DEBATE: "Can men be feminists?"
Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...
You can’t be a feminist unless you have a vagina.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of sexual equality.” Yet this does not mean everyone who supports women’s rights can be called a feminist.
As much as some males may proclaim, men will never understand women. They will never have to experience life as a woman and everything that being the ‘fairer’ sex entails. I am in no way confessing to be an ardent feminist. However I, as a rational woman, am a supporter of the feminist movement.
I was recently told by a male feminist that he was more of a woman than I am because he is a feminist. Now, although I understand that this was a humorous throw away comment, his statement made me question myself and my validity as a woman. I later realised that his comment only reinforced his male, sexist behaviour by claiming to be more of a woman than me thereby exaggerating the male, dominant, all-powerful stereotype enforced on us by society.
Not all women need to be ballsy and confrontational with their feminist ideals. This isn’t a natural feminine trait, just one that is pushed on women, trying to bring attention to their cause, in a patriarchal and aggressive society.
Men always seem to find a way to make it about them. It is delusional for them to believe that purely because they understand the negative ways in which society affects women they can therefore declare themselves a feminist.
I do not need a man to dictate to me how to be a feminist – or even worse a woman. Feminism is about seeking the end to the oppression of women and I, for one, do not want to achieve this on men’s terms, whether they claim to be feminist or not.
It is not merely true that men can be feminists - they all should be feminists. How can you change society without changing the attitudes of men? I consider myself a feminist and I see no reason why this has to be a problem.
I recognise the exploitation and harassment that women face at the hands of men and I find it repulsive. All men are capable of recognising it - just because the majority don’t, doesn’t mean that they are incapable.
There are plenty of men who don’t want to dismiss sexual harassment as “banter” or “boys being boys.” Plenty of men are uncomfortable at sexually aggressive humour and casual misogyny. But the way society has structured itself restricts men’s thought pattern in this sense as well. For too many men, the boundaries between genders must be enforced.
But feminism strives for male liberation, too - the great myth for men about women’s liberation is that it will somehow result in the marginalisation of men in society. This is nonsense - by allowing women the freedom to choose their paths in life without any preconditioning based on their gender, men will have the same liberty.
Men are not allowed to assume certain gender roles - the laws on paid maternity leave are not equal in the UK; fathers are not allowed to be with their children to the same extent as mothers. This is again an example of sexist gender roles, which feminism strives against.
You don’t have to be a woman to hate patriarchy. It’s simply inarguable that women are underpaid, undervalued and exploited. Forty years after the Equal Pay Act, women working full-time in the UK are still paid on average 14.9 % less per hour than men. The media still objectifies and patronises women.
There is no reason that men cannot comprehend and be appalled by this. We all need to change our attitudes and men need to be as much part of that campaign as women.
The 'Head to Head' column is by the London 360 reporters. To find out more about what our reporters are up to go to communitychannel.org/london360 WE ARE LONDON!