Where have all the feminist men gone? Every gender studies course I took in college was made up of a diverse crowd of women. Almost every sexuality, race, and age group seemed to be represented, yet even at a small liberal arts school we were lucky if there were two men in the class. This continues to perplex me.
When I speak to my male friends about whether they consider themselves feminists many often say yes. Behind closed doors men will candidly speak about their pro-women opinions, their comfort with and attraction to women who are bossy or challenging, and how they abhor other men who seek to limit female power. But do these men blog, take classes, attend rallies, or otherwise make public their opinions when it comes to gender issues? Of course there are always exceptions, but my experience has typically been: no they do not. This makes me certain that there still remains a strong taboo against those who occupy male bodies voicing support for women and opinions on their complex experiences in this country.
When it comes to speaking out about the ways to limit women’s rights, bodies, and voices there seems to be an endless stream of male commentators. From politicians to cable news hosts to religious leaders, most men seem to have absolutely no problem with dismissing the ongoing struggle women face in the workplace, sexual assault, and access to affordable birth control. Don’t believe me? Just watch this week’s hearings on rape cases in the military. Sexism has not disappeared, it has become more clandestine.
I have a gender neutral name. I was an International Relations major and when I write anonymously about issues relating to politics, law, or philosophical theory people tend to take me seriously. In everything from scholarship applications to cover letters, I am often mistaken for a man. And this has only ever worked to my advantage. I fully acknowledge and admit that I have gotten my foot in the door multiple times by people mistaking me for being a man. Yet when people mistake a man for a woman, the opposite always occurs. I recently read Nico Lang’s piece where he describes in detail how in the blogosphere people are predisposed to use his perceived femininity against him. He writes, "Femaleness is used to discredit me in a way that maleness is not." How true this is!
So is this why all the feminist men have hidden from sight? Because to be caught supporting a position that favors the opposite gender is synonymous with being weak? Although much has changed in the past 50 years, the vagina = powerless paradigm is still pervasive. We must correct the gender asymmetry when it comes to speaking about women’s issues. Men who agree, I beseech you: MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD.