When, as a man, can I be simultaneously considered a feminist and able to call myself one?
Do I decide if I’ve crossed this threshold on my own?
Could I be a feminist without applying the word openly toward myself?
Do I need the permission of a woman to give myself the title?
Must it be a specific woman, since so many women don’t identify as feminists themselves?
To begin with, a caveat; I’m a guy. I say “guy” because I often smell bad (“manfunk” is my wife’s term), and I get excited by childish things like video games, toys, and explosions in movies. In an effort to compensate for my insecurities, I spend money I don’t have and brag about things I never actually intend to accomplish. While some of these traits can be shared by women (who doesn’t love Legos?), when these traits are combined, I am a fairly typical guy.
Now, I feel that men and women are 100% equal. I see physical differences, and some people assert mental and emotional differences, but in the end, I suspect everyone just wants to be treated well and succeed at what they wish to do. I’m not a physiologist or a psychologist. I’m just a guy.
This might seem simple in that, given my observations in life, it is abundantly clear that men and women are 100% equal in every task and intention. Why not call myself a feminist?
: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests
Seems simple enough. Boom! I am feminist—hear me ROAR! But I’m so scared to call myself the word. Why?
My hesitation is multifaceted and seems to stem from multiple sources involving the personal and the geopolitical. Let’s run down the reasons:
Reason One: Sexual Identity of Previous Generations
Mom and Dad knew exactly where their place was expected to be, and any anxiety regarding their adult lives often had easier solutions than my generation.
Not sure what you are going to do with yourself, sir? Get a job, stay in the company, golf, and be as white as possible during your climb up the ladder. While this isn’t true for most men even back in the 50s and 60s, it was the anticipated norm and the desired goal of so many. There wasn’t a lot of manly self-doubt when all the men were running in the same direction. Just follow the crowd and outrun enough people to consider yourself a success.
While this worked great for my grandfather and father, the rigid nature of gender norms has gradually (and perhaps in recent years, rapidly) disintegrated, leaving me without the comfort of being told what to expect and strive for. After college, the pressure just wasn’t there. And it was terrifying. A guy like myself adores being told what to do and when to do it. It’s why we join the military.
How does this connect with my hesitation of calling myself a feminist? If I do that, I am throwing another pile of dirt on the vestigial gender role system that I so deeply desire to guide me.
Reason Two: I’m a Horny Bastard
My wife is hot. She’s so hot, and there are certain tricks up her sleeve, that when she wiggles her hips a certain way, my IQ plummets to that of algae. I can go from high-brow discussions of Revolutionary War tribunals to managing the word “bewbs” at best. Admittedly, it isn’t just my wife. Essentially anything human without a Y chromosome can do this to me.
And perhaps Lee Pace. I’m not sure. There are complicated feelings there.
So I obsess over women’s bodies and sexuality. I objectify and run in circles and metaphorically howl just like one would expect of a guy. How dare I call myself a feminist? I find high heels insanely sexy, and if ever there was something specifically designed to physically torment a woman, it was high heels!
Reason Three: I Can’t Pretend to Know How Women Feel
This is hardly limited to women. I can’t pretend to know how anyone of a different race or of a specific culture or background feels. The last thing the world needs is another white guy spouting off about black culture, Muslim equality, the poor, or, worst of all, reproduction. I refuse to be a coffeehouse general, brandishing his education while fixing the world over a latte alpha kappa chino.
I don’t get how a woman feels or what she is going through on an internal level. I was not raised the same way, and I can’t fathom the benchmarks she has experienced getting to where she is today. In short, I cannot attain the escape velocity required to see beyond myself, and any guy who says he can is lying. Perhaps to himself, but trust me: dude is lying.
So to review…
I don’t know my place in the world, I sexually objectify the very people I wish to respect and stand shoulder to shoulder with, and my head is up my ass. That is why I hesitate to call myself a feminist.
But I still do. I am a feminist. And a guy can be a feminist. He may assert “I’m a feminist, breh!” prior to crushing a Budweiser beer can against his forehead…but he can certainly be an effective one nonetheless. Here’s why:
You don’t need to know your place in the world. In fact, I’d advise against knowing a place in the world because that takes the fun out of finding it. Few struggles are more fulfilling or rewarding than peeking under every rock and around every corner trying to find your role. You’ll know exactly what I mean if you start doing so yourself. If you’ve already done so, you completely get what I’m saying here.
Secondly, you are allowed to find women sexy and attractive. That’s just fine. How you behave and react is the issue. I don’t care what heels she is wearing, those do not exclude her from having a degree or being a parent of two kids. The instant your sexual compulsions supersede her humanity and individuality, you done goofed.
Thirdly, your head is up your ass too. Everyone’s is. The post-humanist condition is this: we must make an earnest attempt to understand each other. The successes in that endeavor will be exhausting, but the attempt defines us. Don’t throw your hands up and say “I don’t understand women.” That don’t fly, son. Equally horrible, and perhaps even worse, is citing what you perceive as differences between men and women to explain something you don’t understand. “That’s just the way women think” or “son, you just have to understand ‘women’ better.”
Stop that. Stop it now.
There is a fourth reason why I, and each man who agrees with the definition above should declare themselves a feminist. It is because the alternative is hideous. While some may complain that racial strife, class warfare, and sexual equality are all they hear in the news, there’s a good reason for that. It needs to end. We, as a nation and a civilization, do not need to hamstring ourselves by telling half our population that they are lesser because they have internal sexual organs. No more. The human race cannot afford the antiquity of sexism, not for another day—and certainly not for another generation.
Be a feminist. Call yourself one. Piss off those who will hate you for it because making enemies of bad people is always a healthy habit. You don’t need a gatekeeper feminist to knight you with a blade to each shoulder. You don’t need your wife’s permission or your mother’s. All you need is to 100% believe in sexual equality and follow through with that belief to its final destination: a richer, better world.