The clue’s in the name, right? Feminist, from the Latin femina, means woman. Right? Wrong.“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” Kramarae and Treichler famously said. So what is so radical about the idea that men can believe this is true? Feminism, in the broadest sense, is simply a statement that men and women should be viewed equally. This has branched out into Marxist and liberal feminism – the former emphasising formal, economic and social equality; the latter merely equality of moral worth.
The only branch of feminism which rejects any male involvement at all is the radical branch, which sees men as innately misogynistic. As a man, I would argue this is not the case. As a man, I believe in the emancipation of women, of equal rights for men and women, and for women to have equal material wealth to men.
This is not a radical notion – this is feminism.
However, through the patriarchal media (that run in the interests of men, to perpetuate the exploitation of women) and socio-economic structure, feminism has been viewed by many as purely this radical female-only branch. When someone says ‘I’m a feminist’, many automatically think that they want to kill all men and raise children in lesbian colonies in Oregon. This is nonsense.
It’s clear, therefore, that you can be a man and a feminist. Issues are complicated, however, when one tries to act on those convictions. Cis-men, trans-men and trans-women are often sidelined within the feminist movement for not being able to empathise with the oppression caused by patriarchy, and can be seen as part of the exploitative regime. This is also a product of the feminist movement being seen externally and internally as a radical feminist movement. The other more popular (and more realistic) factions are ignored and the radical ideas dominate.
A better, more effective strategy is to include and promote men (cis and trans) in the movement, in order to erode patriarchy from the inside. Simply by having women in positions of power (MPs, CEOs, editors-in-chief, etc.) is not enough when the whole system is geared towards the interests of men.
A further problem with getting women into traditionally male positions in society, some feminists have argued, is that these women become men and lose their ‘femininity’ somehow. This, I think, is farcical, as it rests on the assumptions that, firstly, there is a certain social character about women which makes them womanly. I would argue that this is a social construct, based on the traditional view of women as domestic slaves and dictated by biology. Secondly, this belief sets up the idea that to overcome oppression, one must become like one’s oppressor. This we see in parts of the socialist movement – the working class must climb the economic ladder to free their comrades from the shackles of capitalism. This is nonsensical, because to do so, one has to take part in the very oppressive system which one is fighting. Surely the best way to fight your oppressors and the oppressive system is to struggle against the system, not take part in it.
For men, patriarchy means that they are born into a position of social privilege. By taking part in the feminist movement, men abstract themselves from the patriarchy and abdicate their social advantage, not for noble, elitist motives (though radicals would say otherwise), but because it is self-evident to them that they are not superior and so should not present themselves as such. Feminism dictates that there is equality between the sexes, therefore men should be treated equally to women within the feminist movement, otherwise the movement is hypocritical – this hypocrisy then damages the movement as a whole.
Men, being equal to women, should have a place in the feminist movement. Simply being born into a position of social privilege doesn’t equate to being unable to fight the very system that put you there. That is why I’m fighting with my sisters against patriarchy.
For further examples of these Memes, or more information on Royal Holloway’s Feminist Society, visit www.rhul-fem-soc.blogspot.com/