciate that you believe in this course and are doing whatever you can to further it. Yes, you’ll make mistakes along the way, but I also do know that you’ll unlearn and get better at it.
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Hi. I love this article very much but a few things came up when my friends and I read and discussed it and would love your indulgence.
But I have a few questions,
1. What’s the wage gap between men and women in Kenya?
2. Isn’t make feminist just a weird word? Seeing as it’s the fight for equality and equity for lol genders isn’t everyone allowed a chance to participate?
3. Your defence of women who use men for their money and have expectations of their financial needs being met by a man in the name of economic disenfranchisement of women, isn’t it a bit off?
4. How should men who are well invested in feminism and actively engage in discussions about feminism go about it? Is there a right way? Is there an actual way?
I agree with most of the things she says though it’s very well written and thought out and Ive enjoyed that new perspective she brought up. Quite thought provoking.
Hi. Thank you for stopping by.
1. The last time I checked, women in Kenya are paid ksh.55 for every ksh.100 a man is paid. On average.
2. Male feminist in this post is used to specify the gender. It’s not an actual phrase. Obviously, everyone is allowed to believe and participate in the fight for equality. This post specifically interrogates male feminism which is necessary. All feminists have to interrogate their feminism because as I said, we’ve all internalised misogyny. If we don’t question ourselves, we’re a lot likely to uphold and perpetuate the oppressive structures we’re trying to dismantle. Men more so have to do this because they mostly benefit from the Patriarchy.
3.I didn’t defend these women. My point is male activists will ride on feminist concepts like toxic masculinity when it plays in their favour. Rarely, do they recognise other factors that lead to their supposed oppression.
4. There is no right way to Feminism. I believe there are as many feminisms as there are feminists. I can’t dictate somebody’s feminism. What I said is because of male privilege, men should ensure that their feminism isn’t at the expense of women’s pain. Privilege makes you want to centre yourself. Male feminists should ensure they aren’t doing that.
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Male feminists. The first time I encountered that was from “Brainstorm”- a Kenyan blog that had a male blogger who identified as such. And if I remember correctly, his sentiments on feminism weren’t directed to the ladies but rather to the male spaces he took part in and his role in trying to dismantle patriarchy.
And sincerely speaking, I think, for feminism to achieve its goal, which is to end the need for feminism in the first place, then men should be part of the struggle. Or rather, I think their input is necessary for equality within the genders to be achieved.
The only problem is that most men I’ve met after that blogger used their identity as feminists to earn brownie points. And at first I used to find men who identify as feminists sexy, until I also grew and now its a basic requirement to believe that i’m also a human being.
For me I think there are male feminists. Because how do you call men championing for dismantling of systems that are unfair to one gender?
But I also think 90 something % of the men who identify as feminist are actually just their misogyny behind that term. Its like the way men say they love cooking nowadays to earn some points.
That is kinda my point, male feminists aren’t really feminists. I do realise it’s partly because men are conditioned to despise everything Feminism is. I do believe men are essential in the fight for equality, but how do you make people conditioned to see you as less or not human to fight for your humanity? Because their misogyny always leaps out and it’s demoralising when the hated is coming from somebody who claims to get it.
I don’t know. We’re certainly at a roundabout, we just need to find where to get off.
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To be honest Clarie, I’ve been thinking of this recently. I do think men can be feminists and in actual fact men should be feminists. However, where I differ is that I don’t think men are coming to lead the revolution or speak on our behalf. What I feel is that they are going to use their priviledge to amplify what we have already said and they would use their financial priviledge too to help us push our causes.
I do know that to be sincere, men fuck up everything they get into so I totally get why women would be wary of male feminists. For me, I don’t care if a man calls himself a feminist, I would still view him as a man who can harm me until he continually proves himself normal.
It’s still something I’m thinking about but I do think it’s possible for men to truly be feminist allies. It would involve them unlearning their sexism, encouraging young men to unlearn theirs and acting as supporters of our cause. So basically they can but in the feminist movement, they take the backseat.
Oh btw, your blog has amazing content. Keep up the good work dear.
Angel Nduka-Nwosu: afrocentricmusings.wordpress.com
Thank you so much Angela:)
“So basically they can but in the feminist movement they take a back seat.”
I like that.