The Vagenda

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with female superiority, or women who look to their own lives, free of misogyny and oppression, and call feminism outdated and unnecessary.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 @
And again (keep an eye out for Iggy Pop in a dress – my favourite!) @
And some great reads and debates @
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

13 thoughts on “Let’s hear it for the boys!

  1. Fantastic article, with the added bonus of history, so I now feel well cultured and stuff, innit :D

    Are all the cats purple and do you have sex with them? Or is that Aunt Millicent I’m thinking of? I don’t know. So many glorious spinsters.
    Good work, have a nice day x

  2. BG, you are awesome and this is a brilliant article. I’m about to send a link to a friend of mine who is male and a feminist (who, incidentally gave some very insightful opinions on the subject here:
    I’m really glad to have seen this published on Vagenda, and I agree with the above commenter that the history aspect is particularly interesting. I only knew of John Stuart Mill, so am feeling rather enlightened!
    I think that there is still a stigma surrounding male feminism for some – with their motives questioned or their choices mocked by others. So it’s always great to see those willing to go against the norm by vocally declaring their commitment to genuine equality.

  3. This article is wonderfully written, true, and very, very necessary. One of the things people assume about feminism that bugs me the most is that it supposedly either does not concern men, or is actually about women hating and belittling them. It’s not. Gender equality is a win-win situation, for men and women!
    By the way, radical writer William Godwin (Mary Shelley’s father), while not actively writing for a feminist cause, was pretty supportive of his wife, feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft: He flaunted convention by marrying her even though she had an illegitimate child, and praised her intellectual abilities and strength of character in a biography he wrote shortly after her death. It’s a very interesting and emotional read.

  4. Joss Whedon – for Buffy, Willow et al., and for his the dead-on response when asked, “Why do you write strong female characters?”: “Because you’re still asking me that question”.

  5. Very interesting. I copied and pasted this from another feminist site.

    July 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm
    “When I say requirements, I’m not talking about having my basic human rights met, Let’s assume we live in a society where that’s a given. Then, I require help in raising my children, actual help, not ‘yes dear I’ll put the shelves up tomorrow’, but ‘I’ve assembled the baby’s new cot, cooked you a meal and when you’ve eaten it I’ll wash the pots, I understand how exhausting all of this breast-feeding must be,’ kind of help. I consider this sort of thing like basic requirements after our basic rights have been met.

    I also think that feminism is about men, it is for men, as you said in your closing statement life will be better for everybody. Men exploit men, big fat wealthy men in their big fat top floor swivel chairs, take everyone’s money and gamble with it, decide to send our boys to their death, feed them porn to twist their heads and make them feel like at least they have some pleasures in life, regardless that the more of it they consume the more difficult it becomes for them to have actual intimacy with actual real life women. Big men on their mobile phones, watching their labourer clock out, backs bent and shoulders aching, allocating to them a minimum wage while they get rich off the profits and book in for a massage. Our little men, our doers, workers, squadies, the exploited, in many cases their women take their wages and manage the household finances. But those men look at the system that oppresses them, and drink, or join a TU, or sneak off to watch porn and bash away, because they don’t know what else to do. When a soldier returns from duty, he is gob-smacked at how the govt he served don’t actually care about him at all. What does he do? Some men look at the big man and accept him as such, most just feel like they’ve been screwed over. If only they could see. Maybe they would be our allies. Instead of getting so caught up in trying to prove that they are in fact men, to women who are trying too hard to massage their braking egos, and other little men who don’t want to get too heavy about this stuff. Instead, they might actually see the iron gate, and smell something like freedom – non patriarchy, alternatives, fraternity. And they might work with us towards it. No?

    And I think they need to finally learn how to co-operate and organise with us, on our behalf and under our instruction, since we have the biggest biological responsibility. They should be working for us. And all the good stuff they can and have done for the benefit of everyone. And we would not exploit them. We would give the same respect that we would expect. If we leave them to do it on their own, they’ll only hang around trying to work out how they can break down our walls and get into our pants and history will repeat itself.”

    And here is a reply to her

    August 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm
    I don’t think you understand a basic fact about human nature:

    Good people don’t need to be told not to hurt and oppress others ,and don’t “not realize” when they are doing it. Good, psychologically healthy people do not get pleasure from looking at objectified, drag-dressed fuck-dolls.

    “Good people don’t need prompting. Good people aren’t men.”

  6. That is an interesting take on it, though I don’t agree with the whole “men should work FOR us” part, more men should work WITH us – but I hope that’s what she was really getting at. That comment is so flawed however because it assumes all men need to be told not to hurt or oppress otherwise they just would, which is severely untrue, and it also assumes that women do not hurt or oppress. Oppression is delivered by bad people, not bad men.

  7. From my male perspective, I don’t think I could call myself a feminist. There are too many agendas attached and women disagree too much among themselves about what it means. Do I support female equality? Certainly. I hope my daughter has the same rights and opportunities as my son has, including the right not to be raped and the same opportunity to have a career and a family, both at the same time if she wants.
    Just my tuppence worth.

  8. Does anyone have a statement from Hegarty on their preferred pronouns and their gender identity? Everything I’ve seen – in an admittedly brief search – uses male pronouns, but in a transphobic, cissexist world that’s not exactly evidence for their actual identity. I’ve also seen a statement that Hegarty does not identify as a man (regardless of what they do identify as), which would make their inclusion on this list rather offensive (though the context was somewhat ambiguous, and may not have represented their actual identity so much as it was used as a rhetorical device, so I’m not sure). Added to a suggestion that their hormone replacement therapy involved taking oestrogen in the linked interview, which would suggest that they were assigned male at birth and – as a transgender person – therefore do not identify as male, I’m very hesitant about their inclusion. Denying someone’s gender identity is a seriously cruel thing to do, whether or not it was meant that way.

    Additionally, the proposal shown in that interview that everyone should have three months of hormones opposite to their assigned sex in high school is dangerous enough to call into question how much they are helping feminism, regardless of how they identify in relation to gender. Surely a person who is transgender themself would recognise that such an idea would cause significant distress in any cisgender people involved? And then there’s the idea that technically unnecessary and non-consensual medical treatments could ever be a good idea. Of course, the reality is that even if it were beneficial; it would be incredibly impractical. It may well not have been a serious suggestion, but it’s not made entirely clear if that’s the case and some silly people (like me) are going to take it seriously and react as such.
    Surely there were better interviews or articles to reference?
    I’m not trying to say that they aren’t a feminist (if they identify as a feminist I see no reason to find fault with that, even given the above criticism), of course, but just that they may not be among the best examples of feminism – even if they do meet the other criterion for this list, which is not certain.

    Feel free to call me out if I’ve said anything wrong, ignorant, contradictory or otherwise questionable – I always appreciate being educated.

    • I think the suggestion of giving hormones to kids is not something anyone’s actually going to take seriously but is the standard wishy-washy stoned idea that you can expect a tortured singer-artist to come up with. As for Antony’s gender expression i can only find quotes saying ‘I’m not a man, I’m transgendered’ … but not ‘I am female, use female pronouns’. And every interview I’ve found uses he/him, including when they’ve discussed being transgender … so, um, yeah.

    • Yeah, I was kind of suspecting so, but people can be really stupid sometimes (including me, examples including not immediately reading it that way).

      Same as me, then, so… um. It’s probably not worth getting worked up about either way? Maybe?

  9. Men being feminists – the problem is that there’s rather a broad definition of what counts as a feminist, and somehow the public image of feminism has become that being a feminist means you have to support certain ideas such as banning pornography and prostitution, to give one example.

    Most men would say that they think women should have equality in the workplace in terms of both opportunities and pay, but not all of these men would think that this makes them a feminist.

    Basically, feminism has a public relations problem, and I think this is exacerbated by some feminist academics or people going nuts about stupid things, such as when someone at my uni wrote on the LGBTQ society’s facebook page ‘Girls: can you please show up more in our future events! MORE GIRLS’ suddenly a load of nutty ‘feminists’ descended on her for not calling them women. It was ridiculous, and it had the effect of everyone who heard about it just thinking that this is what feminism is about.

  10. Yes this is true, this article is written with the intent that feminism is purely about equal rights and that is how I view feminism, and if as a woman I can call myself a feminist because I believe in a certain thing, and feminism means different things to different women, then I don’t see why a man can’t do the same.

    I think it is also important that if we see someone operating under the guise of ‘feminism’ but are not actually helping the cause, they should be called out on it. Calling people girls instead of women without any misogynistic undertones is not a threat to equal rights in my book. Likewise, claiming women are better than men, or accusing all men of being rapists (it is hopefully rare but it does happen) is not a different kind of feminism, it is not feminism at all. It encourages a gender divide and implies one gender is better than another, and that is not feminism.

    The point is that if a man believes in equal rights for women and wants to better understand the gender politics and disadvantages of women and then help put a stop to them, then he qualifies as a feminist to me.

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