Why I Don’t Call Myself A Male Feminist
Women are wary of Male Feminists™ because they have been burned so many times by men ostensibly supporting them.
Confession time: I was once a Male Feminist™. I may have bragged to some women about how I am not physically violent or at risk of raping women, and I seriously thought that was a thing worth boasting about. I mean, I said women deserve equal pay and I super promised not to hurt you because I’m very nice, so why do women call me a creep?
Then I got this remarkable idea: I should shut up and listen to people who don’t look like me.
Being a man who calls himself a feminist is an immediate red flag for many women, because so few men who say it actually support women through their actions. Anyone can wax poetic about how awful rape is, how women are amazing when they break out of the kitchen, etc. It’s easy to hide your awful side when all you need to do is throw out a few platitudes you can easily google.
Here’s an example of high profile male feminists being abusive pricks and receiving awards for their advocacy. It’s so easy to use the right language and even do a lot right, believe you support women, and still be a misogynist abusive prick.
The same guy who said;
“I need feminism because it shouldn’t be ‘heroic’ or ‘rare’ for men to advocate for women’s rights. It should be expected and as common as breathing.” (Source)
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret that, apparently, no one has had the guts to tell you up to this point in your life: having a vagina does not grant you magical powers of perception and nuance anymore than my penis magically blinds me from the horrors of the world.” (Source)
Here’s another dude who in this article said;
“I can’t date chicks who haven’t figured out their orgasms. I’ve met a lot of chicks who don’t or can’t cum during sex but still go on and on about how much they love sex and it throws me a little because I’m like, do you though?”
And let’s not even talk about James Deen.
There are countless more public examples, and any woman who calls herself a feminist can regale you with tales of male feminists being utter assholes. Needless to say, a man claiming to support women is a bit of red flag, and there’s a reason for that.
I think a lot of awful men really believe that they are doing the right thing, being excellent feminists without a hint of self awareness, so it’s no wonder that male feminists get violent when called out on their hypocrisies. The bar for being a male feminist is so low that you get a nice Scooby Snack for basically saying women are people, which nobody is disputing (well, maybe some people are). Fun fact: saying things that aren’t disputed helps nobody, and yet it seems to be very newsworthy.
I know a lot of really smart, really perceptive women who have been duped by abusive men who ~totally~ supported them, and those same men probably thought they were terrific guys. Actually, I know they thought they were terrific guys because I was that guy. It doesn’t help that our society decrees a lot of manipulative, abusive behaviors as romantic. We frame courtship as a chase, for example.
It’s no wonder that when you claim you’re a feminist, women are immediately suspicious of your motives. I mean, you have otherwise given her no reason to believe you are magically different than every other man in her life she has met who has exhibited those exact behaviors.
But let’s say you’re a man who genuinely supports women and wants to show it. First step is to shut up and listen to women, but you’re listening to me right now. I’m going to tell you some of the things I do to try and actually be supportive. I’m a man, and I’m always learning, but I seem to get a pretty positive response from doing all this. This is not a guide to getting women to magically trust you, because that you have to earn over time and there are no shortcuts, but doing all this has helped me improve my relationships with women and showed them I’m actually supportive.
Just keep in mind that you should not do this to get laid or because you feel entitled to a woman’s time. You’re doing all this because you care about people and it’s the right thing to do. If you’re just being a good person to get laid, you are not a good person, you are simply confirming all the reasons women are wary of you to begin with.
- Shut up and listen to women when they are talking about their lives. This is a good opportunity to learn things you otherwise have no conception of, and a time when your opinion is always unwelcome.
- Acknowledge that in every interaction, you have a lot more power than she does, especially if she isn’t white, thin, or cis. Even if she’s your boss, people will still take your side with everything, so recognize your privilege and be respectful. Just acknowledging the power dynamic helps.
- Women are culturally conditioned to always be nice to you. It’s often the safer call. You have to constantly ask yourself, “Is she being nice because I’m cool, or because it’s safer for her?” Asking the question forces you to read her behavior more critically and will help you tell which it is. If I know someone very well (emphasis very well), I might ask directly, but even then she might opt to lie since that’s kind of aggressive. So only ask someone directly when you’ve built up a lot of comfort with the person. One way I try and mitigate this is to build trapdoors into the conversation anytime I want something so she doesn’t have to come up with an escape plan. For example, “I’d love to see you, but if you’re busy that’s fine.” Building in an easy out means she doesn’t have to think of one. Plus I’m the one presenting the way out, so I’m already acknowledging that a rejection is okay. Another way is handing her my number and not asking for hers unless it’s clearly very necessary. Now I can’t harass her by calling her unless she trusts me enough not to do that! Fun fact, 100 percent of the women who want me to be able to contact them via phone give me their number.
- Do not argue when she sets boundaries. Boundaries are okay and often, point to something you can improve on, and men not acting entitled to her space is a rarity in most women’s lives. Plus, she’s showing a lot of comfort by telling you upfront what her boundaries are. That’s uncomfortable as shit. Women will typically not tell you their boundaries even after trust has been established since you always have the power and she’s culturally predisposed to placate your feelings. Try and give her less to be stressed about. I find it’s best to be pretty conservative while you build a rapport, and not hit on her (unless it’s a situation where that’s clearly okay). This goes for clearly platonic relationships.
- If your interest in someone is purely sexual, don’t be their friend. You’re the one leading them on. If you just want to fuck someone, be honest about your intentions and don’t lead her on by talking about how much you want to hang out with them. She’ll either feel the same way or not, but deception is never a winning move, nor can you claim to care about her after making her think you were her friend. Sadly, women are accustomed to men doing exactly this. Rejecting a friend is uncomfortable enough, never mind one who calls you a bitch. And these are very nice guys who were totally supportive and talking about how to combat rape and such. But she led him on. Sure.
- Shut up and listen. She has experience you don’t, and that’s just reality. (I know this is also point one, it’s important.) A lot of men think that when a woman says, “You can’t have an opinion on street harassment because it’s not a daily occurrence for you,” it’s an insult to the man’s intelligence, character, whatever, probably because men are accustomed to everything being about them. Here’s a tip: it’s not an insult, it’s reality. Be happy you don’t experience street harassment daily. You can’t comment from experience on something you only understand by rote description.
- When you screw up (you will), don’t have an ego. Don’t insist you meant something else. Apologize and move on. Intent does not magically dismiss effect, though women are accustomed to being called all kinds of slurs for not responding to your intent. Screwing up is a good learning opportunity and a chance to grow. Plus humble people are more likable.
- Do all this all the time ad infinitum. Male feminists have a tendency to show their true colors once they get comfortable.
And here’s the thing: You can do all that and more and still set off some trip wires. And it’s okay if women still don’t trust you. Remember, every woman has been burned by a dude who is much nicer than you are. He could have done everything you are and slipped somewhere. Being cautious isn’t a character flaw in women so much as a consequence of the culture we live in, so it’s on us men to acknowledge that.
But if you’re doing things because you want to get women’s attention, then you’re going to be the Nice Male Feminist™ I’m scolding. You’re here because you know the world is much shittier for people who don’t look like you, and you’re trying to make it a bit less shitty. You try and avoid these trip wires because you’re trying to actually help since it’s the right thing to do.
Finally, did I mention when women are talking about their lives, you should shut up and listen?