I recently stumbled across a post from Danny from adventures in cultural politics about a debate he and David from Lawyers, Guns and Money called Feminist men respond. The subject of “male feminists”/”pro-feminist men” is one that I consider to be a cause of mine, so my attempt at commentary blossomed into a full-blown article.
I don’t see the movement of feminism in general as a “woman only” space; I believe that any person, regardless of gender identity (male, female, or any shade of transgendered/genderqueer), should be able to call themselves a feminist as long as they strive for the social, economic, and political equality of all people. Of course, I also respect any person’s right to decide to choose their own labels.
The main reason why I see the movement as inclusive of more than just women is that feminism isn’t the fight against men, but rather the fight against patriarchy. The cycle of abuse and repression of women is linked to the belief in the validity of strict gender roles, which is just as, if not more so, strict for men as for women. By excluding men from the feminist movement, I believe that it harms the progress away from a masculine-normative society in which “masculinity” is good/normal, and “femininity” is bad/lesser. I also think that, only by actively engaging in the feminist community will men be able to see how the patriarchy affects them and those around them. If we as a society cannot or will not see how the system hurts us, then how can we bring about any changes?
Although the original debate is on a slightly different subject than what I’m focusing on, I’d just like to offer a different perspective on what Danny said:
For women who don’t identify as feminist, I think your identification is more likely to dilute the link of “women’s experience -> feminism” that has been a driving force behind its success as a political movement.
When I encounter people who don’t identify as feminist, I usually ask why. Everyone has a variety of answers, but most of them will include “the movement excludes men” as one of them. My argument doesn’t invalidate Danny’s, but it shows that linking feminism with “women’s” experience (and only women’s experience) can offend some people’s sense of equality. The “women’s experience -> feminism” model also has implications for transmen and transwomen, both of whom have much to offer the feminist community but who have been (and continue to be) shut out because of “women only” spaces that reek of transphobia. If feminism is for women, then where do the intersexed and transgendered communities fit in? And I don’t accept the notion that transmen “betrayed their gender” and transwomen are “spies for the patriarchy”, a view that sadly has been expressed by some feminists.
What it comes down to is that if we want equality for all, then it has to be fought for by all.