Can Men be Feminists? : The Ongoing Debate

“We should be allies in the fight for equality.”

Most probably you have heard this sentence from a man who call himself a feminist or pro-feminist. But can men be feminists, can everyone who support the idea of women’s rights call themselves feminists? Are there certain criteria that have to be met before people get this label?

No Men Entry: Feminism is for women by Women

On the one hand, there is a stream of thought arguing against male intervention to empower women’s rights, preferring them to take back seats while watching women fighting for their own rights. Amongst the reasons for such a thought is that men are already convinced that women’s economic empowerment is threatening to their own existence in the workplace, so that they already subscribe to the idea of women as “the other” and will not alter their perspective to protect women’s rights because this is part of the male’s consciousness of women.

This idea is popular amongst feminists who believe that men should ‘shut up and sit’ because they are already the superior sex in our patriarchal system, and they can’t remove themselves from their power and privilege in relation to women; so it’s not logical to “mansplain” the women’s long fight.

Amongst other reasons for such male alienation in the process of women’s liberation is the fact that female feminists believe that they should take full responsibility and assume their pride in setting their own rights, as well as, sharing their own miserable experiences of misogyny and inequality ‘in a men’s world’. They do believe that feminism should be a women’s only field and battleground.

In her article, in the Newsweek “Bindell” argues strongly against male intervention, stating that it “was their world already, so we should stop it being all about them”. She says that the whole point is that feminism should be against men’s superiority, so ‘it is high time to remove the shackles of patriarchy” as the writer concedes. Interestingly, the writer even states that all men who vote for women’s rights offer no more than just subscribing to the idea but they do not contribute practically to the progress of the feminist movement in any shape or form.

HeForShe: Men must fight for women’s rights

This stream of solidarity is recent in the field of feminism and is led by institutional bodies such as the United Nations. This thought argues that men should stand for women’s rights, even branding such men as ‘male feminists’. For example, in 2014, the UN Women launched a campaign called “Heforshe”, which is a solidarity movement calling for men to halt the waves of gender inequality around the globe in all life aspects; politically, economically and socially. On the website of the campaign, high profile men subscribed to the campaign’s idea such as the former US president Barack Obama, and the actors Matt Demon, George Clooney. Moreover, the belief that men should empower the other sex is shared across international bodies such as the OECD, the UN, and the World Bank for being a human right, rather than being a woman right. For example, the United Nations encourage men to stand up against the structural barriers for women in the workplace by setting a certain quota for women on board.

Also, the UN secretary general “Antonio Guterre” stated in the UN commission opening in 2017, that “male chauvinism does not only block women’s opportunities in the society, but it hurts everyone”, so that men should open the door for women “in military ranks and at peace talks” for a thriving life for both sexes. Therefore, from such a stance, feminists call for men to engage in the process of women empowerment in order to benefit the community as a whole by which both sexes are its residents. This thought also promotes the idea of the ‘whole’ humanity instead of ‘the otherness’ concept which divides both sexes, as it believes that men are also affected once women are deprived of their rights.

The Supporters of this idea see that pro-feminist men have been active in challenging male behavior and attitudes, and are standing up against sexism, sexual and domestic violence, and it’s a mandatory to implant the feminism concept in men since their childhood.

It’s a choice

 “Can men be feminists?” will remain one of the most controversial questions, and each of us will have full freedom to choose the correct answer according to his or her conviction, but the most important fact is how men – whether  got the label or not – apply feminism in their everyday life. Does this man talk about equality, then go home and beat his wife, or does he call himself a feminist, but prefer to appoint men in his company, does he condemn sexism, and at the same time prevent his daughter from working in a male-dominated field?

Dina Ayman

A Researcher and Writer at Wlaha Wogoh Okhra

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