by Thomas Cookson
This is going to be about male feminists.
Some 12 years ago, I tried my hand at being a male feminist myself, so I understand the appeal of feminism to men. I was part of an online feminist community that was were very kind to me and gave me much emotional support.
Since then mainstream feminism has changed for the worse into something hostile I don’t recognise anymore and now wouldn’t go anywhere near. Feminism today is one of homicidal hashtags, anti-manspreading legislations and abusive twitter campaigns.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the number of people willing to call themselves feminists today has shrunken. Many believe gender equality has been more or less achieved, and they’re starting to see modern feminism turn frankly into an embarrassment and are now losing patience with their insane antics.
But it can be quite uncomfortable watching emasculated male youtubers who still maintain their zealotry to feminism and insist we should too. These men seem so consumed with male guilt and self-hatred, seeming almost brainwashed. It seems no-one can or will tell them that maybe the movement they’re in isn’t that healthy.
So why do men become drawn to feminism, and why are many of them still staying with a poisoned chalice?
Well I can only speak to my experience and the factors that drew me to feminism.
- I didn’t want to conform to a masculine macho role, and felt that joining feminism represented the best way to challenge and overcome that conformity.
- Since I’d experienced bullying and gang harassment from male peers, I could more readily buy the idea of ‘toxic masculinity’ and see other males as rampantly violent, predatory and evil.
- I felt I was failing to come across positively to women, believing that I’d present a better aura if I had a worthy womanist cause to follow and understood women better. I felt it was actually traditionalism and patriarchy that was the societal force keeping the genders segregated, dysfunctional and uncomfortable around each other, and that feminism understood the worst consequences of this and how to stop it.
- I believed feminism would in the long run teach me to be a better, more understanding boyfriend.
- I believed in honouring the women in my life, and working to help improve their lives.
- Acceptance. Feminists can be very welcoming to men who join their movement. Many feminist communities are inevitably man deserts, but we’re only human and there’ll be women who miss and welcome male company, especially if it comes with the promise of being understood (However in recent times male feminists have grown prominent enough that their presence is clearly becoming an annoyance, hence feminist blogs devoted to bashing them and reminding them of their subordination in their mean girls clique)
- I held the idea that feminism provided a road to self-improvement and becoming a better person, like pursuing sports, fitness regimes, religion or academia. Sometimes even when it was painful and defeating, it still appealed to that masochistic instinct.
Here’s what I think are the main problems of feminism for men.
- It rarely encourages men’s personal growth
- Your voice is inherently an inferior one. There’s less good you can advance and more unspoken minefields you have to watch for. You learn to measure your words rather than expand your philosophy.
- Good intentions are not taken for granted. You may think you’d fit easily into feminism. You’re clearly a decent person with a progressive outlook and believe that’s a good starting point. Sadly you might find feminism already considers you a bad apple until you prove otherwise. That’s your starting point. Female blunt honesty about men may seem refreshing, but really their view of men is usually one of distorted bigotry and not giving men a chance. Since they see sexism and bad intentions in everything, you might find it uphill work to convince them and even yourself that you aren’t sexist, or hope you can learn how to know and renounce your own unconscious sexism.
- There’s one prominent male feminist youtuber who introduced his wife in one video, and even after years’ marriage she still refuses to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not sexist. If he still hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt, he never will.
- Transparency is impossible. As you can imagine, presenting your best self in feminism is almost impossible. Your best self is almost never good enough. So you likely crumble into a grovelling state.
- But there’s a more sinister transformation that sometimes takes place. It’s not really a coincidence that some feminist women’s worst dating/relationship experiences were with self-proclaimed male feminists who turned out to be quite slimy, cavalier, controlling monsters. If speaking and behaving with transparency within the feminist movement is frowned upon, then you’re likely to think the best way to present well is to become a rather steely, manipulative, devious control freak.
- If you’re trying to rationalize the idea that feminism means equality, and you’re exposed to the cultish way feminism actually venerates women for being self-serving, impolite, unaccommodating and petty as empowering behaviour, then a downtrodden feminist man who’s wondering what’s in it for him might assume he needs to be equally inconsiderate and petty in order to get his.
- I could never escape a feeling with feminism that I was actually being drawn back to the Victorian era, with their tyranny of etiquette, repression of male sexuality. It all seemed about ensuring men know their place and speak when spoken to, and don’t speak to a female stranger they haven’t already been formerly introduced to. Perhaps feminism hasn’t really moved on from its Victorian era beginnings.
- Safe spaces and moral confusion. Feminism strongly caters to the view that the world’s a dangerous hostile place of violent, predatory men and harmful ideas and norms. But as with all safe spaces and fortresses, sometimes what you keep in is worse than what you keep out. Feminist ‘safe space’ don’t keep out ideas that are harmful to men. Infact it accumulates them. As a young man in feminism I quickly needed my own safe space within the safe space, but there wasn’t one.
- If Valerie Solanas’ misandrist ideas and murderous actions (she wrote The Scum Manifesto and tried to assassinate Any Warhol) are revered and considered a ‘safe’ part of a dangerous world, and if that kind of violent expression of rage and hate is acceptable, downplayed, and empathised with, then you’re getting into dangerously morally confused ideas about the world and people and what represents ‘safe’ people.
- Feminism has become an uncontrollable juggernaut with a never-ending goal to find sexism in everything. You may have noticed how feminist protests against the MRA are notoriously angry and belligerent.
After that I learned there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
So how can we make a better feminism for men?
Feminism needs to lose its filters, its skewed gendered lense, safe spaces, its rose-tinted view of its own shady history of bullying behaviour, and to finally understand the real world with clarity. Realities about our real world need to be spoken of, even if they might offend.
Opportunity Feminism by nature presents opportunities for men. Outcome feminism only offers them conclusive negative labels and dead ends.
Feminism’s always perhaps been a movement of ideologues who were useful for bringing about important changes, but always needed carefully watching to ensure they don’t become too powerful. Sadly no-one seems able to stop them enforcing their authoritarian madness anymore, yet simultaneously woman’s advocacy is still needed in areas where UK austerity cuts are now badly affecting availability of battered woman’s shelters and resources.
The main reason I want a better feminism is I still feel that I’ve got an old promise to keep to the feminist allies I’d once formed. I still want their suffered injustices to be righted. Egalitarian Feminism offers me a new chance to get back into the fight.