The word ‘feminist’ has been a part of our vocabularies since most of us were very young. Whether someone said the word disparagingly or not, we knew feminists were women even if we didn’t know what they did or even if we were one.
I tried the word ‘feminist’ on for size in college, then gave it up thinking it was too radical. When I grew into the “me” I really knew myself to be, I took the label back on for good. But I wasn’t the only one playing with labels and discovering what a woman was capable of doing. It was also the boys and men in my life. They saw me, even if for a moment, in a different light which gave me the courage to experience doing something on my own, something outside of the comfortable, feminine zone I had been given.
For me, it was my father telling me I had to go outside in a freezing cold winter so he could teach me how to change the battery in my car. My mother believed that men took out the garbage and women cooked, that every chore had a gender. While I was carrying the heavy battery in my cold hands, I complained to myself, “Why wasn’t my dad doing this for me?” I finished putting the battery in, hooked it up, and felt a sense of pride when the car engine finally turned over. And 25 years later, I change the batteries in my car, I drive stick shift (again, Dad), paint my own home, bought my own home for that matter, and have worked in IT, a fairly male-dominated field.
Along the way, I realize I had a male teacher who told me I was good at math, a brother who harassed me into going sky diving and rock climbing, and an ex-boyfriend who took me deep-sea fishing and taught me how to clean and gut a fish because he was too squeamish to do it himself. All these wonderful and powerful experiences have exposed me to the amazing, magical unicorn of the moment; the male feminist.
Recently, Barack Obama penned a feminist essay about his daughters, wife, and Hillary. The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winning Malala openly thanked her father for “not clipping” her wings. Prince Harry recorded a strong, feminist message in 2013 for CHIME for Change by saying, “Real men treat women with dignity and respect they deserve.” More and more men are learning that being a feminist isn’t just a women’s issue. Men are starting to realize that having women in their lives means loving them while also being comfortable enough to stand beside them to celebrate their strength, support their goals and fight for their equality while advocating for sexual and physical violence prevention.
In this day and age, it is still astonishing that women who are vocal online about women’s rights are threatened with rape and other violence. Yet with men coming into the picture and standing by us, a new voice is being heard and change is starting. Jackson Katz, the creator and co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention, in his TedTalk on Gender Violence Prevention gives a shout out to all women who have gone before in the efforts to end violence of women, but he acknowledges that as a man, other men are hearing his message clearer. And if that is what is needed to create change, I’m all for it.
In the meantime, my new man teases me privately about working for women’s rights as my “knitting group” while I hear him publicly and proudly (and accurately) explain the work I do for women’s non-profits as well as my other accomplishments. And I read about more men working toward ending domestic violence and I feel encouraged that we are at least on the right path.
Here are some more amazing male feminists:
Jackson Katz, PhD, speaking on Gender Violence Prevention:
It’s important that we acknowledge that the growing movement of men in the United States in a multi-cultural sense and all around the world and in an international sense, the growing movement of men who are standing up and speaking out about men’s violence against women and going into parts of male culture that have historically been either apathetic or openly hostile to women’s efforts to engage them, that movement of men is indebted to the leadership of women on a personal level, on a professional level, on a political level, on an intellectual level, on every level, women built these movements. And these are movements that are affecting in a positive way everybody, not just women and girls, but also men and boys. And oftentimes, men like myself, get a lot of credit and public acclaim for doing the work that women have been doing for a long time. So one of the ways we can use the spotlight is to thank women and honor women’s leadership going forward, today, tomorrow and going into the future.
Daniel Craig, supporting International Women’s Day 2011. Judi Dench voice-over:
Women are responsible for two thirds of the work done worldwide, yet earn only 10 percent of the total income and own 1 percent of the property… So, are we equals? Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking.
Andy Samberg, on why people keep saying women aren’t funny, Glamour, 2013:
Well, because f–king idiot-ass men keep saying that women aren’t funny. It makes me crazy. I find it disgusting and offensive every time.
Dalai Lama, 2011 Peace and Music in Memphis, TN:
I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?
Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and writer of “The Avengers” on creating strong female characters:
Because, equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition.
Donald McPherson, former NFL quarterback, March 2013, CNN Article:
What can men do [to stop violence against women]? Men do not just need to stop being violent. The vast majority of men are not violent. But men do need to stop being silent. Calling violence against women, whether street harassment or sexual harassment or rape or murder, a “women’s issue” allows men to ignore it as if we have no responsibility for it or stake in ending it. We all have grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and female friends and colleagues. Our lives are inextricably interwoven; women’s issues of safety and equality directly affect our lives as men.
Afghan men wear burqas and march to support women’s rights, 2015:
The wearing of a burqa is imposed by men for women. We’re here today to share our solidarity with women.