I’m always a bit hesitant around men who claim the label of feminist – not because I think that men don’t benefit from feminism and the destruction of the patriarchy or that men can’t speak out against misogyny, racism, ableism, and inequality in general. And men do benefit from feminist work because often feminism calls for less rigidity in gender roles that can be hurtful to men, the end to domestic violence (of which men can be victims), among many other things.
But to be truly honest, the reason I’m a little tentative with male feminists is because in my own experience, men who claim the label seem to use that as a fallback and excuse for not being accountable for their problematic behavior. There have been men who’ve done problematic and awful things but their reputation has been saved in a way because their feminist work and identity.
Plus, in many cases, the men who are seen as feminist heroes and lauded as incredible people generally tend to do just the bare minimum of being a decent human. Or they were just saying the same thing that numerous women and other marginalized people have been repeatedly sharing with no applause or reward.
And I’m not the only one wary of these men – Janice Erlbaum said that:
Lately, there’s been a spate of “male feminists” posting at the BBs where I lurk. At first I saw them and I thought, great! I mean, I like feminists, and I like men, so you’d think I’d love this purported hybrid of the two. And yet, no, not so much, not so much at all.
As a matter of fact, it’s caused me to realize that most of the men I’ve personally known who have made a huge hairy point of identifying as feminists have been either date rapists, mom fetishists, porn addicts, or bear daddies inflicting their frustrated pseudopaternal tendencies on women. They are some of the most passive-aggressive, patronizing, out-dishing without it-taking twerps on the planet, and they are poisoning the women’s movement from the inside by sapping the hell out of everyone’s goddamn energy.
There have been several men who’ve been lauded as feminist heroes (or have claimed the label themselves) who are actually incredibly problematic but use feminism as a way to cop out from criticism. Just two examples of what I’m talking about including James Deen and Charles Clymer.
James Deen (aka Bryan Matthew Sevilla)
A couple weeks ago, the preformer Stoya came forward and tweeted about how her ex and fellow adult preformer had raped her during their relationship. This lead to others coming forward with similar allegations of abuse and assault from Sevilla – all of whom I believe fully and support. While he has never fully claimed the label of feminist, there have been many (especially his fans who are interestingly called deenagers) that have lauded him as a feminist icon, calling him dreamy and the boy next door. Lisa Marie Basile wrote about the crisis of media appointed feminist heroes, particularly in relation to James Deen, and articulated the dangers of appointed feminist heroes:
When someone is given the feminist seal of approval by the media, it can burrow itself into the psyche of readers and fans. It’s hard not to be excited about someone who doesn’t appear to denigrate women; we naturally want to celebrate them and make a public case in the hopes that it will influence others. However, it creates this idea that James Deen is a disappointment because he was deemed such a cool guy, not solely because he possibly committed a series of serious ethical crimes against women and humanity.
Charles Clymer is a feminist blogger and was the person behind a feminist page on Facebook called Equality for Women. Clymer, however, has frequently used his own position and platform as a feminist man to dole out abuse and harassment to numerous women, so much so that there’s an entire hashtag on Twitter about it. There have been many people to come forward and criticize Clymer:
- Notes on Charles Clymer
- When We Call Bad Guys Good – Dana Bolger
- Clyming the Walls of Feminism – A Critical Look at the Feminist Problem Part 1
- Make Me a Sammich tags on Clymer, including:
Ultimately though, we need to stop centering men in the conversations around feminism and realize that while feminist work does in fact benefit men in some ways, the focus and attention of feminist work should be about the people most harmed from society. Feminism is a movement made by women for women and we should be centering those voices more than anything. It is possible for men to be allies to the feminist movement but should in no way be given a feminist platform or large role to speak over the people (women) who benefit the most from a feminist movement.
Instead of taking up space in the feminist movement, men should take feminism to their own circles and amplify the voices of marginalized feminists. Rather than speak or write about the issues themselves (and ultimately mansplain), men should instead listen and share the experiences of women and other marginalized people. Men should be feminist allies and there are so many ways for them to act in support of gender equality and justice without centering themselves.