you are not a feminist
For years there have been articles written about how women were doing feminism wrong. They still exist, of course, because trashy women’s magazines still exist, and websites that tell you how to “snap back to your post-baby-body” still exist, and, regrettably, the patriarchy still exists. These pieces of “writing” seek to make us question whether we can wear short skirts, get a boob job, choose to be a stay-at-home mum, watch porn, or do a hundred other things, and still call ourselves a feminist. The answer, of course, is yes. But the debate often becomes a distraction from the real issues. These distractions are usually the ones debated on Loose Women.
There is something unsettling about questioning a woman’s right to call herself a feminist - women are raised to be cautious about the things they are proud of, to stay quiet about the things they suffer, to quell their desire to be confrontational. They are bossy, they are “up-themselves”, they have ideas above their station. We see it elsewhere; women will be deterred from applying to a job if they only have 8 out of the 10 required skills. Men, on the other hand, will apply knowing they are woefully underqualified. And so, it transpires that woefully underqualified men are calling themselves feminists.
Feminism has become a Big Deal thanks to terrible things happening to so many women for so long that eventually we all just started screaming. The floodgates were opened and very quickly we spewed our stories into the streets with such force that men had to listen. And they did. Sort of. For a bit. Until it made them uncomfortable and they felt like all their lovely power was being dampened by this utter shitstorm that they had, in fact, created.
So, for now I am going to turn the tables, and instead of needlessly interrogating young women as to which part of their multi-faceted personality qualifies them to call themselves feminists, I am going to ask the question that will literally never appear in any men’s magazine: “Can men truly be feminists if they don’t really do anything to further the cause?”
Spoiler alert, no.
I mean obviously you can call yourself whatever you want, but may I suggest that if you are going to opt for “feminist” because you went on a women’s march one time (with your girlfriend) then a more apt name might be “dickhead”. If you don’t fancy that, then here are some other suggestions. In the true spirit of women’s magazines, I have made it “fun’ and given you 3 options. Just pick which one suits you best!
The Loyal Guy - You pride yourself on loyalty, and would do anything for your mates, even the ones you suspect are sexual predators!
You feel the sheer number of women coming forward to speak up about the times they had been assaulted is simply not plausible! How could this be the case when none of you know anybody who had ever carried out a sexual assault?
Easy one here; because you DO know a man who has sexually assaulted a woman. Yes, you. And if you pretend that youth, or drugs, or a difficult relationship, or her silence, or not “being told” (despite swirling rumours and the fact the police were called), or the fact he swore never to do it again makes it any more acceptable then you are letting her down. And you are not only letting her down, but you are propagating the idea that women’s lives and bodily autonomy matter less than your friendships, or your sport’s teams, or your office harmony, or polite conversation at your family dinner. You are valuing your comfort over women. Just let that sink in.
The Fanboy – You are passionate about your hobbies and aspire to be just like your heroes – even if they abuse their power to exploit women!
Oh no! Many of the people you liked and thought were Good Guys turned out to be awful! You could not comprehend that someone you once respected could possibly do something like this. Of course, it came as no surprise to women, and especially not the 50% of rape victims whose rapes are carried out by an intimate partner. It can’t be that you were fooled (you are so much smarter than women!) - the only explanation, is that some of these women must lying. And not the number you would expect (there are false claims made about every type of crime, and those regarding sexual assault are no higher than any other), but most of them. Most of this is lies. You state loudly that you believe in innocent until proven guilty. But you also know that even with a guilty verdict there is a chance it will go to retrial. And even when the retrial fails that there is an appeal being made. Probably just buy his album and wait it out a bit…
The Lost Boy – You are a deeply caring person who just wants the best for women, but in the words of Phoebe Buffay “What more do these broads want?!”
You were once a feminist (and make sure you tell everyone that, so you get the credit you deserve, you champ!) but you have stopped being one now because it’s all gone “too far”. Your main source of anger and outrage seems to be that you can’t, in theory, give Liz in the office a hug lest she parade you through the streets naked and castrated, ringing a bell and screaming “shame”. It is an unimportant fact that you have never actually hugged Liz before. It is far more important to hug Liz (either because she is hot, or you don’t know how else to deal with a woman) than to consider Liz’s desire to be hugged. Asking Liz if she would like a hug is unfathomable.
So, men, before you proudly call yourself a feminist, or wear a “feminist” T-Shirt, or post a picture of your feminist placard to your Bumble account, think about whether you are actually advocating for women. Do you support them, buy their products, use their businesses, listen to them in meetings, and listen to them in bed? Do you support all women, including the ones you think are unattractive, or overweight, or old? Do you support queer women, trans women, disabled women, women of colour? Do you actually want equality? Or do you just like how that sounds?
You don’t have to be a ready-made feminist icon. You can accept the principle of equality and vow to grow and learn and address your privilege as an ongoing process. We all have to do this. But if you think that labelling yourself a feminist and then doing fuck all about it is what we need, then you are very much mistaken.
And women, if you think you might have 8 out of the 10 necessary skills to be a feminist then bloody call yourself a feminist. Do it even if you only have 3 out of 10. Yell it. Do it with the confidence of a straight, white man.