Many people, when they think of feminism or a “feminist”, imagine a woman practicing the work of feminism or fighting for women’s rights. However, feminism would fail to exist without men, and in different ways, can benefit from male contributions/interactions. Without the societal dominance of masculine culture, feminism would be faced with no challenges to overcome, or changes to work toward. In short, there would be no need for this social change movement if there was no need to change society–if all genders were equal or even if feminism was the dominant culture in society.
However, more times than not, men feel awkward or uncomfortable around the idea of feminism, or believe they do not have a place in it. Some men may even feel as though they represent the “enemy” of the feminist movement, and genuinely believe there is nothing they can do to help. But, to do the work of feminism as a man is not complex, but it is not simple either because it takes consistency and self-reflexivity. The first step a man can take toward experiencing feminism, is to recognize and accept the privileges they hold in society over women, both white and bipoc women. The second step would be to take this recognition of privilege into any and every social, workplace, or academic situation/environment. To do this is to bring self-reflexivity into each opportunity, conversation, or advantage a man encounters to ask themselves, “why was I chosen for this over anyone else?” or “why does the boss choose to talk to me and other male coworkers and not the female ones?”. By asking yourself these simple questions, you can open your mind to the small patriarchal details within male-female dynamics/interactions.
To demonstrate, I would provide insight to experiences of practicing feminism as a man or what it means to do so, but I cannot since I do not identify as a man. Therefore, I have provided a TedTalk by Henry Taylor on his own experiences, as well as why it is essential to have more male feminists.
For men to recognize their own privileges–especially white men–and to recognize the signals of patriarchy in society, provides a significant contribution to the feminist movement/work. The actions of feminism work to dismantle the patriarchal society we live in today, through bringing awareness and change to the everyday privileges (white) men hold over women in multiple different social systems. Consequently, male feminism can work to help other men in society and create a more understanding tone within society around gender, gender norms, and gender expectations. For instance, cultural expectations around masculinity can lead to harmful behaviors in men, whether they be harmful toward themselves or toward others. Therefore, if we have more men in society doing the work of feminism and challenging these gender norms/expectations, it can begin to create a more open and welcoming space for men to show vulnerability and/or emotions for the sake of their mental health.
It is important when practicing feminism, especially as an identified woman, not to discredit or ignore the experiences of men in the realm of feminism. When challenging any system, it is important to challenge every part of the system to increase efficiency because without specificity of goals, the credibility of the movement is damaged. Thus, when demonstrating feminism to those around you, remember not to exclude men from this group. Share your feminist experiences or thought processes with them, include them in the conversation and make them feel comfortable around feminism. This will contribute to decreasing the stigma men feel around feminism or around the concept of showing themselves off in society as a “feminist”.
To summarize: self-reflexivity is the foundational practice for men to begin their journey into a feminist mindset. This concept means to look inward in social situations and to discover the unique privileges and/or oppressions you have faced as a man, and what characteristics might have prompted these acts of privilege/oppression. Because, this practice can start to lead to beneficial contribution and changes toward feminism, as well as toward the mental/behavioral oppressions both white and bipoc men experience in society.