I was once at a party, in college, where upon hearing someone identify themselves as a male feminist, a woman replied “There are no Quislings in the gender wars!”
The moral of this story is that people have a lot of feelings when they are in liberal arts school. And that Quisling is a great term, and one which should really be used more often. But also, that is, perhaps, not quite entirely fair. At least, it’s not fair if you think that men and women are really just people trying to work together, and not actively trying to destroy one another. I like to think of the relationship between men and women as not quite comparable to the one between Mothra and Godzilla.
But, in spite of that, male feminists do tend to rub some women the wrong way. Which seems odd, because they’re obviously trying! They are making an effort to be friendly about women’s issues!
I suppose we’re often initially skeptical of male feminists because, in general, people like causes that benefit them, personally. The ways feminism benefits men are slightly less obvious than than the way it benefits women. Frankly, if I was told that it was perfectly okay to think that members of the opposite sex were only there to have sex with me and bake me meals, I can see why that might be an appealing worldview.
Fortunately, people are capable of sympathizing with people who are unlike themselves, unless they are sociopaths. That is generally how we progress towards a kinder society. Men are certainly allowed to take an interest and care about women’s issues.
Especially because many of those issues – the big issues, like the wage gap, not the nit-picky issues like whether or not Brazilian bikini waxes are awesome – are issues that affect people, not just women. As a man, if you are a two income family, even if you are traditionally minded, it would be beneficial to you if your wife did not make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes (because then your family would be making more money, and, I don’t know, you can buy a new TV to watch tough man shows on. Shows about barbequing exotic animals). Likewise, it’s probably preferable to have a spouse who has the freedom to pursue a career she wants, and is made happy by that, than one whose stifled ambitions mean that she’s sitting around the house popping mother’s little helper. Those are ways feminism is helpful to men, and I think most men probably realize that those are good things. They are good things for people.
Most men probably see that, and if men who do say they support feminist causes, I think that’s great. Yay. Yay benefiting people.
But when I sit down with someone who identifies as a male feminist, I find I cringe a little bit.
Not because I feel that you’re not allowed to take interest in the issues of people different from yourself. I really do believe that the way we, as a society, benefit by that is not getting turned into pillars of salt. Not being able to sympathize with other people is kind of monstrous.
However, I think some women are upset by male feminists because interacting with them makes them want to scream “you can’t tell me anything about being a woman I don’t already know!” Well, maybe, but there are a lot of things going on with women who are not me personally that I am unaware of. Maybe a man interested in their dilemmas does know more about them than I do (if a man had recently returned from working with the Peacekeepers in Sudan, I would have no problem believing that he knew more about the difficulties faced by women in that region than I do).
However, when I interact with some male feminists, I do get the uncomfortable sense that they fetishizing female victimhood.
Only because they keep telling me, endlessly, about ways women are victimized. By society. Not by them. Not by them, at all.