But I’ve never been quite sure how to articulate what’s important to me about feminism, or what it means that I, a hairy weightlifting male, would value feminism. I don’t know if I’ll bring much that’s new to the discussion, but here’s how I can express my feelings the best, at this point in time:
So – I identify as a feminist, and here’s what it means to me: I don’t hate anyone. The only thing that equality threatens is privilege. Therefore (a): I accept that I benefit from privilege that is denied to many, even if I cannot understand the extent of what this really means, and (b): I endeavour to share my privilege where possible, and be not exploitative of others, while (c): trying not to judge people for being different from myself.
To me, that’s the essence of equality; it means not clinging on to my privilege, not being ashamed of it either, and adopting an inclusive mindset. That can be a bunch more challenging than one would expect.
Sometimes I hear women and men talk about being stuck in the “friendship zone” in relation to someone they desire. Being a feminist means it is more important to me that women feel safe around me, than that they swoon in my presence. And for those of you who think that safety isn’t sexy – think about what kind of person you’d want to be the other parent of your potential future children.
To be a man and a feminist is not an oxymoron – one does not need to be a member of an oppressed group to value equality, and to recognise injustice. It also should not give feminism more weight to be endorsed by men, but when a person endorses a thing, without them visibly having something to gain themselves, it lends credence to the idea.
Of course, the idea that men don’t benefit from feminism is ludicrous. Everyone benefits if we can reduce incidences of rape and violence and persecution around the world.
Being a feminist means I don’t hate fat, because I don’t fear fertility, and I don’t hold the body in contempt in the name of health, because I don’t fear weakness. It may seem like there are a few leaps of logic in there, but please bear with me and think about it for a moment. Fat-hatred is a feminist issue, with the added benefit that you get to hate men and children too. In symbolic terms, fertility is all about curves, and it’s no surprise to me that in a world where the threat of sexual violence is so common place, our standardised images for beauty have become asexual. Safe.
All humans benefit from some degree of privilege in some way or another, that other individuals might not possess. All humans also struggle against adversity and suffering, in their own way. Believing in equality means withholding judgement and resentment, and not blaming an individual for the privilege or misfortune that they might experience, regardless of whether or not their situation is culturally regarded as their responsibility or not. This also, importantly, means not blaming or rewarding ourselves for our circumstances (instead we can celebrate ourselves for the simple fact that we are our own awesome selves), and accepting that bad things happen to good people, and that it doesn’t reflect on you as a person. Experiencing badness does not make you bad. This ties into the politics of body size and beauty for obvious reasons.
Additionally, to look at that which serves the men-folk in particular, like me – I love that we live in an age where a man can wear pink, and nobody questions his sexuality. I’m not so keen on the fact that people question an individual’s sexuality to begin with – that “living in a hetero-normative society” problem, which is related, but not something I’m prepared to go into now.
Feminism serves gym-culture and modern exercise trends greatly. If a man is not emasculated for being weak, he is free to train without fear of judgement or persecution. He is free to pursue his own goals without fear of hazing. If a man requires hazing or prejudice to motivate his training, he has other things to investigate, and could benefit from analysing what his fears and insecurities really mean, and he could commit himself – if he’s going to commit to anything – to not allowing other people to exploit his fears.
It also means women are free to train in a way they find satisfying, rewarding and fun, without being in constant service to the beauty standard, or remaining compliant and obedient to those who would only exploit their fears. A woman is free to pursue her own goals, on her own terms. She may train cardio, she might lift weights, or she may develop skills that interest her. Because feminism is about freedom.
Feminism means accepting that people of all sexes and ages do not need to be strong or weak, but identifying and respecting that all humans experience the full range of human emotion – and that for a man to cry or have an eating disorder is not unmanly, and that he is also free to be as manly and bearded as he would like or is able to be. Having respect for women does not mean that a man is less manly – in fact, the opposite is easily arguable. It is strange to me that masculinity appears to be so fragile – add a touch of femininity, and one is no longer a ‘real man’ – the entire illusion comes crashing down in an instant. And so, being not threatened by femininity serves men too.
Feminism also means that a woman is free to be strong, or tom-boyish, without letting the ‘real woman’ side down, and she is also free to experience weakness and insecurity, without feeling like she’s failing the strong-united-women front. Because all people experience the full range of human experience.
Feminism means not judging yourself for failing to live up to your own ideals and expectations. It does not mean lowering your standards, or settling for mediocrity, it means identifying the difference between inconsistency and hypocrisy, it means not fearing failure and not only judging yourself as worthy by your successes, it means being forgiving of oneself and others, and trying to be okay with doing what you can, even if you feel like it isn’t enough, even if you are striving to do more. It means not taking the problems of the world onto your own shoulders alone, it means trying to tell the difference between what is your responsibility and what is not, it means not allowing your insecurities to convince you that everything that goes wrong in the world is your fault, and it means having compassion for your own plight and limitations, as you have compassion for the plight of other people.
All people experience the full range of human emotion. All people deserve love and respect. And as much as this post might have been more about me and my interests, than about women as some vague entity, this has been what feminism means to me.