In 2012, sixteen students at Duke University began a social media campaign to shed light on issues of gender equality. It was called Who Needs Feminism? As part of the campaign, participants displayed posters around campus. Each poster bore an image of a man or woman holding a whiteboard sign starting with the words “I need feminism because…” The students’ motivation was to show that feminist principles could be important to everybody, and that there was no feminist archetype.
The students also launched a three-pronged online campaign on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Within hours their message was spreading rapidly across the Internet, and they had garnered a lot of attention, from men and women; from feminists and antifeminists.
A quick word about antifeminists: I’m not going to universally bash antifeminists by assuming that they are all misogynistic sexual predators-in-training. Just as there is no feminist archetype, there is no antifeminist archetype. They each have their own motives, even if I disagree with their conclusions. But there are those among the antifeminist crowd who betray a spectacular misunderstanding of women, their desires, and their struggle by creating garbage like this meme. If you are an antifeminist who thinks this meme is hilarious, it is to you that I address the rest of this post.
Despite what you may have heard in the last meeting of your He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, feminism is not about women dominating men. Most feminists will tell you that feminism is about equality; they subscribe to the notion that women are actual people who deserve the same social, political, and economic benefits as their male counterparts. Now really, there shouldn’t be anything too upsetting about that, unless you’re part of the privileged class and you’ve bought into the fairy tale that an increase in someone else’s rights means a decrease in your own rights. Don’t worry, rights are not a limited resource. There are plenty to go around.
If you are one of these misogynistic antifeminists, then you no doubt believe that any man who espouses feminist ideals does so only because he’s trying to get laid. Let’s take a few seconds to enumerate everything that’s wrong with that position.
- Blogger Feminspire writes that one of the most harmful aspects of the “male feminists just want to get laid” argument is that it betrays a complete indifference to the humanity of women. Anybody who makes this argument apparently cannot understand why any man would feel otherwise; ergo, any man who appears to support a woman’s cause must be trying to con a woman into sleeping with him.
- Men are not all single-minded sex-seeking missiles. It is conceivable that some men have interests outside of sex. It just might be possible that some men are interested in equality for everyone, and they can express their support without expecting any sort of sexual compensation.
- If a feminist ally truly understands feminist ideals (and he’d better), he knows that being feminist is not a free pass to having sex anyway. A woman chooses her sexual partners based on many qualities, not just ideological compatibility. If he didn’t already know this, he would learn real quick.
I am a white, straight male. I occupy three of the five sides of the American Pentagon of Privilege (a concept I just now invented, as far as I know. The other two sides are being wealthy and Christian.) I am aware of my privilege, but I don’t want to give it away. I want everybody to have the same privilege. That means I don’t want to tear others down or block their progress. When I identify myself as an ally to feminists (and to homosexuals and to people of color), it’s not because I want something for myself; I want us all to be in the same boat. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.