Identifying as a feminist doesn’t mean anything if we don’t act like one. I think it’s definitely important for men to help with gender equality. However, the best way we can do this is talking to other men about gender issues. Call out that sexist joke. Be open about expressing a full range of emotions. Intervene when you see another man bothering a woman. Too many men like to loudly announce how feminist they are, but fail to act on their supposed feminist principles.
A recent example of this occurred when Ben Schoen, self proclaimed male-feminist and co-creator of Feminspire, had a bit of a misogynistic meltdown recently. As you can see in this article, he goes into an incoherent rage on Twitter when called out for his creepiness. But I’d like to backtrack a bit to that creepy message.
Ben sends a creepy message to a woman he never met that seems to clearly be hitting on her. She politely turns him down and it would have been great if that was the end of it. However, he became upset that he was turned town and again went to Twitter to creepily tweet at her before he goes into that meltdown.
As a male feminist (or as any decent human) respecting personal boundaries is literally the the least people can do. If someone says no, they said no and you are not owed an explanation. I wish Ben was the only example of this, but we have seen time, and time, and time, and time, and time again that vocal male feminists are secretly creepy and even abusive. also wrote a great article about this and this recent SNL skit captures the phenomenon rather well:
I care about gender equality too and I know I get praise for literally doing the bare minimum. As a man, if I say “sexism is bad” or “rape is bad” I’ll have people seriously thank me for saying it. On the other hand, women who bravely share their stories or provide much deeper feminist analysis than me often get harassed.
So I think it’s easy for men to let this easy and automatic praise get to their heads. It’s something we constantly all need to be mindful of.
However, we do know that men who feel powerful are linked to higher rates of sexual harassment. Dogmatically following the rules in a social justice circle to get praise can give men a sense of power. I wonder if some men then let the praise get to their heads and then makes them more likely to be predatory. Or if they already have predatory tendencies and then seek out certain communities to exploit.
Regardless of the cause, the entire situation just sucks for everyone involved and I hate that I keep seeing it. Identifying as a feminist and not doing the work doesn’t count. If you can’t respect basic boundaries, then you shouldn’t loudly proclaim how progressive you are. You need to do some self-reflection before you harass more people.