Can a Man be a Feminist?

This is certainly not a new question, and I'm not even sure how provocative it is today, but it's something I've never thought about before this past week.

In her book Back to the Well, Frances Taylor Gench provides four interesting descriptions of what a feminist is, from four very different people:

  1. "A feminist, broadly speaking, is one who seeks justice and equality for all people and who is especially concerned for the fate of womenall womenin the midst of all people. Such a definition means that issues pertinent to racism, classism, and ecology, as well as peace-making, are part of the purview of feminism." Katharine Sakenfeld

  2. "A feminist is someone who believes women are people." Alan Alda

  3. "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." Rebecca West

  4. "Feminism is advocacy of women. It is not, therefore, against men, but only for the needs of women, needs that cannot be met without changes in the lives of both men and women....It represents a search for liberation from all forms of dehumanization on the part of those who advocate full human personhood for all....This means that men can also be feminists if they are willing to advocate for women." Letty Russell
To be honest, I like all of these descriptions. I can see myself in all of them because I am a person who feels called to advocate for those who have less of a voice than I do in our world: people of color, LGBT, children, youth, animals, the disabled, trees, women, the poor, etc. I am reminded of that great line at the end of the movie A Few Good Men, where one of the characters owns his wrongdoing by saying, “We were supposed to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves.” Can there be a greater calling in this world?

However, I have resisted the label "feminist" for myself. Why? Well, it seemed inauthentic. What I mean by that is this. Just because I'm an advocate for a certain group of people doesn't mean that I know what it feels like to experience life in their shoes. To label myself as one of them just seemed disrespectful to their plight.

But now I'm pondering these great descriptions that Gench has provided us and am wondering if I've been a feminist this whole time and just never knew it.

Whenever the word "feminist" comes up in conversation among the circles of men I find myself in, it sounds more like the "F" wordused with the same disdain and attitude. I wonder why that is? Is it because they have experienced ineffective or poor representatives of feminism in their pasts? Or is it more of a reflection of themselves?

2 comments:

  1. I, too, have resisted this label because I have seen it too often used against men. I think understanding feminism as advocacy for all people is helpful because I definitely feel that we are to be advocates for the justice and equality of all. On the other hand, I would instead choose the word "people-ist" to represent this idea of advocacy for all. This to me indicates what I am about, without using the bogged down and often misunderstand term "feminist."

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    1. "People-ist"...I like it! Wouldn't it be awesome if the term "Christian" meant the same thing? I think it did at one point in history. Hmmm.

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