There's debate in feminist circles (because feminists are not the Borg, they all have differing views) as to whether men should call themselves feminists, or whether they should go with pro-feminist/feminist ally. There are surely many reasons for and ways of framing this, but the big one is co-option of the movement.

Feminism was created by women, for women. (A non-oppressive, equal society would be awesome for men too, but the primary mover was the inequality, wherein men are the primary power-holders). Right now, men still have the majority of the power. When a man speaks, people listen much more willingly than when a woman speaks. If I come in and say "I'm a feminist, and by the way, here's what I think feminism is about and how it should be oriented', I run the risk of shifting it away from the primary concerns and desires of the people it's by and for.

That in mind, though, we also should be using the people-listen-to-us privilege to ensure people listen to feminists, and ensure anti-feminist men don't get to act like they're speaking for all men. No, Mr. Women-Are-Oppressive-Men, you are not standing up for me, you do not speak for me, and I do not support you simply because I'm a man and you're a man and "those mean women are oppressing us".

(This is very different from interrupting "Men keep harassing me and we need to address it" discussions with "Hey, wait, not all men are harassing you! I'm not harassing you! See how great I am? Let's talk about how I'm not harassing you instead of how to stop those who are.")

So do I say I'm a feminist? To the general public, yes, absolutely. I want people to see that it's a movement they should identify with and support, even if they're not the man-hating straw woman. But when I'm in the midst of people with a more sophisticated understanding, who actually know what feminism is* and know the terminology, I'll go with feminist/ally.

* If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. (Or an ally. :-p )

Original version of this write-up is below because it's not too bad:

Now hold on. If you consider a feminist to be someone who thinks men and women to be equal and to deserve equal rights, then I am a feminist. If somebody asks me if I am one should I lie about it? Why?

So many women are afraid to proclaim themselves feminists because they're afraid people will assume them to be feminazis. the more people who stand up and say "I'm a feminist" the less people will be afraid of unfair comparisons.

I'm a feminist

What stage is it exactly that these women are performing on by being feminists ? Feminism isn't all about women owning their power and exercising it, it's also about men accepting that action and not being dickheads. It's about men supporting these women becoming powerful. While feminism is political in some senses, I see it as a way of thinking and acting that is about my personal life. I call myself a feminist not to take away this alleged attention they are getting for it, but because I treat women with respect and try to be aware of implicit sexism when it appears.

And now to prove I have a sense of humor about it:

How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?


That's not funny!
The biggest problem with most people's definitions of feminism is that it is aligned with the political aspirations of NOW. Having seen the truly ugly side of NOW towards women who don't share similar backgrounds in race or class.

In the populist sense of the word feminist (that people who have genuine interest in keeping those issues seperate just love. Just look at Camille Paglia.) Most people who have any real stake in the possibility of broad social change (ie. people of color who don't have a choice about whether they want to play at being activists or not) don't completely indentify with the white women's effort to protect the status quo.

By the way, before you go typing up some thousand word rant about how I'm trying to get laid because I'm not totally complicit with your fucked up barbie world. I'm not looking and I hope that no woman would be attracted to anyone by what should be common sense. Sheesh.

Men should never call themselves feminists without meaning it, and especially not just to get laid. All men should BE feminists. And good men are, or are once it's defined reasonably.

I would NOT date a man who was not feminist by my definition, any more than I would date a white supremacist if I were black.* It'd just be ... stupid. Unfortunately, womankind has far more Uncle Toms (as it were) than about any other group on the planet. Why is it that a non-racist is perceived as being simply a rational, moral person, but a non-sexist--a feminist--is perceived as believing that women are better than men? White folks tried that on the civil rights movement, but it was plainly not true of the movement in general, merely the fringe elements. So it was shot down. No such luck with women's rights! Months after I wrote about the mutual problem of Christians and feminists it's still making me angry that people buy the propaganda that completely undermines the entire movement of feminism.

* No, I wouldn't date a white supremacist in any other case, either. I'm just trying to point out how self-defeating and full of self-loathing I'd have to be to date a non-feminist. Eheh.
Feminazi is a term applied in general to two subgroups of feminist, the first type being sincere but overly strident in the pursuit of sexual equality, the second of women whose feminism is grounded in misandry. Both types deserve a little slack.

It is not uncommon for victims of prejuidice in any form to react with their own prejuidice. The daily cascade of small but real slights grates on a person, and politicized individuals often respond with anger. At the same time, all forms of hatred and violence are self-reproducing. The defensiveness and confrontational nature of some feminists angers men and some women who see the response as excessive at best. Such an approach may feel personally rewarding, but is unproductive because it reflects badly on the feminist cause as a whole.

At the same time an equally confrontational response to the feminist generally reinforces her angry world view. If she assumes you're a pig and you act like one, well that won't change her mind. Overt hostility may make her views seem credible to more moderate women. Remember, the term Feminazi is used by sexist men to stereotype and denigrate more reasonable feminists with whom they have a disagreement.

The well-meaning but over zealous feminist is often found among first-generation feminists. It is important to remember that thirty years ago women were supposed to become June Cleaver. Or join a convent. Women were discouraged from becoming scientists, building business or building any serious career outside the home. Many women joined convents because nuns were the only women in society who could have professional careers and be accepted. In essence, women had to sacrifice their sexuality in order to have a career.

I know several professional women who emerged from that period, and they're all tough as nails. They had to be: they put up with insults, snubs and obstacles for years in order to build the life they wanted. They literally shoved their way into the position they wanted, where a more retiring woman might have given up.

A lot of the insults they endured were sexual. They were accused of lesbianism in a homophobic world. Others suggested that what they needed was good sex, and then turned around and accused them of sexlessness. My friend Cathy never dated, because that would have been used to accuse her of not being serious about her career.

This sensitized them to believe that their only percieved value was as breeders. And in a world where female role models outside the convent were all homemakers who tittered over new appliances and fashion, the only women who wielded real power used their sexuality to manipulate. To use their sexuality was anathema, they wanted to be accepted for their skill and productivity. It is for this reason that many first-generation feminists strongly disapprove of pornography and anything else that might be seen to objectify women. If they denigrated Suzy Homemaker it was because they saw the kitchen as a prison they had to fight to escape.

The second generation of feminists, which includes Camille Paglia, Heather Corinna and others didn't have to engage in that shoving match. The first generation had kicked open the doors to the career world. Women had already established businesses, academic careers, and even begun to enter the construction site. At the same time, men had begun to enter more traditionally femine professions, such as nursing. The wage differential has shrunk, yet it still remains. Sexism has not disappeared. But today's issues are more of refining than overturning the existing order.

At the same time, they have not forgotten women's sexual choice began with the birth control pill. Reliable female contraception freed women to explore their own sexuality without the fear of being forced into single parenthood. While the first generation feminists put sex on the back burner, because they wanted to show women could be more than sex objects, the second generation seeks to enjoy the sexual choices now afforded them.

Many women discovered that they wanted to be homemakers. Today the home is no longer a straightjacket, but a choice. As is parenthood. Other women, now empowered in a more conventional sense wanted to explore power in their sexuality. They wanted to be feminine and pretty, to enjoy their femininity rather than hide it like the first generation. The second generation believes it possible to be June Cleaver, Mae West and Grace Hopper at the same time.

I belive the term "Post-Feminism" really applies to the second generation feminists who want to re-make society in a way that is truly gender blind, where men are free to adopt traditionally female roles, and women masculine, according to their talents and inclinations. In essence, they want a world where individual difference is what matters. I consider myself a second-generation feminist.

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