Why Men Need Feminism (Part 1)

There is a disturbing trend growing in the movements for gender equality. Most likely a response to the gendered etymology of the word ” feminism,” many people are creating new movements that address issues of gender. From men’s rights activism to egalitarianism to humanism, these movements attempt to call attention to the fact that men today are often just as disadvantaged by our strict gender binaries as women are.

I am a very big supporter of most of the ideals that these movements espouse, however, there are many aspects of these new movements that rub me the wrong way.

MRAs (men’s rights activists) do not work towards achieving equality, but rather work against the gains of feminism because they believe that feminism has diminished their rights. MRAs would benefit from allying with feminism, but instead they create their movement in opposition to it. One of the largest issues that MRAs support is the gender bias that has become part of divorce and custody cases. There is a bias towards giving child custody to the mother in most cases, even when there is no evidence that the father would make a less competent custodial parent. This is one of the biggest issues discussed by MRAs and it is a feminist issue. The problem is not anti-men, pro-women bias in courts. The problem is outdated beliefs about gender roles in marriage and parenting in society as a whole. One of the biggest issues of modern feminism is contesting gender roles and media representation of both men and women.

Another misguided way that people for gender equality are rebranding the movement is by being against feminism but for “egalitarianism” or “humanism”. The concept of egalitarianism is a wonderful one because it addresses not only gender inequalities, but inequalities on the intersectional level. However, many who identify as “egalitarian” create that movement’s label in opposition to feminism. It assumes that feminism means that women want to be privileged over men and that feminist are only concerned with issues that affect women. The label of feminism includes the root word femin- because it was originally begun to make women more equal with men, who were clearly more privileged in society. Today, our levels of privilege are much more complicated. Many claim that since women can vote and attend college, we don’t need feminism. Though earlier waves of feminism have succeeded in earning women rights, less obvious issues of privilege, representation, and gendering still need to be dealt with. Feminism is a movement that has evolved over time, and its current evolution needs to be understood. Feminism is not just for women, not just by women, and not just concerned with issues that affect women. Modern feminism is inclusive to all people and fights against the gender binaries, sexual mores, strict gender roles, racism, sexism, ableism, and heteronormativity that affect men just as much as they affect women. And while there are plenty of issues that affect men and their rights (see Reddit’s MRA group), women, people of color, and LGBTQ people still suffer the most from the patriarchal system of society.

While feminism might benefit from a name change, I don’t think that is the best way to convince people that the movement is more than just a bunch of angry misandrists. Feminism needs to communicate to people outside the feminist movement that it is not just for women. The Good Men Project  is a great venue that attempts to challenge notions about masculinity and men’s rights without being hostile towards feminism. I would also recommend checking out Hugo Schwyzer’s How Men’s Rights Activists Get Feminism Wrong, and Amanda Marcotte’s The Solution to MRA Problems? More Feminism.

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Filed under feminism, gender, identity, politics, privilege

14 responses to “Why Men Need Feminism (Part 1)

  1. Indeed, feminism is a move toward a more egalitarian society and certainly others can benefit from the movement, especially men. Binary gender and compulsory heterosexuality force men into gender performances that are themselves limiting to both women and men. There are also MRA’s (an unfortunate name, to be sure) who have emerged as a reaction to feminists movements because they are uncomfortable with the rights women have claimed.

    However, many pro-feminist men also exist who are uncomfortable with the “feminist” label for other important reasons. Most notably, they feel that feminism claims a universal scope and appeal, while their struggle for an individual identity is not necessarily represented within feminism. This phenomenon is not limited to men. Judith Butler, a noted third-wave feminist scholar, has noted many times that feminism has failed to represent the needs of many LGBTQ folks and of pro-feminist men, because they find their needs divergent from those of women.

    This is not to say that they do not support the aims of feminism and find its scholarship immensely powerful and helpful for their cause. Instead, the use of the label “feminist,” many will say, does not represent their identities and is rather more useful as a tool and a school of thought. Again, I think your premise is right, that “men need feminism,” however, many men who are aware of this reality will refuse to take up the identity because there others that they feel more adequately represent their situation.

  2. zhukhov

    ‘Modern feminism…fights against the gender binaries, sexual mores, strict gender roles, racism, sexism, ableism, and heteronormativity…’.

    That is exactly what I am fighting for, if I understand all that Marxist ideology correctly. It is destructive to everything I believe in. So, ‘feminism’ cannot possibly represent my interests.

    ‘Feminism needs to communicate to people outside the feminist movement that it is not just for women.’

    It is for everyone except normal (moral) Christian White Heterosexual Men and Boys. In other words, almost half the population in Canada and the United States.

    You will never receive our support.

  3. DaPoet

    1) Unless a man wants to procreate he doesn’t need a woman…
    2) Both feminism and conservatism are destructive movements and need to be swept away posthaste.
    3) I’ve spent my entire life watching my mother and other women destroy their families through the no fault divorce laws.
    4) I choose to get married and start a family only to watch in the 80’s as feminist’s successfully lobbied the federal and state govt.’s to take away my rights to my children.
    5) It has become apparent that the state has placed a gun – pointed at my temple – in my wife’s hand with the hammer cocked back and her finger on the trigger.
    6) Consequently as many men are doing I have concluded that marriage – intimate relationships with a woman are not in my best interest.

    • Brenna McCaffrey

      #1: That is a heteronormative statement and I never said men need women. Just that they need feminism.

      Regarding #3, #4, #5, and #6, I am a feminist who agrees that divorce laws and many aspects of legal marriage are sexist and that something needs to be changed. Also, feminism is very skeptical of traditional marriage for many reasons, the ones you pointed out included.

      Apart from #2, I think I can agree with most of the general sentiments you have expressed.

      • Perhaps it’s time then that feminism replace itself with another movement. It has been around long enough, to the point that feminists are acknowledging problems stemming directly from the feminist doctrine. You insist that all these new movements are opposing feminism. Are you refusing to acknowledge a certain pattern? Most of the other movements towards gender equality oppose feminism. Wouldn’t that say more about feminism than about them? They oppose feminism because people are waking up to the reality that is harmful to society. Perhaps it’s time that feminism join with these other movements, and evolve itself, rather than assume that these opposition groups should align themselves with you?

  4. Vordreller

    “MRAs (men’s rights activists) do not work towards achieving equality, but rather work against the gains of feminism because they believe that feminism has diminished their rights.”

    Wrong. Other way around.
    This isn’t about men losing rights at all. How do you even reach that conclusion?

    I know it’s a common logical fallacy to believe that if one party gains rights, the other automatically loses them.

    But to then assume that all MRA’s think like that, says a lot more about how you think about MRA’s, than it does about the actual MRA’s.

    It’s a prejudiced assumption and that kind of thinking doesn’t exactly work towards a better society.

  5. A Pro Fem/MR/LGBT/Logic person

    what is wrong with men’s rights? If i told feminists that they didn’t need feminism and they needed men’s rights they would cause a shitstorm. Both groups are working for equality, contain straw men/women, and try and fix different issues. If we are going to create 1 group it should be called Egalitarianism, because that is what it is by definition. Though i personally believe that wouldn’t work because differing viewpoints. Really both groups should respect each other and do their works. And the reason that MRAs tend to avoid and dislike feminists is because of many people in the group who bash and hate men (straw women) and minimalize their problems and tell them that their issues are nonexistent. And personally as a homosexual, i find my male issues more prevalent besides the marriage rules. I hope you read and understand that people of differing issues need differing groups. Saying we need only feminsim is like saying Macs aren’t only for design, but are better at gaming too, so we should ban PC and Linux. It is a tad spiteful and won’t help everyone as much even though, sure a Mac can do those things, just as effective.

  6. Anthony Deluca

    Given your beliefs on Feminism can you explain to me the behavior of the following organizations:

    National Organization for Women
    National Association of University Women
    Concerned Women for America

    In particular why have all these groups opposed equal parenting rights? What legal discrimination against men have these lobbies explicitly opposed?

    Less importantly I want to mention that I would estimate about 5-10% of feminists openly state that men cannot be feminists on “pro-feminist men.”

  7. Anthony Deluca

    You realize you are recommending an essay by Amanda Marcotte? Ms. Marcotte is famous for writing this about the Duke Rape case after the men were already cleared:

    I’ve been sort of casually listening to CNN blaring throughout the waiting area and good fucking god is that channel pure evil. For awhile, I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will—not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair

    Prior to the men being cleared she referred to anyone defending the players as “rape loving scum.”

    Currently she seems to be involved in “Stamping out misogyny on Reddit.” In my opinion she is very clearly a misandrist bigot.

  8. David Byron

    It’s not just the name but the fact that feminism is an anti-male hate movement. Any person of good will would have nothing to do with feminism.

  9. RZA

    If you want to deal with issues of gendering, privilege, etc, I don’t see why egalitarianism can’t do it. I mean, you don’t say “blackism” or “Hispanicism”.

  10. john hollow

    “The problem is not anti-men, pro-women bias in courts. The problem is outdated beliefs about gender roles in marriage and parenting in society as a whole.”

    … just because the *cause* is an outdated gender beliefs system doesn’t mean that the results can’t be anti-man, or show a pro women bias, or that this particular issue hurts women equally to men, does it? In all of the other ways in which outdated gender roles clearly disadvantage women, nobody (who is being honest about it) has any problem calling those things anti-woman and/or pro-man. Sure, the issues men face are significantly smaller in number and less severe compared to the multitudes of problems that women face as a result of their gender, but why are so many people who write about feminism so staunchly against validating men’s frustration on this handful of issues? I don’t get it.

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