Ask A Feminist: Can I Be A Feminist If I'm A Man?

"remember that the lives of women are as real as your own."

"remember that the lives of women are as real as your own."

Dear Real Life Feminist:

So, uh. I’m a guy. How do I be a feminist?

Fake Feminist Dude

Oh HAI feminist man! Pleased to meet you! I have lots of great ideas for how guys can be feminists and you don’t even need to take a women’s studies class or burn any bras. So start listening.

No, seriously. Start listening. When women talk, don’t sit there and wait for your chance to talk or, even worse, interrupt. LISTEN. Women, contrary to Hollywood portrayal, are not supporting characters in the male narrative of life. We are fully-formed beings with perceptions and experiences of our own. Moreover, we are generally truthful about our perceptions and experiences. Which is to say, when a woman is relating her thoughts on something, it’s not about you. It’s about her and what she has seen, heard, felt, and endured. Don’t try to overlay your perceptions and experiences on it. Just trust her.

In other words, for the love of all things holy, don’t mansplain.

The next thing a good man feminist can do is be aware of structural inequalities in his environment and, when practical, even them out. For example, if you're in a position to hire staff, make sure the boy staff and the girl staff get exactly the same salary and benefits for the same position. Actually, take it even further and make sure the white staff and brown staff get the same salary and benefits, the gay staff and straight staff, trans staff and cis staff, old staff and young staff, fat staff and thin staff . . . you see what I’m saying? Treat people as people. All people. It’s called intersectionality and you’ll get extra feminist credit for understanding and practicing it in your real life.

Finally, and this is very very important because it’s how feminism might go viral among men, you have to remain a feminist even when no women are around. That means, when you’re in a group of all guys and someone say something sexist as fuck, instead of laughing, you have to say “Dude. That was sexist as fuck.” 

I know, it sounds like I’m advocating that you become a colossal buzzkill. But really, I’m leaving you a whole world of humor. It is still perfectly acceptable to laugh at, say, European league soccer players and the way they writhe on the ground whenever they stub a toe. That’s funny and it’s humor based on a behavior that they could change if they wanted to. But laughing at stories that end with some guy saying “Guess she was on the rag har har har” is off the table because DUDE. Even if she was on the rag it’s not your business and you know nothing about being on the rag so shut the fuck up. Women menstruate. It happens. Get over it. It’s not a damn punchline, it’s human biology.

The thing you REALLY can’t laugh at ever, ever, EVER is jokes about sexual assault. You can’t. Ever. In fact, you must call them out. Sexual assault is never funny. If you want to know how unfunny it is, imagine the last rape joke you heard being told about your mom. Is it even a little funny? It’s not. It’s horrifying and laughing at such things promotes the idea that women’s bodies are jokes and can be treated as such. So shut those conversations down. You can even use my line about imagining your mom. Or you can blame me. However you do it, talk about it and make it clear that it isn’t funny. Be an ally to women even among men.

Like I say, it's not hard to be a man and be a feminist at the same time. You just need to remember that the lives of women are as real as your own.

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