When did Feminism Become all about Women?

Thursday, December 19, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

I recently discovered that I am not  a feminist.  Imagine my surprise.   I mean, I know that the last time I  checked, probably some time pre-marriage, that I was one.  Now, a few years later, I keep running into the term "feminist ally."  I'm an ally now, but I'm not sure this change is for the better.
I realize this picture only loosely fits this piece, but I just friggin love it.
Let's start here.  I'm a guy.  And as a guy, my voice in just doesn't matter as much when it comes to defining what women need.  I'm actually great with that -- so much less pressure.  I also understand that having women-only spaces is not only ok, it's super important.  Once you realize that male-onlyness is so built into our society, that guys don't even need intentionality to achieve this type of camaraderie, you see the necessity of its creation.  Until you walk past a bar and say to your friend, "nah, man, that bars just full a ladies," and then walk on by uninterested. Intentionally female spaces are an imperative.

But considering that my underlying belief that each gender, including the trans community, is equal in my eyes,  I have to wonder if the additional buffer space created by pushing men outside the category of feminist and into a new classification of "male ally"does much for the cause itself.

I've mentioned before on this blog how critical men are to equality.  And while it may pain some people to give men any additional power when it comes to women's issues, the length of the fight for gender equality can only be truncated be the addition of male voices as well.  That is the safe answer, and one that rings true for the logical part of my brain, but not for my heart brain.

My heart brain says that pushing men outside of feminism illustrates a fundamental misunderstand the battle.  Leaving aside the irony of equality having some innate gendered element which prevents all people from moving towards it in the same way: "Our idea of equality between women and men is more important than your idea of equality between men and women!"  'Male allies' to me sends the message that feminism is by women for women, and that's just plain untrue.

In one blog post I read, defending the male feminist, the female author decried, "But, in spite of that, male feminists do tend to rub some women the wrong way. Which seems odd, because they’re obviously trying! They are making an effort to be friendly about women’s issues!" 

Feminism, to me, is more than just "women's issues." Everyone stands to gain from gender equality.  Men and women.  And while it may be difficult to convince those with the power advantage now that their long term happiness is intertwined with a more equitable division of power, the research bares it out.

For example, in my own dissertation work, we found that wives' perceptions of fairness (not equality mind you) regarding the completion of household chores not only predicted their own happiness, but also that of their husbands.  In other words, when the wife felt the housework was distributed fairly, both partners were more satisfied in the marriage.  And that really is just the tip of the equality iceberg.
I honestly love this as "a look"
I lied to you at the beginning of this piece.  I'm still a feminist.  And I admit that I do it selfishly.  I don't promote gender equality to make my wife my equal -- she already is.  I don't preach the feminist doctrine to ingratiate myself with the women around me, because they both wouldn't be impressed and it isn't really my point of view.  Feminism is an ideal. One of the few ideals we could actual reach as a country in some not-too-nutso (and sadly not-too-soon) of a utopian future.  I'm still a feminist because I won't let anyone negate my struggle towards an ideal. Ally or not, you can't take away the hope that drives me to work for an even slightly better tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Wait wait wait...."But, in spite of that, male feminists do tend to rub some women the wrong way. Which seems odd, because they’re obviously trying! They are making an effort to be friendly about women’s issues!"

    I didn't realize that it was such HARD WORK for men to be feminists. I should probably be sure to express my appreciation for their efforts to be friendly about women's issues. You know, instead of just expecting that people should be feminists since it's a human issue.

    I'm with you on the problems of "feminist ally". Can't we all be feminists?

    P.S. Love you, love this post.