Hey fellas. So, if you are like me and you believe in equality then you, too, are a feminist! I know right, kind of a crazy concept but it’s true. Now I will admit that in order to be an effective feminist, there is just a bit more you need to do. With my final article of the semester, I thought it would be nice to give some insight and some tips as to how you should behave as a male feminist.
- Be ready to do a lot of listening
I want you to think about all the women who are denied a chance to speak by men around the world. These women include, but are not limited to women who are survivors of sexual abuse, women of color, trans and queer women, and sex workers. Don’t they deserve a chance to be heard? Wouldn’t you like to be the person to give them that chance? It seems simple, but it is so important. A huge part of being an ally is being prepared to listen to marginalized womens’ stories, and trust me, there are a lot of them.
- Don’t expect anyone to praise you for being a feminist
This is something a lot of men will struggle with, and with good reason. Men have come from a position of total privilege; where our ideas and opinions are automatically given weight by virtue of our gender. You might not even realize this, but your maleness gives you huge advantages out there in the real world.
- Don’t talk over women
Most men love to do this more than anything else so this one is going to be tough, but you need to learn to bite your tongue. Women are glad that you are along for the ride, but you have to learn that you do not get to take center stage. That space is reserved for women with real lived experiences to share. If you find yourself with the urge to talk over a woman who is sharing her story, just…don’t. I am not saying you are not allowed to speak. I am only saying you have to wait your turn.
- Don’t stay silent when you see sexism in action.
Buckle up guys, it’s time to get real. Your buddies all tell rape jokes. They make you feel awkward, but you do not say anything because you do not want to be a feminist killjoy…the one who kills the buzz, the one who is the PC Police all the time. You smile awkwardly when your friend tells women to make him a sandwich, even though you think it is not really that funny, and you let yourself be drawn into discussions that degrade women even though that’s not your intent.
Yeah, that needs to stop.
Call out sexism when you see it. Tell your buddies those rape jokes are not cool. Roll your eyes at your friend’s sandwich jokes and tell him he’s being an ass. When you witness street harassment, step up and say something. Be the guy who doesn’t let other guys talk shit about women behind their backs.
- Don’t give up
It will be hard, I promise. You will be forced to re-evaluate almost everything you have ever known about women and feminism. You will learn about experiences that are totally alien to you. You will probably be taken down a peg or two when you mess up (don’t worry, we all mess up). You may even be wondering if it is worth it, and I promise you it is.
This stuff is not some kind of abstract academic debate. This is about the way 50% of the world is forced to live because of a system that regards them as second-class citizens.
Feminism is important work. It is hard, it is messy, and it is often thankless, but it is also very, very necessary. It is necessary because when we do not do this work, people suffer. It is important to note that it is not just women who are affected, it is every man ever criticized for choosing to stay at home with his kids, every man who likes crafts more than sports, every man who has ever cried in public, every man who is not arrogant and self-assured enough to bluff his way through life as though he owns everything he sees.
You might even be one of those men. If you are, this is not just about women; this is about you. This is about a world in which we can all be free to express our genders however we like without facing judgement or discrimination for simply being who we are.
I would love to see that world. I am sure you do, too. So, welcome aboard, friend. I am glad you have decided to join us. Let’s save the world together.