Stop Degrading Male Feminists. We’re on Your Side.

Here’s what I don’t enjoy…

Being called “pussy-whipped” by men who accuse me of faking my enthusiasm for gender equality as a cheap way of “attracting chicks”; and, at the same time, being shut down by a ‘mansplaining’ charge by women who disagree with me, as if my gender automatically invalidates everything I write on the subject of feminism. I acknowledge that women have better insight on problems affecting women than men do (duh), but that does not invariably each one of them an expert on the feminist theory. It’s like when my conservative grandmother says she “doesn’t need a lecture from a man”, when I challenge her outdated view that women must always know how to cook.

I acknowledge my male privilege, and the fact that I sometimes get more attention for saying essentially the same thing that female writers have been saying for over a decade. But that is not my fault. I didn’t ask for this bias towards me. I’m trying to use my male privilege to undermine male privilege itself, the best I can.

From the conversations I’ve had with certain female feminists, I’ve come out wondering if I should just delete all that I’ve written on my blog as a (gasp!) ‘male’, and simply replace the text with links to articles of Jessica Valenti or other female feminists. Whenever I find myself in a discussion on women’s issues, I should pretend I’m illiterate, whimper and point my paw at the nearest woman, because fuck me if I have an observation to make as an actual writer.

Several days ago, I got into a Twitter-tussle with Eiynah Nicemangoes, the creator of ‘My Chacha is Gay’, whose work I have much respect for. That respect was somewhat lost when a post appeared on her blog “highlighting the asshole brand of feminism”. Basically, the blog rails out against feminists like myself who objected to the Rosetta scientist’s sexist shirt (#shirtgate) in November 2014. How dare these “asshole” feminists see anything wrong with a shirt with pictures of giant-breasted female archetypes plastered over it, that too while he’s practically representing the scientific team that landed the probe on a comet?

On Facebook, I confronted Eiynah. I challenged her blog, stating that the shirt was indeed sexist. Not “stop-the-planet-and-hang-this-scientist” sexist, but sexist nonetheless as it reinforces the idea of women as sexual objects. Frustratingly, her first line of defense was pointing out my manhood. Turns out, I was ‘mansplaining’ to her. Mic drop. How dare I, a man, challenge her views on feminism?

Admittedly, I once took pride in calling myself a “sex-positive” feminist too, as Eiynah does. My views have since evolved, thanks mostly to radical feminist bloggers like Heather McNammara, and a lot of other wonderful people (mostly female feminists) on social media who patiently put up with my ignorance and rudeness. Unlike Eiynah and several other feminists I’ve met since then, they did not use my gender to devalue or disqualify my views on feminism, but carefully considered the quality of my arguments, and the accuracy of what I said.

More recently, I’ve met feminists who’ve vociferously defended niqab, and implicitly, other self-imposed burdens like breast implants and extreme cosmetic treatment; with a basic argument that I, as a man, am not allowed an opinion on what women do or not do with their bodies. Essentially, what it means is I have no right to identify these behaviors as symptoms of the patriarchal culture/

This false sense of superiority, in my opinion, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of feminism as a battle of the sexes; a Boys vs Girls situation, rather than a larger fight against the patriarchal culture which transverses gender boundaries (so to speak).

Yes, women can have patriarchal mindsets too. Calling yourself a ‘feminist’ while being a woman, does not ipso facto make you right. I can just imagine being in 1917, having a conversation with the group of *women* campaigning against women’s voting rights; and then slighting me for ‘mansplaining’ to them the need for women’s suffrage.

As a gay person, I don’t try to invalidate your speech with a blind “straightsplaining” charge, wherever I disagree with your methods.on fighting homophobia. That word means something; it’s not just there to make me feel superior to a straight opponent, no matter how valid her or his argument may be. Likewise, I expect not to have my participation in the feminist movement to not be devalued simply because of my gender.

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    • coolio123
    • March 24th, 2015

    I must say i enjoyed this article very much,i also love eiynahs blog as well and think you both do great by challenging religious intolerance, misogyny and homophobia of the pakistani and muslim community. I hope that conversations between liberals like yourselves remain intellectual and a dismissive attitude is not adopted of each others arguments based on shallow irreverent descriptors like “your just a man’ etc ,carry on the good work x

  1. Brav-fucking-O!

    Preach, my brother, preach!

    God, I sometimes hate feminists. They fight with each other about being feminists! It’s like, come on! Are we fighting the same fight or are we not? And to be clear, the fight I am referring to is the one where we hope for a a world that defines, establishes, and defends EQUALITY FOR ALL SEXES AND GENDER in terms of political, economical, and social rights.

    Your analogy about fighting homophobia is spot-on. Seriously! I love my gays, and I know nothing about their plight and struggle. I see it, I hear about it, I read about it, but I personally take no understanding because I do not live it, but you best BELIEVE I stand by them and stand up for their rights, regardless of my personal interest in peen and peen alone.

    I’m sharing your post. You’re great.

  2. I think the point Eiynah was making is not that you’re wrong because you’re male, but that your place in that conversation is unnecessary and unwanted. Women have been told how to feel/do/think by men for millennia, mansplaining is just a continuation of that. Even if you do it with the best of intentions.
    If it truly is sexist, let women figure it out for ourselves. We can, in fact, think for ourselves. That is the assumption behind mansplaining, that women won’t realize these things unless you, a man, tell them.
    I’m a lesbian myself, and I disagree with your straight-splaining analogy. Straight people will never understand what it’s like to be gay, and to be a good ally means doing what is asked of you by the community, rather than derailing a conversation that is taking place to make yourself feel like a ‘good ally’. Sometimes being a good ally means not saying anything, recognizing that your privilege will derail the conversation because people [these people you’re trying to help], don’t want your voice there. They want to have a safe conversation with their own.

    It’s like white people coming into brown spaces. It completely changes the dynamic of the conversation, regardless of how understanding or well meaning they might be.

    • I appreciate that.

      My idea of patriarchy, is a culture that is not restricted to one gender. Men , with their privilege, are the vanguard of the patriarchy as they have most to gain from it, but many women help uphold this culture too.

      On many occasions, as I’m having a discussion with men on the effects of patriarchy, a woman may show up siding against feminism, emboldening these sexist men (because *her* word is verdict) and completely undoing my efforts.

      If I as much as say, “You’re wrong about that”, she may simply shut me down with a mansplaining charge, even if what I’m just quoting other feminist women verbatim.

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