What’s In A Name: Why Men Shouldn’t Call Themselves Feminists

by James Gates

I always find it a little bit weird when men call themselves feminists. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them being feminists, you understand, I just find using that term to sum yourself up is a bit out of sorts if you have a penis, kind of like when Camille Paglia said she was an honorary fat person. I definitely don’t call myself a feminist, and I don’t have a handy term as means of replacement either. Maybe I should invent one.  ‘Women-supporter-person’? ‘female-cheerer’? ‘feminist sympathiser’? That last one sounds awful, coming across as either deeply condescending or the sort of term they use in show trials in North Korea.

I am a tad wary of any man who is eager to declare himself a feminist upfront, without anyone even asking, as if he is expecting a reward for good behaviour. I remember a Twitter account I followed years ago where a comedian, activist and self-declared male feminist keep inserting half-joking pleas for romantic hugs and cuddles in between his 140-character bursts of social justice. What was he expecting? Just because you venerate vaginas doesn’t mean you are automatically guaranteed access to one.

As a man, I don’t like to call myself a feminist as doing so reminds me of that Chris Rock skit about people wanting credit for something they should be doing anyway. The Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’. If you’re a man then that definition basically sounds like it should be a mandatory exercise in human decency rather than a badge of honour.

The culture that we currently live in, with Blurred Lines, pay gaps and attempts to legislate the female body through abortion bills, dictates that feminism is more necessary than ever. And as necessary as it is, I am still wary of using the term to describe who I am, or part of who I am. For my part, I don’t like too many labels as I think they can be divisive when used in excess. From my perspective (and that’s all it is – my perspective, by no means definitive) the intent is more important than the label. I intend to treat as many people as possible as equals. That gets difficult when you come up against Tories or people who really like Jeremy Clarkson, but for better or worse, I try.

I will leave you with the words of the great Joss Whedon, as feminist as they come and yet someone who rarely uses the f-word to describe himself, who sums things up nicely;

“Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women. And the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.”

James Gates lives in London, England and is ridiculous. You can waste even more your time on him via Twitter@jamespetergates



3 Comments Add yours

  1. pilgrimhands says:

    I appreciate your thoughts and you express them compassionately and clearly. This kind of comment is nourishing to my particular soul. Thank you James.

  2. golnooshwrites says:

    I still don’t understand what’s wrong with men calling themselves feminists. If you’re after equality, if you actually support women’s rights, you’re a feminist, like or not, regardless of your gender.

  3. golnooshwrites says:

    Feminism is about freedom, not gender. Also men benefit from feminism (as feminism breaks the stereotypical gender roles that are also pressurizing men) so why shouldn’t you call yourself a feminist if you really believe in feminism and support it?

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