Let’s hear it for the boys!

Don’t you just hate men? Well no, actually. But that’s what many would assume once they hear the words “I’m a feminist.” Say what? Girl stuff? Bitches be crazy!

My boyfriend recently read me a poem by Michael Leunig which could summarise how people misinterpret feminism as women just hating on men. It reads: 

All men are bastards. 
Women must fight for equality
Until all women are bastards too.

LOLWUT!? Yeah, I get it, and it’s pretty funny. But I for one am not wanting to be a bastard, and should I already be one, I might connect it with my being a grammar snob who still makes grammar mistakes, for laughing when someone falls over, or maybe because if I can I will steal the last slice of pizza. But all that isn’t because I’m a feminist.

I expect, of course, it is superfluous to explain what feminism is to women here, but it must be owned that what was once a label that served to empower and unite women in several ways, nowadays is a term is thrown around too casually by people who do not understand the movement. Women who claim feminism is synonymous with female superiority, or women who look to their own lives, free of misogyny and oppression, and call feminism outdated and unnecessary. People who are unable to see beyond their own lives are the ones who lead the term ‘feminism’ to suffer. You and I know the truth about feminism. Simply put, it is equality among the sexes, and yet so many easily associate it only with self-indulgence, unwarranted superiority and of course, women only. As a result, women continue to suffer malice purely by calling themselves a feminist, when all they wanted was to be the ally of man.

It seems to me, if dudes were more involved in feminism, us “crazy man-haters” would be seen to embrace our willy’d counterparts rather than scorn them. So why is it that there are some feminists who would argue against men calling themselves feminists? It is inappropriate, they say, because feminism is a movement developed by women, for women. But why limit supporters? Feminism was created by women, yes, and great women at that. But it was created for anyone who believed in the equality of the sexes, and I believe that men also fall into that category. Men are not devoid of feeling and understanding. A man can have a conscience; can recognise the value of a woman; is able to see injustice, or simply suffer from inequality that affects his loved ones, his sisters, his mother, his partner. Oh yeah, and patriarchy is shit for many men too.

Sadly, there are also many women who unhelpfully advocate the patriarchal order, and encourage the macho culture which side-lines women and belittles and ridicules the men who question it. To quote the line from Game of Thrones that I literally just watched – hard truths cut both ways. If a woman can be a misogynist, a man can be a feminist. And with Bill Bailey in that category, who would honestly want to argue? Plus we can’t deny that throughout history there have been many men who have sympathetically explored the disadvantages of being a woman in a patriarchal society. Men whom we should all tip our caps and raise our G&Ts to, (and subsequently, write a blog about) so we can tell the world – hey, screw you, we can’t hate men, because Bill Bailey is a man, and he’s a dude. Also, more to the point, men are feminists too. So how can we hate our own?

I now dedicate this post to all the great fellas out there who have been paramount to the feminist movement. Men who have seen women as equal, and fought with them shoulder to shoulder for equality. Whether they suffer from the influence of male gender roles, or are just standing up for what’s right – cheers to you, guys.

Male feminism started as early as Classical Greece, with writings from Aristophanes, Euripides and in particular Plato, who in The Republic, suggests an ‘ideal’ state in which women received equal education and opportunities to participate in activities of the state. Thanks Plato! What a guy.

In the 18th century, the Marquis de Condorcet (aka lord fancy name) played a very significant part in women's education. Condorcet opposed the idea that we women are designed specifically for domestic duties, and he refused to accept this as an impediment to our equal enjoyment of civil and political rights. He got all up in people’s faces, saying a woman's limitations weren’t a result of being a lesser gender but rather because of inferior education and circumstances. Smart guy, that Condorcet/fancy name. 

Also in the 18th Century, as people increasingly became aware that women were treated unfairly under the law, utilitarian Jeremy Bentham demanded equal rights for women in every sense. He claimed that it was the placing of women in a legally inferior position that made him choose, at the age of eleven, the career of a reformist. I genuinely hope someone baked him a very large and delicious cake. 

Moving on to the 19th century, in 1866, John Stuart Mill authored the popular feminist text The Subjection of Women, as well as presenting a women's petition to the British parliament, acknowledging that marriage for Victorian women was established upon a sacrifice of liberty, rights, and property. He may have also married one, and you can bet she got to ditch the corset. Hooray for oxygen! 

In 1849, when women were refused the right to participate at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London and were forced to sit silently, abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Charles Lenox Remond, Nathanial P. Rodgers, and Henry Stanton, all elected to sit silently by their sides. Aw ☺ thanks guys. 

Another abolitionist, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, published many essays on women's rights, helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association and was co-editor for fourteen years of the organization's Woman's Journal. He openly argued the suggestion that women were ill-constituted to assume male responsibilities and was seemingly a top guy all round. Another cake for him.

Still in the 19th century, playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House which were seen as contributions to the feminist movement (and which are still playing in theatres and still totally dick all over anything Lloyd Webber has ever done). Women viewed the characters Nora Helmer and Hedda Gabler as empowering, as they both decide to take their life into their own hands and step outside of the box society has made for them. These plays were written to serve realism as Ibsen saw it, but they also gave women a voice. 

Enough with history, now onto pop culture, transgendered singer Antony Hegarty has often dressed up in a blanket and voiced his belief that gender archetypes are dangerous and unhelpful, in particular with his song ‘future feminism.’ He described a world where people realise that despite differences, women hold just as much potential as men. He recently described how “misogynist press has taught us to scorn feminism as relegated to the past.” Hegarty told ‘anothermag’ recently: “People can more easily imagine the apocalypse that religions have been telling their members of choice for the last 2000 years, than they can imagine the subtle shift in our systems of governance towards more feminist systems.” 

Grunge master and dreamboat Kurt Cobain sought to use his music to touch on inequality, while his thoughts on the dangers of sexism have been found written in old journals, describing discrimination as the ‘isms’ – and how he aimed to use ‘entertainment’ as a means of influencing young male minds.

“All isms (sic) feed off one another but at the top of the food chain is still the white, corporate, macho, strong ox male... In order to expand on all other isms, sexism has to be blown wide open,” he wrote. “There are thousands of green minds, young gullible 15 year old boys out there just starting to fall into the grain of what they’ve been told of what a man is supposed to be and there are plenty of tools to use. The most effective tool is entertainment.” 

Activist and documentary filmmaker Byron Hurt has publicly spoken out for the feminism cause after admitting he was wrong to assume the stereotype that “all feminists were white, lesbian, unattractive male bashers who hated all men.” He claims that by actively engaging in the work of feminists, he came to really respect their intelligence, courage and honesty. He reinforces how men will silence feminists “by belittling them in order to dodge hearing the truth.” Converts are definitely accepted as awesome too, and particularly important as they prove that enlightenment is possible. 

Recently, a progressive U.S. rabbi named Arthur Waskow publicly advocated women’s rights after going up against crazy Catholic League President and renowned asshole, Bill Donohue, by criticizing the Catholic Church's stance against giving female employees at Catholic institutions the option to use work insurance to access contraception. After Donohue told him he had “stuck his nose” where it didn’t belong, Waskow replied: “Those women are my business… including the Catholic women who in shaping their own religious consciences (did you know that women are capable of doing that?) have concluded that contraception is ethical and moral.” Zing! 

Also, just check out some of these awesome websites:

Some sweet pro-feminism quotes @ http://malefeminists.com/

And again (keep an eye out for Iggy Pop in a dress – my favourite!) @ http://malefeminist.tumblr.com/

And some great reads and debates @ http://www.xyonline.net/

So there you have it. Some top blokes who deserve a biscuit. And there’s bound to be loads not mentioned obviously, I’m no expert. I’m just a normal lady watching Game of Thrones on a Thursday night who thinks of good inspiring dudes. Dudes like (and prepare for cheese) my own boyfriend who right now is 'letting' me put feminism first by ignoring him and writing this blog. Who loves debating with me, respects my mind, and doesn’t care if I value good food over being a size zero. Who encourages my career, who helps cook and clean, and who will always patiently listen to my feminist rants. And if I didn’t have someone like that, quite frankly I would rather be a crazy old Aunty Bonnie spinster ‘who lived in the crooked house with all the cats’ (points for anyone who knows this quote).

The feminist movement was always going to be started by women, and it was always going to be comparing women to men, because historically, of the mere two sexes it was women who were left wanting. But it has never been about women hating men. Men have given us some of the best leg ups in equality over the years, not because they are better than us, but because they’re great people. One does not have to have direct experience to qualify as a supporter of a cause (otherwise I’d just be a man hating, homophobic racist… in extreme terms) and if this did disqualify them, well, stuff would be much harder, and we really would be bastards, but far from equal. So there it is.

And on that note, if you know of any great guys, delightful dudes or magnificent men that I’ve not mentioned here, please share! So we can further celebrate the manses worth celebrating.

- BG