Thanks to an interesting piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by Bianca Hall and an excellent piece in Spook Magazine by Kate Iselin the subject of male feminists has been the topic en vogue this long weekend. To be perfectly honest I’m sick of hearing about self-identified male feminists, even sicker of hearing from self-identified male feminists, and frankly disappointed that self-identified male feminists have been trying so desperately to dominate that respected feminists have had to take time out from writing about making things better for women to write pieces asking men to back off a little.
So I’m not going to be writing about male feminists today. What I am doing, however, is issuing a call to men who would like to be feminists but keep forgetting that women make quite good feminists actually to think about trying to help clean up our side of society a little.
[Aside: quite a bit of this, I realise, is going to be pretty cisnormative, and for that I apologize. Binary gender norms are crappy and really are part of the problem, but really it’s cis men that seem to be a major part of the problem, so that’s kind of the problem I want to see addressed.]
It would be good, wouldn’t it, if instead of trying to be feminists, we gave a bit of respectability to men’s rights activism. Tidied things up there a bit. At the moment the MRA world is a hotbed of misogyny and racism, so let’s tear that down and see if we can re-brand. Let’s give a voice to men who were sexually abused as children and who (as I was distraught to have to read today) wait, on average, twenty-three years before they feel able to speak up about it. Let’s work on making that history; creating a world where men have the voice to speak about abuse they faced as children so we can do something about that abuse.
Let’s talk about how we can create spaces for men that include trans men. Because, let’s face it, cis men are really not good at welcoming trans men into our spaces. Let’s turn organisations like Fathers 4 Justice into groups that advocate helping trans men who are fathers embrace fatherhood instead of trying to screw over women who have had the misfortune of being impregnated by us.
Let’s work on truly eradicating homophobia from sport – because homophobia in sport, and definitely in men’s sport – is a problem. Queer men are denied at every stage the opportunity to be the best at what they do, either as a result of direct abuse, or as the result of a toxic environment that tries so desperately to exclude us that we shy away in compliance.
In short, let’s work on making men better. Let’s fix ourselves. Let’s make the male voice not the one that silences women, but the one that gently speaks for fairness and respect from ourselves. Perhaps if we can put our own house in order we can make the world a better place without needing to declare ourselves feminists to try to look good. Maybe we can create a world we can look good by declaring ourselves men.
Update: MRA is certainly not a term I would even embrace or even attempt to reclaim. As @swearyanthony points out “MRA in its current form is utterly unsaveable, and the term is tainted beyond usefulness”, and I completely agree. I just like the juxtaposition of current Men’s Rights Activism with the idea of men who really need some activism. JA