Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one. So are John Legend and Jon Hamm. A new wave of male feminists is here and there seems to be no stopping it. It seems that every week a media outlet publishes an article on a new male feminist, with JGL being the latest poster boy. But what are these guys really doing? Sure males can be feminists (to me all the word means is someone who wants equal rights for women) and help to advocate or lobby for women’s rights but is simply calling yourself a feminist enough?
Well, yes, yes it is. A male celebrity even declaring he is a feminist and aligning himself with feminist ideals opens up the debate and places feminism and what it means to the forefront of our minds. It makes us think, it makes us question whether we are feminists. The rise of the male feminist has inspired Tom Fordy’s article “Can a man truly call himself a feminist?” in the Telegraph (he “would never claim to be a feminist. Not because [he doen’t] believe in what feminism stands for, but because [he’s] terrified that [he has] absolutely no idea what [he’s] talking about”). Journalist Jake Flanagan asked in the New York Times whether it was possible (ideoloigically) to be a male feminist in the first place. Noah Berlatsky wrote an essay for The Atlantic declaring himself a feminist. He observes that: “One thing feminism is about, and has been about, is questioning what it is to be a man, which obviously affects men pretty directly.” Later that month, he traced the prevalence of the male feminist in history (fascinating read). Businessman John Brougher, who believes that men have a crucial role to play in the feminist movement, has gone one step further and launched the website MaleFeminists.com.
Perhaps an even more interesting question to ask is why all this feverish excitement about men calling themselves feminists in the first place? Why can’t men be feminists and, as the word implies, desire equal rights for women? This might be the bigger, more startling question. As actress Mackenzie Davis told the New York Times, the word feminism “has a bad rap as either unappealing or too confrontational. But I think the best thing is to just keep using it until it’s so normalized that no one can have a negative reaction anymore. Feminism is rooted in racial rights and gender rights, and all of those things intersect, and to say that that’s not something you can stand behind—it confuses me. I think it’s a really great word.” So do I, Mackenzie. So do I.
Title image source: styletofollow.com