Feminism is a hotly debated topic these days, and an important one at that, but is the feminist movement an all-girls club, or are guys also invited?
Having written about sex and sexuality for a while now, I've been exposed to various opinions and views on all sides of the gender spectrum, and it has become clear to me that it's almost impossible to have a conversation about sexuality without touching on feminism. Recently a number of male celebrities have proclaimed themselves to be feminists. At first the idea that a guy can call himself a feminist sounded like a bit of an oxymoron, but the further I explored the idea, the more it made me wonder… As a guy, can I call myself a feminist?
It's a complex answer.
The thing is, when we hear the word “feminism” the first thing that comes to mind is man-hating rhetoric spewed by angry women who scold men when they so much as open a door for them, so how can men possibly attach themselves to this movement?
Theodore Roosevelt said that every reform movement has a lunatic fringe, and sadly we've let that fringe skew our view of feminism and what it's about. We have to keep in mind that feminism isn't about fighting for superiority over men, it's about fighting for the rights of women in order to achieve equality.
I feel that guys can call themselves feminists in the same way that there were white supporters of the Struggle, white people who benefited from the inequality apartheid brought, yet recognising the importance of involving both sides and fighting for what's right and fair. Just because I'm not a woman doesn't mean I'm not allowed to fight for the rights of women. Sure, I'm not at the receiving end of the discrimination and I "don't know how it feels", but that doesn't stop me from being sympathetic to the cause.
In September, actress Emma Watson addressed a UN sitting at the launch of its new campaign HeForShe, which encourages men across the globe to fight for women's rights. She delivered a ground-breaking speech that changed the way many people view feminism and the important role men have to play in the movement. It's this campaign that promotes inclusive, rather than exclusive, rallying behind the equality ideals of feminism.
"How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited, or feel welcomed to participate in the conversation?" said the actress, and it's exactly the premise that the HeForShe campaign is built on, to include both men and women in fighting for the feminist cause.
This approach is beneficial to all, and the knock-on effect of cross-gender cooperation in the feminist movement is significant. Working together and with mutual respect we can free the world from the limiting and negative gender codes that society has enforced for so long.
Edited by Bryony Whitehead