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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