Yes, I’m one of those feminists who doesn’t want men in feminism, the type who doesn’t think men can be feminists. I’m quite happy to talk with you, work in partnership with or alongside you, even count a select bunch of you amongst my friends, but call you feminists: “Nah.”
Men – you’ve had since time immemorial to get your shit together. For the sake of argument, let’s start from the assumption that as a species we’ve been around for about 200,000 years. Evidence suggests that early societies were egalitarian but that with the development of agriculture and domestication around 11,700 years ago, came the emergence of patriarchy, of men’s domination of women. What we refer to as first wave feminism gained prominence from the late 19th and early twentieth centuries, though this is western-centric and writes out women’s earlier struggles in Europe from the 15th century. Even if we take Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman published in 1792 as the start of women’s fight for our rights, men had eleven and a half thousand years to do something about sex inequality – if only a) you had wanted to and b) you weren’t too busy enjoying the benefits. What’s suddenly happened for you to want to get in on the act?
Feminism is more than the demand for rights for women or equality between women and men. For me, feminism is the fight for the liberation of all women as a class from subjugation under patriarchy. Loose the structural analysis and feminism gets lost in the rights of the individual, in identity led politics and notions of choice and agency fail to take sufficient account of context and impact. Get men in and feminism is almost inevitably reduced to the problem of inequality and usually it isn’t so long before the ‘men suffer under patriarchy too’ line is trotted out.
Men, revolutionaries, when you fight for equality you’re too quick betray your sisters. Women were fighting for the rights of women as a class, as well as the overthrow of totalitarian regimes in the Arab Spring, but women’s status has been seriously threated in the countries that achieved changes of government. The end of communism in Eastern Europe, and with it the rise of choice and consumerism furthered the commodification of women and men’s right’s to choose to profit and purchase. In the UK, the Socialist Workers Party handling of rape shows that misogyny, sexism and sexual violence were seen as equality issues of lesser importance.
Men, you take up too much public space. This post by End Victimisation and Blaming cites Dale Spender:
“Present at the discussion, which was a workshop on sexism and education in London, were thirty-two women and five men. Apart from the fact that the tape revealed that the men talked for over 50 per cent of the time, it also revealed that what the men wanted to talk about – and the way in which they wanted to talk – was given precedence.” [...]
“There is no doubt in my mind that in this context at least (and I do not think it was an atypical one) it was the five males and not the thirty-two females who were defining the parameters of the talk. I suspect that neither the women nor the men were conscious of this. There was no overt hostility displayed towards the females who ‘strayed from the point’, but considerable pressure was applied by the males – and accepted without comment from the females – to confine the discussion to the male definition of the topic.”
Spender is absolutely right if my experience is anything to go by, the situation she described was not atypical. In the media men dominate, they take up disproportionate space. In politics men dominate, they take up disproportionate space. Even on public transport men dominate, you take up disproportionate space as illustrated by this blog and this. Seriously fellas, we know that your balls aren’t that big.
This piece by Glosswitch on the vitriol directed towards a twitter hashtag #sharedgirlhood and its protagonist Victoria Brownworth (@VABOX) explores the importance of a collective approach to women’s oppression. Too few women get to know the joy of mass women-only spaces. It’s increasingly rare to find even a feminist event that is women only, and those that seek to provide this, increasingly face challenges. Bullying from men’s rights extremists led to the London Irish Centre cancelling a booking for the women-only radical feminist conference Rad Fem 2013 for safeguarding reasons and because the venue could not handle the volume of complaints, though the conference went ahead peacefully elsewhere. What’s the big threat? Are you afraid that we’re plotting to overthrow male privilege or something?
Men, how about you prioritise taking responsibility for your violence above asking ‘What about the men?’ Services for women who have experienced sexual and domestic violence are increasingly required by commissioners to offer services to men too, despite evidence that this is not what women want, despite women being overwhelmingly the victims and men being overwhelmingly the perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence. Despite even the recognition of this by the government in its strategy to end (male) violence against women and girls. Incidentally men, if you focussed on ending male violence, you’d be helping a whole lot more men – and women – than you are by overstating your victimisation by women.
Men, how about you challenge the pornography tastes of some of your brethren? Other men and boys listen to you, use their sexism for the greater good. How about you challenge the sexual objectification of women without needing to call yourselves feminists to do so. Just do it because you recognise that objectification is damaging to women, a cause and consequence of inequality that upholds patriarchy.
Men, how about you sort out the rest of society – that in which you dominate – and make that more equitable and safer for women before you insist on occupying our space? There is a role for you, plenty that you can do, and I really hope that you will be influenced by feminism but in my experience, it is the men who exclude themselves from identifying as a feminist, who instead see themselves as allies, supporters or pro-feminist who have the more sophisticated analysis. Men who realise that feminism is not about or for them, not about what they think.
The silencing of women by men in the public sphere is deafening; the habit of overlooking and failing to respond to women’s subordination is entrenched, structural and serves men as a class. By insist on inclusion in feminism, once again, men’s wants and needs are prioritised over women’s and women’s subordination is reinforced.