This Is Why It's Important for Men to Be Feminists

Women don't owe men anything. We, as men, owe it to women, and to ourselves, to be feminists. Here's why.

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I have no trouble sharing my opinion. Why would I? I'm a guy. More than that, I'm a middle-aged, straight, married, white guy. The world is pretty much conditioned to listen to what I have to say.

But the last couple years I've been trying to do less talking and more listening. And listening is different from hearing. Hearing something doesn't necessarily mean it's sunk in; listening is active, it's hard work. It's also, interestingly, often seen as feminine.

There's a reason Siri and Alexa and other virtual assistants have women's names and voices. That's because society expects women to listen, and then get the work done.

But now more than ever, it's women's turn to speak, and it's time for men to listen.

You've probably been hearing that women are angry—and they're right to be. All you have to do to understand why is listen.

Growing up, we get a sense of what's fair and what's not. "No cutting the line." "It's my turn." "But that's not fair" is the core objection in childhood. At the same time, success is success. The best soccer player in my grade school was Kathleen Brody, who was friendly in class and super-fast and tough on the field. There was never any thought of excluding her because of her gender. It wouldn't be fair.

But the moment we hit double-digits, things begin to change. We're taught to funnel more attention into what boys achieve and what girls look like, which leads to a tendency to listen to men and look at women. Suddenly, Kathleen's athleticism was "unladylike."

Similarly, when women show anger, instead of listening, we step back and say, "Well, that's unattractive," which keeps us from hearing what they're saying.

Since women got the right to vote, to have their own bank accounts, and even their own credit cards (something that only happened in my lifetime), some people—of both genders—think gender equality has been achieved and wonder what are women still fighting for.

Well, there's a laundry list of answers—to close the pay gap, to stop sexual harassment, to have help with child care, for better representation, even to not be yelled at for not smiling enough or not acknowledging a catcall on the street.

Last November, a young woman was murdered by a man because she ignored his catcalled "compliments" on the street. As the state's attorney explained, "The defendant was angry he was being ignored."

Of course, that woman did not owe that man her attention. Because women don't owe men anything.

Instead, we, as men, owe it to women—and to ourselves—to listen to women, to support women, and to be feminists.

You'll hear lots of differing opinions about what feminism means, but the actual definition in Merriam-Webster is this: "The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."

That's all. Equality. Not dominance of women, not the subjugation of men. Just treat everyone equally. Fairly. With justice.

But if you want a reason to be a feminist that isn't about fairness or equality, consider national security.

Last month, when my teenage son tried to deputize a sexist YouTube video into a discussion of Star Wars, I came down on him like a ton of bricks. Why? Because I don't want him to end up like one of those Gamergate knuckleheads, trolling women just for working at Marvel Comics. Some people might not see that as terrifying, but the radicalization of young men—be it for white supremacy, jihadism, neo-fascism, what have you—begins with the denigration of women. Teach a young man that a woman is denying him his due, that all women are mocking him, fill his head with talk of betas and cucks, of Mary Sues and SJWs, and he is primed to be radicalized.

So the best way to keep our country safe and free is to be a feminist, and to teach our sons to be feminists as well.

To help, I wanted to make a list of positive actions men can take to show their support of women. I started the list with "listening," but then I realized that I needed to put my money where my mouth was. If being a male feminist and an ally means listening, I too should listen.

So I posed the question to women I know, both in real life and on social media. These were a few of their answers (used here with their permission):

Amplify: "Speak up, take action, call out bad behavior. Be visible in your support." Listen to what women are saying, and add your voice—not to speak over them or for them, but to speak with them.

Ask: "I was just reading a thread yesterday where 'Is it OK if I use this/these expressions with you?' was very helpful. 'Ask' reminds one to obtain consent."

Advocate: "Speak up when it's 'just the boys.' Locker room-type talk can normalize the idea that women are less. Be seen and heard defending women, whether it's a rally, in print, in posts, in person."

Accept: "A truly supportive man is one who accepts gender equality without question… And without being threatened by it."

Attribute: "Let everyone know when an idea, a piece of evidence, or anything comes from a female colleague or any other woman. There have been too many times in the last six months of my work where male colleagues have taken an idea of mine and said it was their own."

Acknowledge: "There is a flavor of trauma that comes from being unseen, unheard. I feel like I'm in a desert, and there is water, but I have to wait until the men have had their fill. And I know that there are people behind me—people of color, all the people with less privilege than I have, who have to wait, too, and if I drink, they may go without.

It colors every part of my experience, knowing that I will have to work harder for less.

Recognize that. If a woman is more passionate than you about an issue, or more hurt by a turn of events, acknowledge that her emotions are valid and welcome them.

Recognize that there is pain in all women for how we are dismissed.

And never, ever, dismiss the emotional undercurrents in a situation or ask a woman to set emotion aside to see your position."

And, as my mother pointed out when I discussed this with her, listen. "Listening is the most important thing," she said.

And for more on this subject, check out Rebecca Traister's Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger. It's a book everyone should read.

David Blixt
David Blixt is a writer of historical fiction, including 19th century feminism. Read more
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