Stop alienating men from feminism

Daniel Pryor May 11, 2014 6
Stop alienating men from feminism

Daniel Pryor argues that men’s cynical view of feminism is partly due to confrontational rhetoric.

I describe myself as a libertarian feminist (or feminist ally, if one prefers the term). I hold the view that structural oppression of women exists across the world, and that the state reinforces this oppression. I believe that free markets have, in the words of Camille Paglia, “enabled the emancipation of women” to a significant extent. It is part of the reason that I campaign for open borders. Reducing the size of the patriarchal, leviathan state isn’t the end of the feminist story, but it’s certainly a necessary chapter.

This is my position. It could have been very different. My early encounters with feminists were, unfortunately, characterised by aggressive and confrontational rhetoric. “All men are oppressors” was perhaps the most common statement of this ilk. The wall of aggression and confrontation that I was met with when I began to discuss feminism in detail almost caused me to write off the usefulness of the movement entirely.

My early encounters with feminists were, unfortunately, characterised by aggressive and confrontational rhetoric.

Countless other men share this experience. Some look past the understandable anger of certain feminists. Many do not. As Laurie Penny puts it: “it is still hard to talk to men about sexism without meeting a wall of defensiveness that shades into outright hostility”. In the same article, she asks men to check their privilege and try to appreciate that feminists have a lot to be angry about. Ms Penny is right: but curbing our emotional reactions should not be the sole preserve of men. The way to breed a new generation of anti-feminist men’s’ rights activists – blind to women’s’ issues that are of far greater magnitude – is to knowingly enrage those who are encountering feminism for the first time. There are more effective, inoffensive ways of explaining the value of feminism than “you are a sexist”. Men and women alike are being alienated from a worthwhile, radical cause.

Men; the women and girls in your life have to put up with sexism on a near-constant basis. This may or may not be surprising. Either way, it’s worth reading the stories posted on the Everyday Sexism Project in order to properly internalise this fact. In this country and further afield, female genital mutilation (FGM) has marred the lives of approximately 100-140 million women worldwide. State regulation prevents employers from effectively bridging the gender pay gap. There are innumerable good reasons for men to be feminists (or feminist allies).

There are innumerable good reasons for men to be feminists (or feminist allies).

It is worth thanking the feminists I have encountered who have helped me to ‘see the light’ without resorting to calling me a sexist or oppressor by default: Cathy Reisenwitz, fellow Backbencher writer Lizzie Roberts and Roderick Long to name a few. Just as I would ask non-feminists to be more mindful of the reasons behind confrontational feminist rhetoric, I would also ask feminists to stop shooting themselves in the foot with bullets of vitriol.

A certain member of a severely oppressed group told us that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend”. That person was Martin Luther King. I am not lecturing women to be ‘polite’ because I want to please men for the sake of it. I am arguing that there are better ways of convincing men that feminism is worthwhile than insulting them. Feminism has an undeservedly poor reputation. To give it the positive reputation it deserves amongst its critics requires restraint.

This article is – sadly – guaranteed to cause short-term offence to many feminists. I have faith that this will be outweighed by those who adjust their mode of discourse: helping to bring more enlightened men into the feminist movement that has done so much good in the past, and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

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  • a person from dff

    but you are a sexist though so lol

    • Embarrassed feminist

      CASE IN POINT. Please find that switch in your brain labelled ‘inane need to respond to any challenge with a sarcastic, aggressive remark’ and switch it to ‘off’. Please.

  • positive action please!

    This is bad journalism. You joined a facebook group, made comments that are sure to get an angry response and then write an article stating that feminism is doomed to failure as all feminist are too aggressive.

    Have to point out that around half of my feminist friends are men. why? because i work on the edges of a sector that is heavily male dominated (computer science) and many of the men who I work with see this as a problem and seek to change the balance.

    how do they go about this? by trying to create more opportunities for women to engage in their circles and by calling out men who act in a sexist way and suggesting that they change their behaviour.

    how do they NOT go about this? they do not criticise the women around them for being angry at the structural oppression that has left them as a minority group in CS.

    I agree that the only way that feminism can succeed is by getting men onside, but this requires men to change not women, and heavily criticising feminists for their anger at oppression does not help anyone.

    • Marchear

      “[...] but this requires men to change not women, and heavily criticizing feminists for their anger at oppression does not help anyone.”

      Sorry, I will have to disagree with the way that is worded. It is my firm belief that the only, one and only person you can hold accountable for how a situation rolls out is yourself. That means that if you’re unhappy about a situation, you should look into what YOU can do to change things, not what others can do. Both women and men will have to change if we want things to move forward.

      Mind you, this does not mean that women should be blaming themselves, does not mean that anyone should be blaming themselves for what their current situation. The ideology I bring forth is NOT about victim blaming, saying that people have brought their own misery upon them. But I am saying each person is their own saviour, that you can’t help anyone, you can’t do something for someone else. Each person has to make their own path, you can never sit around and expect others to do the changing for you. If you change yourself, people will change in reaction to you.

      Refusing to acknowledge others’ humanity because they are considered oppressors, refusing to see that many of these men, many of these people are simply consequences of their environment and victims of their fate until they’ve been empowered to recognize their potential for change, is a lack of goodwill. Saying that you shouldn’t respect and recognize others because they won’t recognize you, that you won’t change because they don’t want to change first, is that not something we consider childish?

      I believe everyone should be more accepting of themselves, of their flaws, of the missteps they have taken in life, that they should stop considering every mistake and missed attempt as a failure but rather as a necessarily step on the path to something greater. And once you realize your own fallibility, your own weakness and fragility, once you realize how hard it is to even change yourself in the things that are most important to you, how can you stay so critical of others? Maybe we are all just lost, and we are much more likely to turn to a figure that inspires us rather than a voice that shouts us down because we learned a different lesson from life.

      Sorry if I seem patronizing in my discourse. This is just the truth I’ve discovered for myself, and I believe very much in it. I try to stick to actions rather than words most of the time, but sometimes I just see myself surrounded by this sea of people who constantly yell at each other and I just have to blurt it out. “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.” “Battle not monsters, lest you become one yourself.”

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  • male feminist.

    Whether the journalist used corrupt methods or not, I have experienced a lot of grief from feminists just for being male. I understand that there is good reason to be angry. I understand that anger is much harder to control then to release. But as a man who is a feminist I can understand why a man would be deterred from feminism when they are immediately treated differently for being a man. Isn’t that the very reason there is a feminist movement to begin with? Being treated differently because of your gender? All I am saying is take some time to get to know someone before you decide they are an enemy. You don’t have to be nice. You just have to not be a hypocrite. Even as a feminist and even stating that I am I have troubles allying with a cause so full of people that hate me for something I didn’t pick. On the other side of the coin, men in many cases could probably do well to swallow their pride. Not every anti male statement is meant as a generalization against all men. They are often times worded that way but in my experience they are rarely meant that way.

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