Men cannot be feminists.

UPDATE: This entry has now been linked by an MRA tumblr (I will not link to them because I don’t want to give them any hits, but their abbreviation is PoN). If you came from there, hi faggots! I’ve written some stuff about you assholes!

***

Yes, I know this title is bound to raise some hackles (“but what about teh menz???”). And yet I mean it quite literally. To me it is pretty obvious that a man cannot at the same time be a feminist.

I think the following two premises are uncontroversial in feminist circles:

1. All men are beneficiaries of the patriarchy.
2. Feminism seeks the end of patriarchy.

If one accepts these two premises, then the conclusion is inevitable: men cannot be feminists. And I think that in most other areas of life, a similar conclusion would be equally uncontroversial. We would call foul on a CEO who would call himself a communist or who would ask to join an Occupy movement, or a white man trying to join the Black Panthers, or of a Young Earth Creationist joining the National Academy of Sciences. And yet, men can pass (pun not intended) as feminists without even a second look. This is bizarre, to say the least.

An objection may be raised that a man can regret the privileges given to him. Of course a man can regret his privileges. Any man can believe that women should be given equal rights, that women don’t deserve to be raped, or that women should not be targeted by malicious legislation. This is not called “feminism,” it’s called “being a reasonable person.” Men don’t deserve a medal for seeing women as human beings. To say otherwise is to demean men’s intellectual faculties as well as women’s.

I know the “feminist men” (beautiful unicorns that they are) have adopted as their unofficial motto “the Patriarchy hurts men too!” and justify their affiliation on that basis. But this is based on a misunderstanding of how privilege works. I’ve already pointed out that subordinate social roles (such as being a woman) are given entitlements in order to elicit consent. Patrick Colm Hogan calls these “secondary gains” (Culture of Conformity, p50-51). But there are also secondary losses associated with those gains. Both the gains and losses serve to confirm the status of men as superiors and women as inferiors.

This is just a result of how privilege works. Men are “oppressed” because they have to perform the masculine gender and as such are limited in how they can express themselves. But by performing in this way they gain the privileges afforded to them by their masculinity. It is suffering (as mild as it is) in the service of a higher good, and to be a man and object to that process is about as trivial as complaining about having to go to the dentist.

In short, the Patriarchy doesn’t hurt men, it only confirms their status as superiors.

Feminism 101 has a further take on the issue:

[M]ost of the men I’ve personally known who have made a huge hairy point of identifying as feminists have been either date rapists, mom fetishists, porn addicts, or bear daddies inflicting their frustrated pseudopaternal tendencies on women. They are some of the most passive-aggressive, patronizing, out-dishing without it-taking twerps on the planet, and they are poisoning the women’s movement from the inside by sapping the hell out of everyone’s goddamn energy.

A man calling himself a “feminist” is a perfect cover story for rapists and abusers. I mean, think about it: what better way is there for a man to elicit trust in women than to sympathize with their struggle? Then when you beat or rape a woman, you’ve got a bevvy of other women ready to defend you, too; for just one example, see the recent Hugo Schwyzer incident. There are still women, even self-professed feminists, defending him despite his many, many grave crimes against women. Now that’s a major benefit to insinuating yourself in feminist circles.

From an Internet perspective, I can’t really comment on people’s sexual proclivities, but I have observed similar dynamics. In radfem blogs that allow men to comment, you see a great deal of the male entitlement to be heard (and I admit I have it too!), and the men using it also use their “feminist” badge to talk over women’s lived experiences. So what you get is a chorus of men whining “but what about teh menz??” and women trying to tell those men that it’s not about them. It’s fairly useless.

Radfem blogs which censor men, on the other hand, have by far the most interesting and informational comments sections I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if this is inherent to men barging into any topic or if it’s more specific to feminism, but there is a dynamic there that can develop without men feeling butthurt and feeling that they are entitled to reparations. Because butthurt of any kind is not informational and adds nothing to any conversation.

I am not saying that all men act butthurt. Some men can contribute to the dynamics of the dialogue, but I find that it’s rarely actually useful, from what I’ve seen. And as much as I’d like these women to listen to me and respect what I have to say because of my penile organ, I find that I actually have very little useful to add to the topic. Sometimes censorship is just for the best.

I want to end in something that might be controversial, since it comes from an MRA, but I think there’s some good points in there:

1. The Sensitive New Age Guy (SNAG)
Examples, Hugo Schwyzer, John Scalzi, Will Wheaton, Josh Weldon, Anthony Weiner.
This guy is often angling to use sensitive new age guy (SNAG) game to get himself a soft harem, and secure/maintain/enrich his employment. These guys will often plug the fembot party line because it is instrumental to the persona/career they have created. A sizeable portion of their readership/fanbase comes from a leftist audience and so, it is quite necessary for them to toe the party line. If you write SWPL oriented sci-fi for a living, it really makes no sense to rock the grrl-power boat. Doing so is about as dumb a move, career-wise, as a country-western artist penning a song that disparages NASCAR, Jesus or both.
Nevertheless, deep down these guys have a raging libido just like the rest of us. It’s just that they have figured out that this libido can be fed (in part) by occasionally stabbing other men in the back.

3. The Gay Leftist
Examples: Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage. (although the idea that these two are feminist is becoming less and less true as of late, thankfully)
The men in this category (which also includes the closeted) support feminism inasmuch as this support is something of an ideological tithe to another component (feminists) of the leftist coalition/army fighting the greater culture wars. Much like the Taliban and the Northern Alliance played nice with each other when fighting the Soviets, the fembots and the men in the gay community are relatively allied. However, at times when the culture war tips largely in their favor, that lovey-dovey relationship can and will break down. Why? For all their embrace of leftist causes, gay men are still men, all chock full of testosterone and um, male privilege (whatever). What’s more, they’re not exactly driven to be sympathy-filled white knights. Meet the new and improved “Evil Patriarchy” (TM).

Geeze… even when they say something that’s actually correct (a mind-bogglingly rare occurrence), MRAs still manage to make themselves look like assholes. Thanks to wannabe-feminist David Futrelle for linking to this list.

40 thoughts on “Men cannot be feminists.

  1. Gomi October 16, 2012 at 20:15

    You want women to respect you because you have a penis? Odd reason to want respect.

    • Francois Tremblay October 16, 2012 at 20:21

      … how can you read an entire entry about how men cannot be feminists and conclude that I want women to respect men? Are you actually literate or are you just faking it, autie?

  2. LuisMartos October 17, 2012 at 11:14

    1. All men are beneficiaries of the patriarchy.
    2. Feminism seeks the end of patriarchy.
    —————————————————————-

    By the same logic people like Bakunin or Kroptokin weren’t true anarchist because they were fucking aristocrats

    Your entire promises are based on Psychological egoism

    • Francois Tremblay October 17, 2012 at 12:16

      That’s entirely different. One can renounce one’s titles, but one cannot renounce one’s sex.

      • BlackBloc (@XBlackBlocX) October 31, 2012 at 22:23

        This is a particularly poor argument. Both Bakunin and Kropotkin benefited from their class privilege, no matter that they joined up the anarchist movement. Exhibit A: We’re actually still talking about Bakunin and Kropotkin to this day, instead of any of the hundreds of working class anarchist men (and women, but of course even back then it was mostly manarchists) of the Jura Federation or other groups that were their contemporaries. At least some of which, we might assume if we do not have classist assumptions, were their equal intellectually.

        • Francois Tremblay October 31, 2012 at 22:26

          I think that’s partially the issue of our “great men of history” bias, not any specific ideology.

          • BlackBloc (@XBlackBlocX) November 1, 2012 at 04:28

            1. All upper class (bourgeois/aristocrat) people benefit from class society.
            2. Anarchism seeks the end of class society.

            The point is that the fact they renounced their title did not negate their privilege any more than if I was going out and saying “I’m done being a man”.

        • Francois Tremblay November 1, 2012 at 14:02

          That is also a sound argument, yes. I agree with it. If you want to argue that Kropotkin should not have been accepted as an anarchist, then I’d have to agree

    • Francois Tremblay October 17, 2012 at 12:55

      Also, and much more to the point, it is still possible for a man to be an ally of feminism, just as it’s possible for an aristocrat to be an ally of anarchism, even if they can’t be “true” anything. We should be content with that fact, not resent it.

  3. hyunhochang October 18, 2012 at 08:00

    *sigh*

    You DO realize that several of the progenitors of feminism (Marquis de Cordorcet, John Stewart Mill, Jeremy Bentham) were men?

    Speaking in absolutes on soft issues, like gender relations and society, is generally not very accurate. The premises are your argument are flawed and conclusion doesn’t logically follow. As often as not, reformers and revolutionaries have been part of the society or class they have sought to reform.

    • Francois Tremblay October 18, 2012 at 12:43

      What part of my argument is flawed? It is a very simple argument with clear premises, so it should not be a problem to point out. BTW, feminism has changed quite a bit in two centuries, I guess you didn’t know that. Nowadays it is not feminist to claim men and women should be equal, it’s just being a decent human being. Unless you want to claim that John Stuart Mill was against the Patriarchy (and I don’t think he was), you’re off course.

      • hyunhochang October 18, 2012 at 18:20

        1. All men are beneficiaries of the patriarchy.
        2. Feminism seeks the end of patriarchy.

        Neither of these true. The first is such an incredible hyperbole that I don’t think we need to deal with it any further. The second is fallacy of composition. Feminism advocates for social, political, and economic rights, in other words “the empowerment of women.” It is a large, decentralized series of social movement which is loosely organized into difference branches. Feminists agree that women need to be empowered, but they do not agree on how to do it or why the problem exists in the first place.

        The notion of the patriarchy emerged from a group of feminists in the late 60s who took on the name “radical feminists.” They wanted to look at male-female relations without considering any racial, class, or political aspect and instead work with a purely “feminist” framework. The ideology was not intended to be comprehensive, or even terribly accurate, but rather was made in response to leftist/Marxist feminism and with the prevailing notion of the time that men did NOT oppress women. Some of the early members, such as Ellen Willis, later criticized the simplicity and bias of patriarchal theory. As Willis stated in “Radical Feminism, Feminist Radicalism,” it was a “false logic” which denied that the will to dominate could “be a universal human characteristic which women share,” and which “exclude[d] women from history” since it lead to an “unrealistic” historical paradigm wherein women were NOT active agents with any stake or power in society.

        So for you to saw that ALL feminists, or all “real” feminists, believe in those two premises you typed, you are uneducated and discredit the thousands of men and women who fought to create a society where gender issues can even be discussed from a radical standpoint.

        • Francois Tremblay October 19, 2012 at 00:08

          “Feminism advocates for social, political, and economic rights, in other words “the empowerment of women.”
          You are confusing first wave feminism with all feminism. Learn a bit about the history of feminism before making such ignorant comments. Can I recommend some books?

          • hyunhochang October 19, 2012 at 05:29

            And you are confusing feminism derived from radical doctrine with all feminism.

        • Francois Tremblay October 19, 2012 at 12:37

          In this case it’s not a confusion… unless you wanna tell me that people who believe in the exploitation of women are feminists. If so, I have a bridge in San Fran and a statue in New York I want to sell you…

          • hyunhochang October 19, 2012 at 16:23

            And that’s a false-dichotomy. You are trying to say that people who don’t seek the end of patriarchy are not feminists and therefore are for the oppression of women. It doesn’t work that way.

        • Francois Tremblay October 20, 2012 at 00:04

          It’s not a logical deduction, it’s an observed fact. As far as I’ve seen, that is the case. If you can show me any ideology or worldview which doesn’t seek the end of the patriarchy and doesn’t seek to perpetuate the oppression of women, including pornography, prostitution and PIV, then I am ready to concede.

          • hyunhochang October 20, 2012 at 11:00

            I reject the premises of your argument. I AM against prostitution and pornography, as it happens. Patriarchy theory is flawed at best and does not accurately represent gender relations or social relations in the majority, if not all, of modern cultures. I also reject the notion that people in a class cannot be genuine reforms or revolutionaries of that class. Finally, it’s as foolish to think that your ideological approach to gender issues is the only legitimate one as it is for a religious denomination to preach that all others are evil.

            By the way, sex CAN be renounced in our day and age. And I suspect that for those who feel like they need it, that procedure if far easier than renouncing high social class or status.

          • hyunhochang October 20, 2012 at 11:02

            As to your question, Catholicism: against prostitution, pornography, and intercourse when not leading to conception.

        • Francois Tremblay October 20, 2012 at 13:26

          I wasn’t counting on you actually being stupid. I concede that if you’re unintelligent, you might both disbelieve in the Patriarchy but also be against the exploitation of women (maybe from a broken clock phenomenon or because you picked it up from religion or something like that).

          Catholics are not against the exploitation of women, so I find it absurd of you to bring that example up. They oppose prostitution and pornography because they mistakenly take these as expressions of women’s sexuality, which of course is evil.

          • hyunhochang October 20, 2012 at 14:42

            Again, you hold your opinion to be the ONLY true one, and claim that you must be stupid to disagree with you. I’m sorry, but that’s infantile.

            Catholics, as we have said, oppose prostitution, pornography, and PIV–either conditionally or, with the clergy, entirely–yet for entirely different reasons than does your brand of feminism. That was my point of bringing them up; outcomes do not always reflect motives. I ought to have made that clear.

        • Francois Tremblay October 20, 2012 at 14:46

          You are being tedious. I said: “If you can show me any ideology or worldview which doesn’t seek the end of the patriarchy and doesn’t seek to perpetuate the oppression of women”. Pornography, prostitution and PIV were examples of this latter principle. What I asked you was to provide an ideology which
          1. Does not seek the end of Patriarchy.
          2. Does not seek to perpetuate the oppression of women.

  4. hyunhochang October 20, 2012 at 15:27

    I misunderstood you then.

    Anything based off of empiricism and rationalism, like humanism and, later, Secular Humanism. Progressive religions and spiritual ideologies. The entire philosophy behind programs such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women and similar programs. Most “decent human beings” who think that men and women should be equal but are not, by your definition, feminists. You don’t find many people or entities in the West who say that they want to keep women in their “rightful place” any longer.

    • Lord Metroid October 20, 2012 at 16:18

      I need to get back to the kitchen, the women in the house makes terrible food!

    • Francois Tremblay October 21, 2012 at 00:11

      As bj pointed out, very few people sy they want to keep women in their “rightful place,” but it’s still an implicit premise of their ideology. Natalism is a good example of that, and any ideology predicated on natalism in some way is implicitly woman-hating. That includes humanism.

  5. bj October 20, 2012 at 17:17

    quote: “You don’t find many people or entities in the West who say that they want to keep women in their “rightful place” any longer.”

    they don’t say it, but they certainly act it out, and often do not even realise what they are doing

  6. DaTechGuy October 21, 2012 at 09:31

    I seem to recall a whole lot of women who were on the Feminist side particularly in congress supporting some guy named Bill Clinton.

    They still love him today too.

    Discuss

  7. […] Men cannot be feminists. […]

  8. Astraea_M January 1, 2013 at 23:55

    Your baseline assumption appears to be that someone cannot fight against that which benefits them. We have generations and years of history proving you wrong. Showing those who are privileged fighting to help those who are less privileged.

    Are you suggesting that the young white men and women who risked and lost their lives fighting for rights for African-Americans in the 1960s couldn’t be anti-racist, since they benefited from the racist society they lived in?

    Are you suggesting that the Christians who risked and lost their lives saving Jews during the Holocaust couldn’t have opposed anti-Semitism because the pro-Christian governmental stance benefitted them?

    Are you suggesting that the men and women in the South who fought against slavery couldn’t have been anti-slavery because they benefited from the stratified society they lived in?

    Your base premise is simply wrong.

  9. tigtog February 13, 2013 at 04:40

    The quoted paragraph above which you attribute to “Feminism 101” was actually written by Janice Erlbaum and quoted in one of the Feminism 101 FAQs as an example of one of the many variant views within feminism regarding whether men can/should call themselves feminists.

    Please be more careful with your attributions otherwise you give other people false impressions.

  10. Daniel February 17, 2013 at 12:24

    Well, I have to agree with you. For a long time I considered myself a feminist, then I actually got to see what feminism was all about besides the basic equality, and at first I was taken aback, I resented the portrayals of some of the roles I had identified with, and resented the attack on privileges that before I didn’t even knew I had but still enjoyed. The whole thing about the “good guys” hit me specially hard and for a while I was very butthurt and started making mental categories for true feminists (those whose discourse didn’t hurt me) and extreme feminists (those whose discourse was clearly wrong since it hurt me, and I was such a nice guy and feminist too!).
    After a while though, I began to see feminism differently. I began to understand how privilege works a little better (not that I fully understand it now), and turned away from the MRA movements with a foot on the doorway, to put it dramatically.
    Now I don’t resent anymore those mean feminists that say things that hurt my man feelings, because now I can more or less see their point. I’ve stopped all together calling myself a “nice guy” and also stopped considering myself a feminist, not because I see feminism as a bad thing, but because I see that I can only agree with feminism, but not truly share the necessary background. I can at most be supportive, but I cannot, and do no deserve to, take a protagonist role. Every time I speak in favor of feminism, I have to watch my words very carefully because I’m usually a word or two away from condescension.

    • Francois Tremblay February 17, 2013 at 13:59

      Thank you for the testimony. I think you are 100% right.

  11. David Gendron February 25, 2013 at 15:26

    “1. All men are beneficiaries of the patriarchy.
    ” 2. Feminism seeks the end of patriarchy.

    I think the second premise is true. The first premise is not true for me. Yes, men (as a class) are beneficiaries of patriarchy but personally, patriarchy hurts me way more than I beneficiate from it. So I want the end of it, so I consider myself a feminist.

    Even though I disagree with you on this, your post is interesting and this explains why non-mixed 100% women feminist militantism is the most efficient way to achieve feminism and why men feminists should support this approach, acting like loners without taking a protagonist role.

    • Francois Tremblay February 25, 2013 at 15:28

      How does the patriarchy hurt you? Are you sure you’re not confusing signals of masculinity (structural losses) with actual losses?

      • David Gendron February 25, 2013 at 15:45

        Maybe it’s structural but I percieve those as losses for me personally.

        • Francois Tremblay February 25, 2013 at 15:51

          Sucks to be you then. :)

          • A February 7, 2016 at 11:07

            The Patriarchy cannot hurt men. But that doesn’t mean there are no stereotypes of men that hurt them just as stereotypes of women hurt women. For example, the belief that men must be strong — physically and emotionally. This leads to men attempting to ignore pain for fear of being ridiculed. And it spreads the message that you are undesirable (as a friend and a mate) if you do not have the body of Charles Atlas.

            A conundrum of this is that if a woman needs help, they will get help because they are seen as weaker. A negative stereotype? Yes. Helpful in some cases? Yes. If a man needs help, then they will not receive it. In fact, by their act of needing help, they forfeit the right to it. Imagine if the circus strongman needed help lifting an object. He won’t receive help because it’s his job to lift heavy objects.

            Furthermore, the argument that men aren’t feminists because they stand to profit from the Patriarchy is flawed; the fact they stand to profit but seek change anyway should signify that they are convinced that change needs to occur and they should be welcomed. An example of how this set-up is fallacious: White people stand to profit from racial segregation. The civil rights movement is against racial segregation. Therefore, there were no white people who were a part of the civil rights movement. Just like there were no white abolitionists, and there was no Whig party in Parliament that thought the 13 colonies had a point about taxes, and there are no Sunni Muslims who think ISIL is a bad idea, and there was no movement for Indian independence in the UK, and there are no Native American reservations set up by the United States, et cetera.

            Like it or not, there has been no successful movement to peacefully bring about change with the powerful being entirely opposed, and radicalism on either side tends to hurt the movement as a whole (9/11, for example, brought in a massive wave of Islamophobia, which fuels resentment, which leads to more radicalism, which leads to more fear and hate, etc.).

  12. David Gendron February 25, 2013 at 15:31

    “the Patriarchy hurts men too!”

    No, but it hurts me.

  13. […] leads to things like norms and mores, status symbols, secondary gains (which I already mentioned here) and the use of social control and ostracism against […]

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