we need feminist men

hadar cohen
Dec 8, 2016 · 3 min read

at most workshops i lead someone asks, “can i be a feminist if i am a man?”

i take a deep breath, feeling the frustration of a narrative that understands feminism as a “women’s thing” and excludes men from gaining access to the educational, emotional, and relational benefits of feminism. yet i always respond enthusiastically, yes of course men can be feminist.

but when i google “feminism for men”, google tells me the response to this question is:

Men cannot call themselves Feminists. They can write things that are Feminist, say things that are Feminist, do things that are Feminist, but for all intents and purposes, men can only be Feminist allies — and even then I’m a bit iffy about men who self-designate themselves as such.

okay, i understand the need to separate the experience of men from those harmed from our societal structures. yet how can we say that feminism is not for men? how are men excluded from their right to reclaim their whole selves?

in her essay, understanding patriarchy, bell hooks writes

The crisis facing men is not the crisis of masculinity, it is the crisis of patriarchal masculinity. Until we make this distinction clear, men will continue to fear that any critique of patriarchy represents a threat.

patriarchy ≠ men.

we need to remind ourselves this every single day. we are not fighting men, we are fighting patriarchy.

patriarchy is a system that differentiates and separates between equally important parts and dictates which ones are powerful and which ones are powerless. each part, whether deemed powerful or powerless suffers from this asymmetrical balance of power.

patriarchy creates the space for domination, control and superiority. in a relation of equal parts where one is overvalued and one is undervalued, both parts are left unseen and unacknowledged for their truth.

the reality is, we are all harmed by patriarchy.

while patriarchy rewards men in our societal structure, a deeper psychological analysis reveals that men too are hurt by this system.

where are the men in the fight for connection, transformation and political equality for all?

i am deeply troubled by the narrative that excludes men from participating in our collective process of restoring equality. cutting out a population that is integral to this struggle is perpetuating patriarchy.

feminism is not the opposite of patriarchy. we have been fooled to think patriarchy = men, feminism = women. we need to consistently deconstruct this notion. feminism operates on a fundamentally different ground.

feminism is the movement dedicated to fighting for economic, political and social equality for all with the recognition of the historical and current marginalization of women, queers, transgenders, and gender non-conforming people.

feminism is not a fight between men and women. separating men and women to different teams is patriarchy’s task. feminism is all of us fighting together against patriarchy.

we are not going to make much progress without men on our side. and we are going to continue harming ourselves if we cannot recognize the place men have in this movement.

my work at pivot to bloom validates men for being feminists. i am invested in this work because i deeply care about men. men can and should call themselves feminist. creating space within the feminist movement to let men in is essential to deconstruct the conditioning of patriarchy.

not only do men need feminism, but feminism needs men too.

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