Read on to find out about the bizarre the phenomenon where men who claim to be feminists are pedestaled for doing the bare minimum.
International Men’s Day occurs on 19th November every year, and it is high time for those who identify as men and have been in a position of gender privilege, to take the onus to further the movement for gender parity. It is imperative that men as beneficiaries and innate perpetrators of patriarchy, take cognizance of their inherent privilege, and abet the efforts of those leading the fight.
In the past, whenever men have subscribed, even marginally, to the beliefs of feminism, they are met with overstated reactions in their support. When a male celebrity wears pink, or a male actor leads a supposedly women empowering film, they are praised and accredited for “smashing the patriarchy” and “demolishing gender roles”. Their efforts are glorified to no end, often by women who identify as feminists.
It is ironical and sad to see how internalised, unrealised misogyny operates so insidiously within the feminist movement, and takes away space and voice from those it means to empower. It is faulty to perceive that men subscribing to the ideology of feminism are doing an altruistic act or a compromise on their part. Feminism benefits men as much as it benefits women. Queer and gender theories are actively redefining the stringent meaning of manhood that has compelled men to prescribe to a very rigid and toxic version of masculinity. Feminism is loosening the shackles of expectations that has suffocated men, enabling them to express and live even more freely.
However, the popular notion seems to be that feminism is about disempowering men. There is also a faction within feminism which feels that men cannot be feminists in veritable terms. Instead, at most, they can populate the space as male allies. This avowal follows the belief that one who has not lived the experience of being a woman, cannot be a feminist. Men who claim to be feminists can be held guilty for appropriating these experiences. There often are instances when what men proclaim in public is incongruent from their personal and political actions. Their feminism can be performative at best, and manipulative at worst.
Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, is the top result when you search online for “male feminists”. He has proudly labelled himself as a feminist on several occasions and appears to be a strong proponent of the movement. However, a story from 2000 broke, where he allegedly groped a female reporter and apologised very flagrantly by saying, “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” It should be noted that this apology was altered to a more politically appropriate and unoffending version, later. The terminology used here is also quite interesting. The need to prefix feminists by “male” to indicate the gender is oddly categorical. Women who identify as feminists are not called “female feminists”. This linguistic disparity reveals how men being feminists is an extraordinary concept and requires separate space and taxonomy.
It should be realised that when cis-gendered men tardily take up the billet for promoting gender parity and start believing in the radical notion that women are people too, they are not bestowing a gift upon the rest of society. The pedestalisation of their bare minimum efforts takes away traction from those who are disenfranchised. Instead of taking the centre stage in the feminist movement, men should assume the position of assisting people who identify as women and non-binary genders who must risk their dignity, societal standing, and even lives to validate their existence. A step above complicity is not activism.
Featured Image Credits- Al Jazeera