Being a male feminist means you hear the phrase “feminazi” an awful lot to describe the difference between a “good” feminist and a bad one. It reminds you of the way some people will describe “good” blacks and “bad” blacks, “immigrants” and “aliens,” “someone who puts out” and a “slut.” You feel awkward, but you don’t speak up because at least they’re acknowledging that there is some kind of legit feminism and you don’t really want to get in as petty an argument as that.
Being a male feminist means sitting in a gender studies class and being one of the only two guys in the room. It means sitting there feeling awkward because you’re one of the only two non-trans guys and also because everyone else in the room is some sort of trans/dyke babe/dude and you’re ridiculously attracted to all of them because your sexuality makes no sense to you anyway. It means you’re embarrassed to raise your hand and speak up in class as often as you do, but no one else is speaking up so otherwise you’re just going to stare at each other silently while the professor reads through her notes.
Being a male feminist means not wanting to get involved with a feminist group because you’re not sure if you’re totally down with the entirety of its members and your limited interactions with them before have been largely unpleasant. It means confronting the reality that yes, some feminists are also misandrists and you’re going to end up facing that. It means recognizing that you’re actually on a radical end of a spectrum of gender destructionists, something that doesn’t jibe with hyper-tolerant mainstream feminism.
Being a male feminist means hearing again and again from your lovers about how kind or supportive or not-terrible you are and feeling insanely depressed about it because in your view all you did was treat them like they were human beings with feelings just like yours. It means hearing everyone’s rape story and being simultaneously jaded to the inevitable suspenseful reveal and even more depressed as you realize how common a problem it is.
Being a male feminist means being told again and again that you’re just trying to get in women’s pants from one end and being told you’re trying to trick women into letting you rape them from another. It means no one really supports you fully because women are still justifiably mistrustful of you and men are uncomfortable with the “gender betrayal,” as though it’s some kind of constant war or tension. It means being frequently misunderstood as you try to explain that you’re interested in treating women as people, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got like them or agree with them or whatever. It means sounding trite and didactic when you explain that women are not all a giant homogenous bloc of people any more than men are and any attempts present a perspective by any person Male, Female, Gay, Black, Straight, Asian, White as though they’re representative whatever is contrary to the idea of treating each person as an individual and not a stereotype.
Being a male feminist means feeling dirty for saying that you’re interested in gender equality for men, for the empowerment of men to embrace traditionally feminine things because you’ve experienced enough derision from various women to recognize that we’re still trapped in a second-wave mindset where being feminine is being worthless, regardless of gender. It means some women feel encroached upon when you “invade female spaces” by participating in stereotypically female activities. It means avoiding those same activities because you’re not sure how to handle this in a way that doesn’t make you look like a terrible person. It means recognizing that any amount of time spent with young children is likely to cast doubt on your character, up to and including insinuations of pedophilia so you avoid doing so because you’re not really up for that kind of label.
Being a male feminist is being unsure what you bring to the table on a blog that won’t be or hasn’t already been covered by a woman. It means writing a piece but not sure how it’s going to be received because you want to bring a “male perspective” to the table but you feel like that might be inherently offensive to a feminist group. It means being politically and personally committed to a segment of people to which you don’t belong and wouldn’t claim to and who occasionally deny your participation by describing their struggle along gender lines.
Being a male feminist mostly means being flabbergasted that there’s really a huge half of the world’s population that’s treated as poorly as it is. It means being terrified and confused as to how things could have gotten this way and occasionally incredibly livid that things are the way they are. It means having to remember every so often that other men do not share the same respect that you do. That people actually slut shame in the real world, that they justify paying women less, that they police uteri as though they owned them, that they deny women participation in certain activities. That this country is only a few decades away from marital rape legality, or that nearly every great man had the same utter disdain for women as people despite their otherwise genius. The reality of it is more terrifying than anything else, and all the more reason to fight the absurd injustice of it all.
Of course really that’s all just being me. My experience is individual, after all.
Jacob Danger Germain is an iron-sided iconoclast. He owns two guitars and knows how to play neither of them. Follow his life on his blog at thejakeman.com or friend him on facebook.com/jacob.germain