Recently, a common topic of conversation amongst my friends has been our frustration with ‘allies’ who aren’t allies. My group of friends is primarily women-identified who are passionate about social justice, feminism, and fighting for equity. Lately, we have been noticing a common theme of disappointment regarding the men who identify themselves as feminist, yet only seem to call themselves a ‘feminist’ as an easy way out of being criticized.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations with white, cisgender, heterosexual men who are extremely eager to slap a ‘feminist’ sticker across their Apple laptops, but cannot or do not actively prove they are feminists or even care about women. They turn to feminism when it’s beneficial to them, particularly when dealing with issues of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, but will manipulate the movement so that they can reap the rewards while leaving women, transgender and non-binary folks in the dust.
Examples of men who do this include:
- Men who say ‘bitch’ and call women ‘bitches’ in any context. Literally any context. But continue to proudly wear their ‘feminist’ bucket hats.
- Men who go to the Women’s March and then continue to talk about how they went to the Women’s March for the next year.
- Men who only open up emotionally with women they want to have sex with.
- Men who mansplain.
- Men who don’t shut up when in a discussion about women’s/LGBTQ+/racial issues.
- Men who only respect women that are their family members, girlfriends, or women they find attractive.
- Men who don’t recognize the actions of their favorite sports stars, actors, musicians, etc. as problematic because they can ‘separate the person from their work’ (EXAMPLE: continuing to support known abusers, rapists, and homophobes such as xxxtentacion)
If you feel offended by anything on this list, please know you might be part of the problem! It’s ok, you aren’t alone in this. You might personally feel that you are a champion of women, but please know most women probably don’t agree. Now, don’t worry, we understand you might be trying to do better, to recognize the humanity of others, to be a true feminist. You’re working to educate yourself, or wait for a nice girl (UGH) to be the reason you educate yourself (but like that’s shitty… do the work now).
“It is not enough to just have intelligent, academic conversations about feminism or social justice, actions must follow those conversations.”
When conversations about how men can be doing better become commonplace not only with my friends but others who are passionate about feminism and social justice, it might be time for those men to take the hint that they can, in fact, do better and be better. It is not enough to just have intelligent, academic conversations about feminism or social justice, actions must follow those conversations. It is necessary that men not only listen, ask questions, and try to be better allies, but we need men to recognize how their actions can be problematic, and when they are potentially being problematic.
But women cannot wait. Women, nonbinary, and trans folks are tired of waiting for cis men to catch up. We are tired of constantly having to explain ourselves. We are especially tired of all of the emotional labor that is required in educating cis men on their problematic actions. We are tired of constantly being interrupted because you think you know more. We know perfectly well enough because we literally live this everyday.
But, it’s not like there aren’t ways for men to be allies. The most difficult part about being a feminist is often focusing on how women should be center to the conversation and solution, and men often are used to being center to both. There are lots of men who do actively work towards a more just and feminist future, and it is completely possible to be a man and be a feminist. There are tons of resources for men who want to learn more, such as this Buzzfeed article, which outlines “11 Simple Things Men Can Do For Feminism” or this Bustle article, “7 Ways Men Can Be Better Allies To Women.”
Using a ‘feminist’ label shouldn’t be so easy that all you have to do is slap it across your chest and you are suddenly a hero. It should be earned like a badge of honor you can wear with pride because you know you earned it by listening, acting, and working towards a better, more just future for all.