Can Men Be Feminists?

Author: Tealee A. Brown

Image By: Getty Images

Despite popular claims that “anyone can be a feminist, I sometimes find myself in spaces where (almost) the majority of women present hold on to the belief that men, no matter what, cannot be feminists. Some of the women I have had the chance to talk with expressed their disapproval at having to hear men refer to themselves as “feminism champion” or “feminist-in-chief”. According to them, this is absurd because Feminism is a lived experience, and no matter what, no man will ever truly be able to fit himself into a woman’s shoes or fully understand her experiences. An acquaintance said, “you cannot be a champion of something you can never be fully immersed with”.

There are 3 Sides to Every Story; Here’s 2

Last year, I witnessed a commotion at my university on the issue. “Can men be feminists?” “Should they even be allowed to refer to themselves as such?” In response to this, we witness a considerable divide amongst female students at the institution.

One group claimed that men can be feminists and should be allowed to call themselves that because the movement, even though it majorly started to promote women’s liberation, has over the years expanded beyond being just about women. They argued that today, Feminism is about everyone regardless of sex because “pushing men away” — which in this case is claiming that they cannot be feminists only promotes more divide between the sexes. Thus, making feminism sound and seem like a “women against men” agenda. ‘Besides, how can we say we want a world where every person of every sex can peacefully co-exist if we are unready to begin to believe that other people can understand our struggles’. On the other hand, the group who refused to accept that men can be feminists argued that unless a person has first-hand lived women’s experiences; they cannot be a feminist. One particular young lady said, “Maybe I can accept that men can be allies to women and the cause. But that they can be feminists? — I don’t think so”. They also explained that their claims did not seek to promote a “women against men” agenda but rather set boundaries and put “the truth where it belongs”. The “truth” here being that if you have not lived a woman’s experiences, you cannot be a feminist.

What is it for You?

The gist here is that a man can be an “Ally” of Feminism and equal rights or a “Sympathiser” for women’s liberation, but never a “Feminist” or a “Champion” for the cause.

What are your thoughts? Are there specific criteria to be met before one labels themselves “feminist” —what are those criteria? Is one of them that the person must be a woman? Or can everyone who supports the idea of women and equal rights call themselves a feminist?

Take your time. Gather your thoughts. What is it for you?

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