I was on the phone one day with my friend Ben and somehow (I think he was the one who brought it up) we got on the topic of feminism. He asked my opinion on the topic, I said I supported it and gender equality, and then I asked what his position was…at which point he said he couldn’t identify as a feminist guy, because he was against the word itself. And, he said among other things, it didn’t mesh with his fundamental nature as a guy.
“I don’t understand why it’s called feminism. That excludes guys. Plus, feminism.” What he meant by the last part was “It has part of the word feminine in it, which implies that it’s female, and as a male I can’t support a movement that is ‘feminine’ because that threatens my status as a hot-blooded masculine dude. And supporting a feminine movement would basically imply that I’m feminine, too. So, like, no.” I know that’s what he meant at the heart of it, but he would never say that straight to my face. Mostly because he’s aware of how bad it sounds, but also because he knows my withering stare would crush his soul a little.
But I also know that the only reason he feels like his status as a guy would be threatened at all by his supporting feminism is because of the constructs of patriarchal society—not to sound all Social Justice Warrior-y, but it’s the truth. Guys are taught that showing open support for anything that doesn’t outright further male goals is wrong and weak and bad, and this way of thinking permeates the mind of every guy. It’s just how society is, even though we’re trying hard to change it. For instance: even though I’m trying to deprogram my mind from caring how my body looks and conforming to superficial standards, it’s difficult to completely erase that way of thinking after it’s been ingrained into me for so long. But I’m trying, and I’m making progress. Likewise, Ben and I had a long, in-depth talk about the facets of feminism and together we explored why he was hesitant about supporting it. We talked about why the word is “feminism” and not something else, like “meninism,” about different types of oppression, how it’s all perpetuated. Eventually we came to the conclusion that he’s all for gender equality, but can’t identify as a feminist—and that’s okay. His beliefs and his values are still in the ballpark of what could be classified as feminist, and when it comes down to it all he really is one…he’s just not comfortable with saying so.
Anyway, that was just something I wanted to get into the blogosphere for myself because it was an important experience for me, personally, and for my friend. It taught me a lot about my own beliefs—I guess in explaining my own thoughts to another person, I was able to more solidly define them for myself. It was interesting. I hardly ever talk about feminism with my friends, so this was unusual for me. I’ve always had my own stance on the subject (and a recent quick poll of my other close girl and guy friends shows that all but two of them share the same position), but before Ben called me that day I’d never really broached the topic with anyone in an actual discussion. So, in that sort of way, it was a learning and growing experience for both me and him. And I wish I’d done it sooner, but maybe it happened at just the right time.