“Hi, I’m Eric and I’m an intersectional feminist.”

Despite the fact the phrase has snuck its way onto my Tinder I rarely engage in feminist discussions. For awhile I just saw it as sort of a badge one acquires as they go through life. Properly boil water? Here’s your chef badge. Use a coupon to save thirty cents? Come get your fiscally responsible badge. Don’t hate women? One feminist badge coming right up!

Of course it’s never that easy. I mean, have you tried couponing? Sheesh. I don’t even own scissors. Yet worse was saying I didn’t hate women yet having actions that didn’t back that up. It wasn’t until I considered three things that I felt I could be seen as such. Certainly it takes more than a t-shirt, right?

Feminism isn’t a dating tool.

A woman on Tinder recently told me how she liked my feminism shirt and I responded how much I wanted to take it down. I mean, I didn’t, but I wanted to. It just so happens to be one of my best selfies! That said, my attempt to be an ally is an easy bridge to women who are tired of “non-woke” men, especially on dating sites where men are entirely off the hinges. (seriously, have you seen straightwhiteboystexting??)

Fam, like … why? WHY?

Back to the shirt/feminist identifier though. It’s the equivalent of “I’m not like them!” when honestly, as a man, I had to realize that I am. Misogyny isn’t something that you wake up and shed like a new skin. It’s deeply rooted into so many threads of a male’s life that it’s sometimes hard to identify. Whenever I catch myself doing something like talking over a woman or downplaying their emotions I realize just how much constant correction is needed. It’s the microaggressions that can be most frustrating.

Possibly the worst thing to be is the so-called ‘nice guy’ who really is just nice until he doesn’t get his way. There’s no prize for being an ally, and certainly no sexual consolation. Being a self-proclaimed male feminist shines attention on you from the onset, and if your expectation is to be revered for it then you’re doing it wrong. All the way wrong. Feminism isn’t an E-Z Pass into a woman’s life and sexual space.

So here I am, Mr. Feminist, here for all the woke baes when really, my being should reflect that more than a title in my bio. Which brings me to the second point …

Fucking live like it.

The biggest asset I am to the feminist movement is not at the forefront, but behind the scenes. By behind the scenes I mean mostly to other men, especially those close to me.

If you’re a person of color you know how hard it can be to convince someone white of their inherent privilege. When it comes to men, it can be even harder. I’ve been in a break room full of men and argued for women’s sexual freedom. It’s exhausting, and I’m a male voice. I can’t imagine it from a woman’s perspective. So the next time the topic came up, what did I do? I left. I didn’t have time for this counterproductive argument I told myself.

I fucked up.

My refusal to speak only upheld sexual oppression towards women. My inability to challenge the common way of thinking was basically akin to agreeing with every sentiment expressed. The opportunity to educate other men and attempt to change their viewpoint is one that a lot of women don’t get. They aren’t always in our groupchats or isolated breakrooms.

Years after self-identifying as a male feminist I needed to realize that the best thing I could do was, just not. The things I did and the way I act day to day would be enough. I’m reminded of a quote by Susan Faludi:

When you call yourself a feminist, you’re assuming an identity. Feminism should be a system of principles and actions rather than a label or a brand.

Step Back.

I’m an open critic of the white-savior narrative that dominates a great majority of film and TV. The idea that white people are here to rescue and save others from themselves drives me crazy. Promotes an idea that they’re innately good, and others are inherently savage and helpless.

What does that have to do with feminism? Men do the same shit.

A lot of male feminists come off to me as Mr. Meeseeks from Rick & Morty.

Just as I would be taken aback by someone white leading the discussion on racial equality, I have to understand how it’d look in this instance. Women have to lead this movement. Yes, feminism isn’t about women over men but gender equality, but they’re the ones fighting to be level. It takes listening to and understanding those voices for one to be down.A lot of male feminists to me come off as Meeseeks from Rick & Morty.

“I’m Mr. Meeseeks, look at me!!”

Here to solve your problems! Male Feminist to the rescue! Ahh … no. It does become important for men to step back and have women lead. Though it does still mean that we must lend our voices and support. Just make sure that your voice doesn’t drown out those who already have a hard time being heard.

And because I prefer my feminism intersectional, it’s up to me to make sure I’m listening from all angles. Those marginalized in the every day feminism discussions because not only are they women, but minorities.

I’ll probably never take down my feminist shirt photo. Not until I get better at taking selfies. I will though stop feeling shame for saying I’m a feminist. Oh, and for being pro-cat, ‘cause the shirt says that too.