Can a man ever truly be a feminist ?

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Q – Can a man ever truly be a feminist?


With feminism being an ever present issue in today’s society, this project aims to analyse male reception and resistance to feminism in order establish to what extent men can be involved with it. To do this, facilitating as well and hindering factors have also been examined. Many feminist authors and critics have been utilised in order to answer whether men can ever call themselves feminists. It has therefore also been vital to consult the stances of anti-feminist groups so as to ensure a balanced look at the issue. Extensive research was also carried out into the psychology of ambivalent sexism as well as that of anti-feminism, with a look at the role of masculinity. Finally, integrative movements such as the recent He for She campaign have been considered for its work in engaging men in feminism.



There are many ideas behind the actual theory of feminism and this therefore divides feminists  into three main schools of thought  regarding the subject these include; Radical, Marxist and Liberal Feminism, all of which agree on one thing which is the advocacy of women's rights in economic, social and domestic settings. The idea is therefore to place women at the same position that men have allegedly held for centuries thus promoting equality



It is widely agreed upon that the beginning of the movement was in the mid to late 19th century as the groups such as 'The Women's Suffrage' formed to campaign for the suffrage and rights of women. However, the pivotal point in feminist history came after the active involvement of women in the efforts for the Second World War. By the 1960's men had to make a decision on Feminism, they could ignore it and retire to the past ideals of male entitlement, completely reject it and fight against it or alternatively actively support it alongside the masses of female supporters.  



Men versus Feminism - allies or enemies?

The first and definitely the most difficult problem men had with feminism and still do, is that it isn't directly about them and as a result it becomes a major task for them to engage with it in a positive way. Feminism is only designed to affect women and contribute towards women's struggles and issues. One argument supporting the inclusion of men in the feminist conversation is that through the exclusion of men from the movement is defined as exclusively a female struggle, which could be argued to be sexist in it.  This theory thus demonstrates that men must share the burden of the struggle to end sexism against women; otherwise feminism will find itself mirroring the very sexism it strives to eliminate.


However, in recent times it has become more and more popular among women's groups, to accommodate and incorporate constructive male viewpoints into the discussion. This has in turn eliminated some of the hostility between female feminists and men. A major example of this is the 'He for She' campaign which was founded in September, 2014. It is a solidarity movement for gender equality initiated by UN women; it aims to engage men and boys as forces for change through feminism.  

Another issue that men face is the ambiguity of their position within feminism, therefore it becomes unclear how much they are required to contribute to the cause. However in many cases female feminists are only open to listening to the contributions of women as they are the ones directly affected by the discriminatory practices of sexism. Some feminists however,  disagree and align themselves more with the argument that sexism towards women is just as maladaptive to men as it alienates them from roles in society most commonly associated with women, for example single fathers are perceived as less competent within the rigid boundaries of what Raewyn Connell has coined 'hegemonic masculinity'.  


In the early 1970's however a countermove to feminism was started for men's rights, it claimed that feminism had 'gone too far' and had begun to negatively affect the lives of many men as a result. The men's liberation movement acknowledged the enormous gap in power that existed between men and women in society but by the late 1970s the movement found itself divided into two separate groups and adopted opposing views : 'The pro-feminist men's movement' and 'The anti-feminist men's rights movement.' The latter then completely rejected feminist principles and focused on promoting tradition gender relations and roles. In the following decades, men’s liberation activists began actively discouraging societal changes promoted by feminists.  

One thing that limits the amount of collaboration between the sexes regarding feminism is the common confusion between the biologically assigned male sex and the image of masculinity promoted by society. Therefore, a problem arises from the assignment of rigid gender roles to sexes and thus affording men privileges of which women are deprived.


In light of suggestions by Harry Brod that to study men is to study masculinity, however  it is evident that in many cases studies of masculinity as well as the male experience, particularly those conducted by men often fail to acknowledge ''masculinity - and their own part in expression of masculinity - as a problem'' (Cynthia Cockburn).  This reveals the ways in which this obsession with maintaining masculinity is detrimental not only to gender relation in general social interaction but also on a larger scale in perpetuating the 'patriarchy'.   



Many men look at feminism like they would do religious extremism. Both sections of society typically involve both fanatical ideologies and attempt to impose their view of the world on to the people around them. Many men who oppose the movement claim to simply want assurance that its goal is gender equality rather than social ascension for women through the simultaneous oppression of men.  Most perceive feminism as the sole movement that is responsible for the increased marginalisation of men and boys in society and the erosion of their legal rights. Men see feminism as a movement that places the interests of women above the interests well above that of women. A movement for female supremacy and essentially of matriarchy propaganda .Of course feminists, in response argue that not all feminists believe this and the vast majority of examples of criticisms are merely the rhetoric of minorities which don't represent the wider community of feminism. However, to the opposition there still appears to be a systematic hate aimed at men. The early eighties were when the Men's Rights campaign surfaced in the United States as an answer to the Women's Rights movement. The campaign activists often call themselves as 'masculinists' or are sometimes labelled as such.

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Masculinists argue that many feminist approaches have not been offset through the eradication of many conventional female 'privileges', and that their aim should be for them to seek empowerment through the revitalisation of their masculinity. This argument coincides with many religious groups such as the Muscular Christianity movement.  

The campaign largely acquired most of its success from influencing legal reform in family law, especially surrounding child custody cases. Activists claim that the American legal system is prejudiced against fathers in custody cases as mothers are typically seen as the primary caregivers and thus would be more competent single parents. ...

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