The lone male speaks up in the Feminist Theory classroom


Editor’s Note: Author Jason Schweizer is a student in the Spring 2009 Feminist Theory class in The University of Akron’s Women’s Studies Program. To read more student posts, click here.

male-feministsIt’s strange to be the only male feminist in a Feminist Theory class. When reading feminist thought (especially second-wave thought), I often find myself defending men’s position.

This is as much the man in me as it is the Libra and perpetual devil’s advocate. But I also find myself asking, why have we excluded men?

I’m a guy. I know guys. I spend most of my time with other guys. And most of the men I know who are my age (24) may not identify as feminists, but their core sets of values are undoubtedly reflective of many core feminist values.

Yea, okay, maybe guys do sexist stuff like talk about how many chicks they banged the other week, but in their hearts, the men I know believe that women and men are emotionally and intellectually equal. Their core feminist values are undermined by a tradition of chauvinism, but the chauvinist façade that many men adopt is simply that — a façade.

Sitting in Feminist Theory class, I can imagine most of my Midwestern guy friends sitting in class and being engaged in the conversation. I can see them agreeing and disagreeing in basically the same places I do. I can see them respectfully and passionately engaged in a meaningful discussion of women’s issues, and bringing real insight to the table.

Men would be enormously helpful as feminism progresses deeper into the 21st century, but feminist thought has consistently failed to reach out to enlightened men who would otherwise be voices for our cause. In some cases, feminist thought has intentionally excluded men.

But it’s time to wage a campaign. Feminism needs more voices! In my opinion, thousands of young men are being raised each year who could and would be voices for the feminist movement, but who never will be because nobody is asking them to overlook the negative stereotypes that have come to be associated with the f-word.

Here’s a short list of things to consider:

  1. Cultural change only occurs in one of two ways: through conflict or through consensus. If we had more men jumping on board with us, consensus would be a lot easier to achieve. More feminist men means more feminist voters.
  2. Men have easier access to wealth, power, and prestige than do women—and feminist men won’t be quite so likely to hoard it.
  3. Feminist men are all-around less dismissive, more respectful, much more likeable and altogether better at life than traditional men.

But men aren’t going to come to a feminist theory class because feminism has come to be conceptualized through stereotypes. As the next generation of feminists, it is our duty to reclaim feminism’s good name. We must reach out to others.

Thousands of young men and young women are waiting to call themselves feminists—they just don’t know it yet. The feminist movement has the opportunity to be so much more powerful than it is. We just need to learn to reach out.

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5 Responses

  1. You’re right, Jason…when equality is the goal, we could use all the help we can get! I don’t believe in a feminism that is anti-male. We should be fighting the institutions and systems that oppress us, not the men who are forced to comply with the system just as we are.

  2. Great thoughts well expressed. I think the question is how do we reach out to today’s young men? For example, how could a Women’s Studies Program attract more men? How can second wave feminists learn to communicate with today’s young males without sounding strident or shrill. Equality is the goal and I think many men and women are surprised to find the wage gap still exists, court decisions like Ledbetter and Hulteen are still made, and equality is still a goal.
    That’s my two cents and you can keep the change until we see real change.
    More more on the wage gap visit http://www.aauw.org.

  3. Good questions, Pat. It’s a delicate balancing act, particularly for us second wavers. I was encouraged on the last day of class this spring semester when three young men from one of my Introduction to Women’s Studies classes came up after class to say how much the class meant to them. They all said it should be required for all male students at UA. Now that is revolutionary!

  4. Pat, visit my blog http://weirdperspectives.wordpress.com for a response your questions 🙂

    I signed up for a wordpress account today, so if y’all want to make me a contributor to this blog, that’d be cool. 😛

    Hi Paula and Christine!

  5. […] On How Men Might Include Themselves in Feminist Discussion This is a reponse to a comment I received on a blog I posted for my feminist theory class. https://ablogofourown.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/the-lone-male-speaks-up-in-the-feminist-theory-classro… […]

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