7 Things Feminists Don't Owe Men
Feminism was founded to give people who are usually silenced a voice. Unfortunately, though, it too often becomes dominated by voices that are already amplified. While men are welcome to be feminists, it can be easy to forget that there are things feminists don't owe men, particularly straight, white, cisgender ones — and that nobody does, for that matter, though patriarchy might dictate otherwise.
Over the past few years, more and more men have come out as feminists, which is great. Gender inequality hurts us all, and even if it didn't, supporting oppressed groups is just the right thing to do. But even in feminist circles, men often get more credit. Engineering student Jared Mauldin pointed this out after a letter he wrote to his school paper about the challenges women in tech face went viral. "Nothing I said was new, it has all been said a thousand times before. The difference is that I am a man," he told The Huffington Post about the attention his letter received.
Even when men don't act entitled to feminists' spaces, honors, and consideration, they often get it. And in the process, they push out people who are more marginalized and stop those who know gender-based oppression best — members of the oppressed genders themselves — from doing important work.
Here are some things men aren't entitled to from feminists.
1. Gentle Phrasing
When we talk about the oppression women, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people face primarily at the hands of (usually cisgender) men, we shouldn't need to state that we're not talking about all men or censor our anger so that men feel comfortable. The fact is that all men in our society have been socialized to assert power over women, and they're not making any progress by absolving themselves of guilt.
2. Inclusion In All Feminist Spaces
Spaces solely for marginalized genders exist for an important reason: because many feel less safe and less free to discuss their experiences with cis men around. With only women, non-binary people, and gender non-conforming people listening, many are more comfortable talking about their oppression without worrying about men getting defensive, and many also feel less at risk for sexual assault or harassment (which, statistically, they are). Excluding cis men is not the same as excluding marginalized genders, because men's voices are consistently heard outside these spaces.
3. Special Recognition
No, we don't need an International Men's Day or a Men in the Workplace group. Why? Because every day is their day and the world is their group. Designating events and organizations to elevate certain people doesn't encourage inequality. Things are already unequal now, and such efforts exist to balance them out.
4. Pats On The Back
Yes, it's great for men to be feminists, but it's not noteworthy. It's the decent thing to do, as is respecting sexual consent, taking care of children, and other behaviors that are often considered exceptional for men but shouldn't be. Men should be working toward feminist causes because they believe in them, not for their personal gain.
5. Their Affections
6. Leadership Roles
Men's role in feminism shouldn't be to decide what is best for women, non-binary, or gender non-conforming people. It should be to listen to them and spread their message to others, especially other men, who may not listen to oppressed genders. It makes sense that feminist organizations and movements would give leadership positions to the people whose voices are most important in feminism.
Since many cis men haven't experienced sexism themselves, it's understandable that they'd like to hear the perspectives of people who have. And usually, I'm more than happy to share them. But don't ask us questions Google can answer for you (like "What is feminism?"). Don't ask us to prove sexism exists with data when there's already a ton out there (and doubting our own accounts is insulting). And don't treat us as unpaid private tutors. We've got bigger things to worry about — like protecting our own bodily autonomy — than catering to people who already have every right and more.