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Resident male ally Mat Drogemuller offers his tips for men who are interested in feminism, but are unsure where to start.
So you’ve heard about feminism and you want to give it a try. But you’re concerned, worried because the things you’ve heard haven’t all been good. Well, let me assure you. Feminism is not an extremist movement. Although, if you decide to become a feminist man (what feminists call a male ally), there are a few things you should know first.
1.) Feminists don’t really hate men
Many barbed sighs have passed through feminist lips, accompanied by the half-spat curse of *men*, but don’t be put off. Most feminists don’t actually hate men, it’s a reaction. If you put yourself in the probably uncomfortable shoes of a woman and think about the casual sexism they endure every day, then you too will start to grasp the origins of feminist bile.
2.) It’s the little things
Just be cool. It’s actually remarkably easy to not act like a douchebag. Basic things, don’t use terms like “slut” and “wife material” to categorise and rate women in terms of their sexual freedom and ability to iron shirts. Walk beyond the topless calendars stand of the newsagent. Don’t take up two seats on the train just because your junk needs the exposure.
3.) Because it’s actually the big things
Don’t sweat the small stuff though, because the bigger issues matter. What if you weren’t taken seriously at work, despite your nous? Or got paid less than someone who worked the exact same job? Or you had to call nights earlier than you wanted to, because you were unwilling to walk home alone? Those are questions. So if you ever happen to find yourself in a position where you can make bigger changes, even small ones, like paying women equally to men, or squashing sexual harassment in your workplace, then do it! Similarly, if a woman looks like she’s being harassed, then help her out. Women don’t need men to protect them, but as human beings we should look out for each other.
4.) Channel Johnny Cash and cry, cry, cry
One of the great things about becoming a feminist is freeing yourself from the constant need to be Chuck Norris in Delta Force 2. Stop thinking that you have to be so stoic all the time and let yourself feel the whole range of emotions you are capable of feeling.
I cried reading the final Harry Potter book and never looked back. I was a boy becoming a man, but I decided, at that moment, not to act like one. Try it. It’s good for you.
Cry, because you don’t give a shit.
5.) Question all.
So now you’re thinking, well if I’m not a “man”, then who am I? The easy answer is you’re a person and gender is a bourgeois construct. Step back and think in terms of people, and it will all fall into place. You’ll start to notice that gender propaganda is everywhere. It’s in the pink that’s plastered all over every women’s item in the supermarket. It’s in the TV shows that only ever show men in positions of power and always portray women as dumb accessories, obstacles to be overcome, or won.
We feminists have a saying. Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to use gender-neutral pronouns and he’ll feel uncomfortable with many popular metaphors. Get used to that feeling. Be alert but not alarmed, re: the feels. For example:
Does calling women bitches and placing them on a scale apropos to their attractiveness make you feel odd? Does something feel not quite right about joking with your mates about all the depraved acts you’d like to perform with your female coworkers, classmates or gym buddies? And yeah, speaking up can get complicated and can cause fissure, but if you feel this way, change the subject. Incremental steps. (There’s also a guide).
Women are constantly bombarded by messages about how they should behave and look. Overwhelmingly these messages are to make themselves attractive, subservient or useful to men in some way. Don’t become a feminist for the wrong reasons. Don’t become a feminist to be a shield, or to be somebody. Become a feminist because you feel the injustice and truly see the way that women are treated in society.
If makes sense, Feminism welcomes you aboard.
There’s plenty of room.