“Could you send over articles or blogs I should read? I’m interested in being a feminist but I don’t really know how to get started.”
This may be a familiar question to some of you. As a Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) major who has the privilege of knowing curious, open-minded folks from a variety of disciplines, it’s one of the first ways we exchange knowledge. I let them borrow from my feminist bookshelf and in exchange, I get the opportunity to understand a perspective that is currently missing from the Women and Gender Studies department.
Looking around our classrooms, it is rare to find a male-identifying person attending WGS classes, let alone majoring in it. I am not trying to discount the presence of male-identifying folks that I see in my classes. Rather, I’m trying to address the lack of a male feminist presence on our campus.
Where are the men?
I like to imagine that most men on our campus are enlightened to basic feminist theory and self-identify as feminists. After all, there doesn’t seem to be an explicit presence of meninism. But I want to call for a more passionate community of male allies — not only to support feminist movements on campus, but also as a way to support men as they work to realize the positive impact feminism can have on their own lives.
With the threat of fake male feminists looming above our collective heads, I can understand the apprehension around accepting a cissexual male into a close-knit community. Louis C.K. was considered to be one of the good guys; in his 2013 special he wondered, “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider that there is no greater threat to women than men?” But with new news being uncovered every day, it is cringeworthy to think back on his “good guy” status.
Rightfully so, it is clear to see why we hesitate before letting “male feminists” into our lives. Still, we must not close the door on the faces of those hoping to learn. I would argue that, while there is a community of people churning out resources on feminism for women and by women, there isn’t a platform for men to learn about maintaining healthy relationships and caring for their personal well-being.
I want to call for a more passionate community of male allies as they work to realize the positive impact feminism can have on their own lives.
Moreover, the in-jokes about “male feminists” are a fun when you’re on the inside, but they contribute to exclusion. The jokes exclude people that are simply trying to learn about a new community and are immediately finding themselves ostracized. And while it may be understood why these in-jokes are fun for those in the community, I do not believe that it is productive to fight fire with fire.
Rather than sidelining male perspectives, I believe that inviting them into the conversation might be a more productive exercise. After all, this invitation would seek to disrupt false assumptions of feminists as “male-hating feminazis” while enabling men to pull manhood out of its neatly labelled box and critically examine it.
There isn’t a platform for men to learn about maintaining healthy relationships and caring for their personal well-being.
So, where are the men in WGS courses?
There isn’t a rule that requires every student to attend a mandatory WGS course. And even if there was, I am not sure if the rule would work encourage productive conversations. It certainly wouldn’t appropriately address my call for a more visible community of male allies on campus. But, I think it is more important to consider making space for those male-identifying folks that may wish to learn and to embrace feminism as an identity marker.
This is still a topic that I struggle with. After all, why should I go through the work of finding and lending books to interested friends? I spend long hours researching and writing and thinking about these issues — why should I give it up as free knowledge? But in order to envision a world where basic respect for human beings, regardless of their gender, race, class, religion, etc., I recognize the importance of exchanging and sharing the lessons we learn in our disciplines.
In Alberta, there are multiple organizations advocating to get men involved in feminist discussions, instead of calling them out. To learn more about male allyship, head over to www.albertamen.com or www.menedmonton.org. To “get started on becoming a feminist,” politely request from me, a friend, a professor, or a librarian to borrow from their bookshelf. Or better yet, take an introductory course offered by Women’s and Gender Studies and create your own feminist bookshelf.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.