Let me just first say as a feminist that sexual objectification is always dubious, and also that I’m not promoting the idea that men adopt feminist rhetoric to get laid, but… do these men look cute in their t-shirts or what?
Good post at Wo! on men in the feminism movement (and credit to Wo! for the photo above), which I shouldn’t reduce to an exercise in objectification, that is really wrong, and you shouldn’t encourage me, that is also really wrong. The issue of where men fit into feminism has been discussed quite a bit lately in the blogosphere. Here are some places. Hoyden About Town on the motivations behind men supporting feminism, does it have to involve self-interest? I Blame the Patriarchy on this same issue. And here at Feminism 101 with a good round up of some blogs posting on ”but what about the men?”.
Sometime in the last month I also came across a relevant post at either Feministe or Feministing and I can’t for the life of me find it now but then I am searching for it in between tending to my daughter with her stomach bug, so if you’re a regular reader of these blogs and you know which post I’m referring to then please tell me. (Maybe I dreamt it).
Anyway, from memory the post had a lot of comments debating whether if feminism is about equality can men lead the feminist movement. Equal opportunity and all that. So for example, some men in their comments were advocating men heading up the National Organisation for Women and Ms. Magazine. Yes really. I was a little surprised that a group of feminists were being so reasonable about such a ridiculous question. I do think there is a place for men in feminism, a very important place; men have a lot to offer the movement, in fact they can bring some things that women can’t bring to the movement (like the power of men confronting other men over their sexist behaviour).. and they do have a lot to personally gain from loosening the grip of the patriarchy on all of us even if you don’t count the pleasure of seeing life improve for their mothers and sisters and daughters and girlfriends. But I think it is a real symptom of socialized female behaviour that some feminists feel we have to be inclusive and non-threatening at all times, to the point of entertaining the idea that men could and should have an opportunity to lead the feminist movement.
Maybe its also a bit about heterosexuality, those of us of this persuasion don’t want to deter feminist men because they’re our favourite kind of men, and maybe some of us also want their approval? I can find radical lesbian feminist commentaries a little difficult at times, the issues are all very black and white in their discussions but for me areas involving men can be tinged with grey and I need to do a little more work to sort through it and reconcile it with my feminism. (This might especially be the case for feminist mothers raising sons?) But there is a certain clarity that radical lesbian feminists can provide, free as they are of the continual need to make peace with the males of the species. This discussion about whether men can lead the feminist movement badly needed some of the wry wit and lets-cut-the-crap logic of those lovely radical lesbian feminists. If I’d spent a bit more time visiting that post then I could have made the comment myself, or at least remembered the post better for reference here.
I’ve seen a lot of interest recently in feminism from men (including the possibility of forming a feminist fathers’ group – oh the utopian visions this inspires in me), and none of these men have raised the idea with me of them having more opportunity for leadership. Though I haven’t discussed it personally with men I think I can understand where this notion is coming from, in part from a lack of understanding of male privilege and in part from an urgent desire in women not to have conflict. But feminists, there is something equally as or more damaging than conflict to a movement, there is dilution. I can support civil rights movements, know that I gain from their empowerment, feel solidarity with them, and still not have to be in charge of their movement to feel a part of it. To want anything else for me is the very definition of white privilege and entitlement. Whatever personal definition you have of feminism, women are central to it and I think a first step in feminism is getting comfortable with that priority.