Why We Menfolk Shouldn’t Get Props for Being Feminist

Many of my students balk when I tell them that I don’t give our children money or anything extra for getting straight A’s on their report cards. I am not implying that providing incentives for earning good grades is a bad idea and it does not make one a bad parent if this is how they get their children to do well in school. I just expect our children to earn good grades if it is within their abilities to do so. In this case, I choose to use decentives. That works for us but might not work for the next person. I encounter gangs of white people who will tell me the number of black friends they have. I also encounter gangs of white people who brag about the time they helped feed the homeless in black and brown neighborhoods or how they protested at a Black Lives Matter protest. It’s as if they want some kind of award. Of course, much of this is to assuage their own guilt but why tell the rest of us?

There was a recent piece featuring several actors and celebrities who are considered “woke.” While many of those listed were problematic, that is not the point of our discussion. Men who are feminists are praised and given passes quite often. Many of us who are feminists also expect accolades as if we accomplished something. Quite a few of us expect casual sex just for putting the feminist word at the end of a sentence.

The thing is, we are just like those anti racist white folks: we are where we need to be. At that level is actually just the bare minimums. We don’t give white people who aren’t racist and do not uphold white supremacy any awards for that (well actually, we do all the time, but we shouldn’t). Why are we expecting free stuff just for showing up? We should already be here. This is not to suggest that one day we will turn up to be problematic. We all have our flaws and we are all works in progress. It’s just that we expect props for doing little work.

Much of this is ego driven and just another way we act as paternalists. It’s not about us saving anyone. It is not about us swooping in and bringing ideas we think might work. Instead of expecting props, we should ask what more can we do. We should uplift voices from women that won’t be heard. We should support and back up where we need to be. Instead of waiting for someone to reward us for “the work” that we finally did when we should have done it decades ago, we should await marching orders. Much of the work we claim to have done has been done over and over by women before us so it’s not anything new. This point would be a great start but it doesn’t make us super heroes. So get over yourselves.