Feminism F.A.Q.s: Can Men Be Feminists?

by | June 6, 2012
filed under Feminism

Feminism FAQs Title Screenby Jarrah Hodge

Can men be feminists? That’s the question I try to take on in my latest Feminism F.A.Q.s video.

There’s nothing in the definition of feminism that says no, but it can be a bit touchy, so here are some guidelines for men getting involved with feminist organizing, as well as some suggestions for how men can help feminist goals.

Read the full transcript after the jump and suggest other questions, myths, or issues in the comments below!


Hi, I’m Jarrah Hodge, writer and editor at Gender Focus, a Canadian feminist blog. Welcome to Feminism F.A.Q.s, where I try to answer questions and clear up myths about feminism.

Today, can men be feminists?

As far as I’m concerned, the answer is yes, as long as you’re a man who both believes in women’s equality and is working to support this equality. As I said in a previous video, feminism is about ending sexism and inequality. There’s nothing in the definition that says men can’t be feminists.

However, some feminists do get uncomfortable with men using the “feminist” label, because it can be seen as co-opting women’s struggle. If you’re a man working with feminist individuals or groups, you might want to consider calling yourself “pro-feminist” or a “feminist ally” instead. But when in doubt, just ask respectfully.

If you do feel inclined to call yourself a feminist, pro-feminist, or feminist ally, just take a minute to think about it to make sure it’s not just a term you’re throwing out there to mask the fact that you might practice some sexist behaviour or that you benefit from gender inequality.

There are lots of great things men can do to practice and promote feminism. Here are just a few ideas:

1. Challenge images of traditional manhood and support other men who are challenging them. A good way to do this is to take a look at what’s considered socially acceptable for boys and men.

2. Consider feminist issues when deciding who to vote for.

3. Listen to women’s voices and take their leadership in feminist organizations.

4. Make your support public. Write letters to the editor or blog posts or tweets.

5. Talk to other men about the importance of issues like ending violence against women and treating women with respect, and call other men out on sexist comments

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  • Bev

    I think feminism can only succeed in its goals if men are also feminists. I’m lucky enough to know a lot of dudes who are awesome at it.

  • Steve

    Men cannot possibly consider themselves feminists under any circumstances, and would be ill-advised to try to do so, in my opinion.

    First of all, according to certain radical feminist perspectives, men are inherently war-like, destructive, controlling, and violent. From these views, the goal of feminism should not be equality with men, but actually for women to govern men – Mary Daly, for example, took this view, and argued for a “drastic reduction of the population of males”.

    As you mention yourself, any man attempting to pass themselves off as a feminist lays himself wide open to the accusation that he is actually co-opting feminism as a guise through which to further exploit and oppress women. One will have no recourse once the charge is made that you are a ‘wolf in sheeps clothing’.

    In my own experience I have found that absolutely nothing is to be gained by a man seeking to openly identify with the womens’ movement. You will not be well received and will only find yourself tarred with the same brush that all men are seen as tarred with by feminists. Any attempts to point out that many men have respect for women as equals will inevitably meet with the counter that you are trying to detract from the world-view of patriarchy as an over-arching and comprehensive culture of male dominance. Any attempts to point out the damaging affects of normative gender roles to men will also be met with the charge that you are seeking to cover over the reality of womens’ altogther worse position in society. I’ve heard feminists say that any feminism that doesn’t make men uncomfortable isn’t working. This is the unmasked reality. Stokely Carmichael once said that the only position for women in the American civil rights movement is “prone”. Well, if you’re a man, the only postion many feminists will accept is one of abject gorvelling. If you’re not prepared to apologise for your own sex, forget it. Attempt to challenge any aspect of feminist ideology or point out the real disadvantages and prejudices men face, you will be spat at.

    “My feelings about men are the result of my experience. I have little sympathy for them. Like a Jew just released from Dachau, I watch the handsome young Nazi soldier fall writhing to the ground with a bullet in his stomach and I look briefly and walk on. I don’t even need to shrug. I simply don’t care. What he was, as a person, I mean, what his shames and yearnings were, simply don’t matter.”
    Marilyn French; The Woman’s Room.