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The Male Feminist

The Male Feminist

male feminism

 

In a society where being a feminist is still often scoffed at Henry Mendoza offers us the reasoning behind identifying himself as a male feminist.  

“I’m not a feminist. I just believe in equal rights.”

I thought I knew how I’d write this article. I had it sussed. I’d start with the statement above, then in my unfailingly charming, witty, (and incredibly modest) way, explain how it’s a contradiction in terms. That feminism is, by definition, belief in equality of the sexes.

But then something happened.

The statement at the top (or words to that effect) is one that used to leave my lips whenever I discussed feminism. I’ve only considered myself as a feminist for a short time in the grand scheme of things – little less than a year.

This was down to a lack of understanding as to what the term actually means; to misconceptions based on the more vocal and radical side of the modern movement. To not fully appreciating it’s relevance in today’s society.

I’ve since rectified this, and now identify as a feminist.

But in all that time, I’ve never been as sure of my convictions as I was today.

I was having lunch with my Mum, in the city. I’m a first year and I’ve not been at University long. But I’ve not seen my Mum in three-and-a-half weeks – probably the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing her.

Mum had journeyed from London to Canterbury, and we were having a lovely lunch, catching up.

Then Mum went to the toilet. A sweet-looking old lady who’d been sitting at the table next to us with her husband started talking to me. Asking me questions. Was I a student? etc…she seemed pleasant enough.

Mum returned and the woman chatted to us both. We learned a bit about her background and political interests and she asked if I was a member of the Labour Party. Fairly interesting stuff. After a while me and my Mum exchanged slightly irritated looks when she wasn’t looking (we wanted to get back to catching up), but it was just a minor nuisance.

Then the conversation changed. The woman remarked that I was ‘quite handsome’. I’m rather unused to hearing such a compliment, and found it quite flattering – as one does when an old person compliments you on your looks. They don’t mean anything by it – just a passing comment.

But it didn’t stop there. I won’t go into details, but it passed complementary and had started to get a bit forward. The “if I was younger”s started to sound less jokey.

Later, she returned from paying her bill…and grabbed my head. Turning my head towards her, to kiss me. This had gone far enough. Her husband – and my Mum – were sat right there! Mum was visibly agitated.

“No thank you…” I said.

“Was only a joke!” she laughed – but still didn’t let go. She was still inches away from my face.

“Nevertheless, it makes me uncomfortable,” I replied. After repeating myself and Mum reiterating it, she backed off, and finally left.

That was the first time something like that’s happened to me, and I’m still a bit shaken up by it.

Then something occurred to me: there are women who have to deal with this kind of harassment every day.

I knew this. My closest friends have regaled me with stories of being harassed and these were instrumental in my identifying as a feminist.

But you never truly understand it until it happens to you.

Feminism is about equal rights between the sexes. Not just in employment, but in everything. And no person, male or female should have to go through being harassed, abused, or objectified. Simple as.

That is why I call myself a feminist. I don’t want to live in a society where that is acceptable. Where victims are blamed, or accused of ‘asking for it’.

And neither should you.

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5 Comments

  1. I would hope then, that if you follow the ideals of feminism, you abhor those (especially women) who try to push feminism as meaning “women for all… Men have suppressed us therefore they are all terrible people… and well I’m a woman so I should get the job, as pay back for all the men!” – I would also hope that you would look at both sides of this painfully biased coin, that women (as you experienced yourself) do this to men just as much as men do it to women – an example of public-media based is the old Diet Coke Cola advert, a man is mowing grass in a public park, a group of women decide they want to see him shirtless so throw a can down the hill – he picks it up, gets drenched and takes his shirt off (btw rather unsurprising they chose him as a toned, young man not the more likely middle aged chunkier fellow) and they all wooh – if this was a woman there would be outrage as many would (perhaps rightfully) see it as merely exploiting the person’s looks and nothing more – yet according to most if not all, and certainly those among the feminist community as harmless fun. This is the bias that men (yes you read that right) have to rail against on a daily basis, and one that many male/female supporters of the feminist movement use to their advantage.

    Reply
    • “Women… do this to men as much as men do it to women.”

      Really? OK, good-looking men with tops off and women drooling = gendered stereotypes, archetypically ‘masculine’ ideal, true. But I think it’s really disingenuous to say that this can be equated to the structural inequalities women face in terms of pay, opportunity and even on a more personal level to the way women are everyday silenced, objectified, parodied and cruelly misrepresented.

      You mentioned TV representation.

      How about all the other TV shows that privilege men? Where the narrative is wholly centred around self-actualising and respected men. Suits, Luther, House, House of Cards. The representation is developed, it is not without its problems but there is scope – there is definitely the problematic notion of masculinity, but there are other available narratives to choose from. Whereas women are consistently, with only a few exemptions, subject to this painful hoe-housewife paradigm. Rarely are women given agency, rather their presence is usually stereotypical and peripheral to the storyline. Where are our fabulous female leads?

      What you’ve described is interesting, but the two cannot be equated.

      Reply
  2. I can’t understand your reasoning for being a feminist. You got sexually harassed by a women so now you support a movement to give women equal rights to men? Doesn’t your anecdote just highlight how outdated and ignorant feminism as a concept is?

    Reply
    • Hello Chris. I notice you have recently written your own article on the topic of feminism for InQuire, which seems to be getting quite the response!

      It will come as no surprise to you, I’m sure, that I do not share all of your views on the topic or all of the points raised in your article – however you do make interesting points about all-female shortlists and how the more radical side of the feminist movement does alienate people somewhat.

      Nevertheless, I notice from your responses to comments on your own article that you have found it increasingly frustrating when people have commented without, it seems, having properly read the article.

      Forgive me, but after the comment you made here on my article I can’t help seeing that as a tad ironic. Your comment implies that I identify as a feminist because I was sexually harassed – that is not what I said.

      The statement I made near the beginning of the article is that I have identified as a feminist for little less than a year – but that in all that time, I have never been as sure of my conviction ‘as I was today’ (the day I wrote the article).
      I also mention towards the end of the article that my closest friends recounting stories to me of being harassed were instrumental in my identifying as a feminist. Not my own experience – there’s.

      At no point do I claim that I am a feminist because of what happened to me – though I can understand that were one to skim-read this article that might be the idea they got.
      But as a budding journalist/writer yourself, and as seems evident from your responses to comments on your own article, I’m sure you appreciate I would prefer people to properly read and understand something I’ve written before commenting. I apologise if I could’ve made this aspect of my article clearer, but as a writer yourself then you will also appreciate that sometimes 600-or-so words is an difficult constraint to work within for a subject you feel passionate about, and like you, I am still learning! 🙂

      Reply
  3. As for whether or not feminism is an outdated movement, and whether or not my anecdote highlights this, I believe the answer is ‘no’ on both counts.

    Feminism is about equality of the sexes – if both sexes deserve to be equal, then a man has as much right not to be sexually harassed as a woman does. I believed this anyway, but as I say, what happened to me brought a greater degree of understanding on my part – I no longer believe this simply from the perspective of someone who thinks it is wrong, but as someone who has experienced sexual harassment themselves.

    I am also aware, however, that despite being a victim of such harassment, I do not have to deal it on a daily or weekly basis – most women, on the other hand, do. And if I found that one instance traumatising then what is it like for women who have to deal with it far more frequently? If feminism has a particular focus on women with regard to equality of the sexes it’s because they have a rougher time of it than most on that front.

    It doesn’t mean that feminism is not also concerned with the plight of men who are also victims of our somewhat patriarchal society. I appreciate that the more radical side of the feminist movement might imply otherwise, and that the HeForShe website doesn’t make this as clear as it could – but Emma Watson’s speech does, and the HeForShe website does say it’s a movement that ‘brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all’ – not just for women, but for all of humanity.

    I believe in equality of the sexes, and I call myself a feminist for that reason. I don’t believe that a more radical side of that movement should tarnish its original intentions, any more than I believe the Ku Klux Klan should tarnish Christianity’s (for example).

    Reply

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