‘I don’t think I could ever date a feminist,’ said an unnamed friend as he glanced up over his pint, little knowing he’d become the opening line for a blog post. ‘I couldn’t deal with a girlfriend who believes I’m just an ignorant animal, out to rape women at any opportunity.’
It’s a sadly common opinion that feminists have a low view of men, or even hate men. We often seem to be complaining at men, either as individuals or part of a patriarchal system. There’s quite a lot to say, what with all the discrimination and harassment and oppression, you know. But it’s just not the case that we have a low opinion of them. I, for one, am a very big fan.
Here’s the thing: by calling out a man on his sexist behaviour, feminists have a demonstrably higher view of men than those who excuse them for it.
This is an ode to men.
Men, you – just like women – are incredible, highly evolved creatures. Through the eyes of faith, you’re made in the image of God, as his workmanship and his masterpiece. You’re creative and resourceful. You’re thoughtful and rational. You design and you discover and you dance and you doubt. You make a thousand tiny decisions every day. You have potential beyond anyone’s imagination.
So I refuse to believe that when you see a woman in a short skirt* in the street, you are rendered incapable of walking past without shouting obscenities at her.
(*Or, as it goes, any other item of clothing.)
I refuse to believe that if the woman in your bed changes her mind and says no, you just can’t help but have sex with her anyway.
I refuse to believe that, though you manage polite and civil conversation with all kinds of people as you go about your day, the only way you can possibly interact with that girl you met on Tinder is to send an unsolicited picture of your penis.
I refuse to believe that, despite your own uniquely fascinating take on the world, the only kind of humour you can engage with is sexist banter.
I simply refuse to believe those things are inevitable, that being male means that you have no choice but to walk through life treating women as pieces of meat to be ogled, rated and used. You are very much more than a slave to your sexual desires, your ego, or your reputation. You don’t come pre-programmed to hurt and abuse.
So if you or any other man makes a bad choice, the choice to harass or belittle or discriminate against a woman because of her gender,
if you choose to use the power and privilege you have as a man to your advantage over and against a woman,
if you choose to lazily accept aspects of culture that do those things, and so perpetuate them by participating,
…then feminists will absolutely kick up a fuss. Because we know they are choices you didn’t have to make. We know you could choose differently next time, so we want you and other men to think again.
It’s those who excuse sexist jokes and cat-calling as ‘just laddish banter’ who have a very low view of men. It’s those who ask what the victim was wearing and how much she’d had to drink who think men are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.
When I was young, around 12 or 13, I had my first significant encounter with a boy and he taught me all I knew about men. He taught me that men are controlling and manipulative, that they treat women as objects to be used for their pleasure, and that my feelings don’t matter to them at all.
I’m a feminist now because I’ve learnt, from so many wonderful men that I’ve known since then, that #notallmen are like that. I’m a feminist because I have an amazing dad who has taught me what it means to be gentle and strong and assertive and sensitive. I’m a feminist because friends and teachers and boyfriends and brothers have treated me with the respect and love that I now know I’m worthy of.
Dear men, I’m a feminist because I know you are much, much more than you’re sometimes told you have to be. Patriarchy hurts all of us. Let’s fight it together.