Men and Feminism

To be a humanist is to be a feminist. That’s to say, feminism is an inevitable feature of any ideology which places supreme value not in the heavens but in human kind itself, any ideology which sees equality of culture, classes, sexes and sexualities as both a given and an ideal. Yes, one can have differences and diversity between and within those very general and abstract categories of human kind, but the supremacy of one over the other cannot be supported within a humanist framework. So it is strange that feminism today is a word avoided by many political humanists, particularly male ones.

It would be strange, to say the least, if a progressively minded person were to hesitate on, say, their opposition to racism, or if they were to hide from identifying as an egalitarian of some shade, be it a  social-democrat, communist, liberal, anarchist, or socialist. Indeed, such a denial of the holy trinity of liberty, fraternity and equality would rightly have the person excommunicated from the broad church. But when it comes to equality of the sexes, the fact is that while most men are negatively feminist – that is, few would openly argue in favour of some of the more antiquated practises of patriarchy, and few would happily describe themselves as sexist – few would be willing to identify themselves in positive terms as a feminist, as such a stance would probably paint them as either socially or sexually queer.

But my proposition is that the leap from being negatively feminist and positively feminist is a fairly small step, just like the leap between being a caring, sympathetic human being and being and a, let’s say, ‘consciousness-raised’ activist (that is, one who acts  on their instincts of compassion and justice) is fairly easy to make. Like I’ve already said, I would bet that you the reader are probably already negatively feminist, in that if you, for example, attend your sisters graduation, or raise your daughter with love and affection, for instance, or listen to the wisdom of your grandmother, love your mother, adore your lover, then you are doing more for feminism that what the vanguard could ever achieve in a lifetime of activism, because in doing these seemingly mundane things you are actively participating in the ongoing disappearance of patriarchal society and the resurrection of an equilibrium of the sexes in the power structures of our economies, polities and families. But yet if you are a man you probably don’t identify as a feminist precisely because the cultural legacy of the patriarch makes us think that it is somehow uncool for men to want freedom for their own sisters, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, friends and girlfriends.

But not only does the patriarchy suppress women’s liberty, but men’s too. The conformity that patriarchal societies inflict upon men can be soul-crippling: in dress, behaviour, speech, gait, cigarette-choice, hair-do, relationship models, past-times and passions, men in such societies are taught that masculinity can only exist as a singular noun to define, not as an adjective which exists to qualify. Just as the belief in an objective capital-D ‘Democracy’ is inherently undemocratic, this belief in a singular noun masculinity is, of course, patently un-masculine, as it denies the very thing which philosophers tell us is the only defining feature of human kind: our freedom. Man, unlike moss or shrimp, is condemned to be free, Sartre told us: that is the only condition of our existence, and any man who seeks to turn that condition into a nature, to turn but one part of the dazzling array of human experience into an a priori assumption, to convert freedom into chains, identifiers into identity, is, Sartre argued, either a coward or is lazy, as he seeks to avoid the responsibility that comes with his freedom, to avoid his own will and self attainment by resting on the false laurels of inherited thought and culture.

Hence the strange phenomena within some post-patriarchal – especially Anglo-Saxon – societies in which men are still taught not to be human, that is, to not weep, not dance, not sing, not express themselves, not experiment, not challenge. Being taught this and that, they are taught to deny the very flow of life-energy itself and even the most elemental instincts there are: grief and glee. This denial of life-energy, I think, goes far in explaining, for example, the gusto for physical alcohol-fuelled violence you see in some cultures, where young men seem to think stomping on another human being, spitting on another human being, insulting another human being, is a sign of masculinity. It also goes far in explaining other tragic phenomenon as well, such as the social crime that is the high rate of suicide amongst gay teenagers who are taught and bullied into believing that they are not men.

What feminism must do in the twenty-first century is then to rectify what was mistaken in the twentieth, that feminism is an anti-male dogma which would only invert the patriarchy onto the men who built it. It needs to do what is seemingly paradoxical but actually logical; to masculinise itself. Better said, it needs to simply bring more men into the fold, to encourage any person who feels no desire to dominate another human being to declare him or herself a feminist. And I’ll do my part here by writing this article and by declaring myself a feminist: I am a feminist because I have a mother, grandmother and sister who I love, I am a feminist because I am sometimes in love, and I am a feminist because I do not want anything I love to be hurt by hate.

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