Are you a man? Don’t call yourself a feminist

Male feminism at the University of Alberta is like a Pink Floyd button you pin on your backpack. You can wear it and feel smug about it for as long as you like, until someone asks you what your favourite song from The Dark Side of the Moon is and you’re forced to confess you’ve never listened to them before. It’s a way of saying “I get it,” without actually needing to get it or do the work at getting it.

Feminism is flourishing, and it’s a booming industry for men everywhere. Having men — who sit at the apex of power in a patriarchal world — acknowledge wage gaps, dating abuse, rape, and general inequality is certainly a step in the right direction. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that men can be absolved of as many crimes against women as they want, so long as they plead feminism. A number of celebrities, such as Robin Thicke, James Deen, and Jian Ghomeshi, confirm this — as do several high-profile men on our own campus.

Last September, I became friends with a guy who’s an executive of a student group that, among other things, promotes gender equality. I enjoyed hanging out with him and was impressed by his work in gender politics, until he began giving me unsolicited compliments and proposing sex. His advances degenerated into threats and ultimatums, and when I made it clear how uncomfortable I felt, he deleted me off Facebook and never talked to me again. His feminism apparently had no room for my frigidity.

A few weeks ago, I went to an end-of-school frat party. I started talking to a group of guys from the fraternity, and who all claimed to be devout feminists. They mentioned how the Sexual Assault Centre hosts a talk for them every year, and boasted about how their house is so safe that “girls sleep over here all the time.” A few hours later, one of them drunkenly admitted he often fingered girls who stayed the night while they slept, “even if they weren’t hot.”

Instances like these, which can be recited by virtually all university-age woman, reinforce the fact that the “male feminist” label frequently signifies nothing. Men who claim to be feminist receive undeserved praise and enormous social capital for merely acknowledging the movement for gender equality, even if these same people actively hurt, objectify, and deprecate women. These individuals are applauded for showing up to the party, despite what they actually bring to it.

The men I’ve come to know at university who are true feminists seldom proclaim it. They understand that believing in and practicing gender equality doesn’t merit a reward. Even if they’ve never used the word, I know they’re true feminists because of the way they talk about women, and how they listen to and support me. Unfortunately, these men are part of a disappointingly small minority when compared to the rest of the male “feminists” at the U of A, who range from annoying to creepy to outright predatory.

If you’re a man, don’t call yourself a feminist. We need to stop unquestioningly assuming that every man who demonstrates an entry-level understanding of gender equality is an inherently good person. The male feminist is hardly a brave ally selflessly standing up for womankind — he’s often a warning of the dark, scary forms of misogyny that lurk within the gender equality movement itself.


  1. A reminder that any comments not adhering to our community guidelines will be deleted. Thanks everyone!

  2. Men who claimed themselves “feminists” would rather help other women than themselves as men. They hate their sex some much that they don’t care if women step on or hurt them. Pretty much like a “beta” but for sexual purposes and once rejected by the woman or is in trouble by the law for hurting women, he’s a fool for supporting such a stupid construct.

  3. Male feminism is just about a man hating oneself for being the particular sex he doesn’t like which triggers him a suicidal attempt. Then the suicidal attempt can be successful or unsuccessful.

  4. At risk of being shot for dissenting, I feel the need to point out the fact that the wage gap is a widely-debunked myth, regardless of what talking points your favorite politicians have been using; the difference in average lifetime earnings between men and women is not due to women being paid less for the same work, it is because of different life choices that women tend to make in favor of a better work/life balance than what men have (men on average work more hours), as well as the fact that many women prefer to go into less lucrative career fields like arts and humanities. Women don’t get PAID less for the same work as men because they’re oppressed by “the patriarchy”, rather, they EARN less over their lifetime on average because of different life choices.

  5. To the author, why did you choose the title you did instead of something that fits your points better such as “Are you a rapist? Don’t call yourself a feminist”?

    I agree with much of your article, however, I think the two issues occuring here deserve to be separated:
    Issue 1) Guys being rapists / using threats in conjunction with sexual advances
    Issue 2) People getting undeserved social capital for claiming to be something they are not.

    In this article you state “Men who claim to be feminist receive undeserved praise and enormous social capital for merely acknowledging the movement for gender equality, even if these same people actively hurt, objectify, and deprecate women”, but I think this is absolutely false. When Jian Ghomeshi was accused of being a rapist I don’t think anybody was saying ‘yeah but he’s a feminist so it’s fine’. Similarly, this frat guy you met who sexually assaults girls at parties is not being forgiven for being a rapist because he made a claim of being a feminist. As soon as a man is ‘uncovered’ as being a rapist, abusive to women, etc., it seems to me he becomes something of a pariah, regardless of any claims of agreeing with feminism.

    If accepted that the issues should be addressed separately, I would go further and claim that in writing this article you have fallen into issue 2 yourself. A divisive article like this acts to drive men out of a conversation that they need to be involved in. There is still a lot of important work Feminism needs to do, but much of it is now education based (teaching men not to rape for example), and polarizing and antagonizing men makes this work harder to do.

    Simultaneously, by making it a divisive article you are probably getting more reads and more people talking about it. You’ll be more likely to get those facebook shares all “gateway writer so and so tells it how it is check out this great read”, even though this article sacrificed being good for feminism for being popular.

    Please do respond, I really do want to get your take on my interpretation of your article.

  6. Great article. Thanks for sharing. It’s my firm belief that men who truly believe and support gender equality don’t typically call themselves feminists. We just assume that women are our peers and equal in all ways except for biology and gender. We understand that although great progress has been made in women’s rights being not only “acknowledged” but implemented, there is still a long way to go in so many parts of society to have those important voices truly “heard” in the courts of public opinion. May 5 was a great start in Alberta; more to come I hope.

    My wife and I BOTH wear the pants in the family. I wouldn’t want it any other way.


    a Class of ’85 Alumnus

  7. I mean, sure, the Feminism equivalent of greenwashing is undoubtedly rampant, and people should generally focus on actions rather than labels. But . . . quelle surprise?

    No offense, but nobody should ever be naïve enough to unquestioningly believe people in power (even a local and limited sort of power as student groups and governance, or just soft-power within social circles) proclaim to believe things other than for self-serving political interests. As the saying goes, trust . . . but verify.

  8. In that case:

    Are you Caucasian? You’re a racist.
    Do you play video games on a computer? Don’t call yourself a gamer.
    Do you drive a car? Don’t say you care about the environment.
    Are you straight? Don’t call yourself an LGBTQ* ally.
    Are you an engineering student? Don’t even bother running in the next SU elections, you’re not a Poli Sci student.
    Are you human? Don’t call yourself an animal rights activist.

    1. none of those comparisons make any sense in relation to the article lmao

      1. The article claims that, because a portion of men abuse the term feminist, that all men are inherently misogynist, and that because they aren’t women, that they are unable to identify and empathize with women.

        Likewise, as in the last example, humans are not animals, and therefore cannot speak for them.

        1. “the article claims that” …

          Did we read the same article? I did not have that take away at all. My main take away was “beware the poser”.

  9. welcome to the world of white academic feminism, where transphobia runs rampant

    1. “Transphobia”?? This article didn’t touch on that topic at all. Try to stay focused. Your ADD is showing…

  10. I really feel like this article is more about labels than it is about feminism. lol.

  11. Unfortunately this type of thing happens with any political or social movement where people take advantage of a title or label for their own benefit.
    But really though, stating that your social movement can only be vocally supported by a certain kind of person only furthers to alienate your messages and causes with others.

  12. I hope the author reported this frat. Disgusting behavior. Thank you for writing this.

  13. Any man who says he supports feminism is suspect of not being a feminist.
    I mean really, that’s just white feminism 101, men lie.

    1. It’s a Catch-22. Men who proclaim that they are not feminist are accused of being misogynistic. On the other hand, when men who claim to be feminist (even those who do embody and enact upon its values, unlike those in the article) are accused of being non-feminist, they are labeled as both misogynistic AND as a liar.

      And lying is not exclusively a male trait. One can say and do what they believe is best for them at any given moment. If you’re five years old, and your dad says you can have a chocolate bar when you finish your dinner, you could attempt to feed it to the dog under the table, if it gets you that chocolate bar faster. When your dad asks you whether you fed your dinner to the dog, you’re going to say “no”, because otherwise, (you hope) he’ll think that you actually ate your supper and deserve the chocolate bar. The point is, lying hopefully gets one something they want, possibly at a faster pace.

      That being said, not all men-feminists are liars. And so, if men claiming to be feminist allows them to partake in the “booming industry”, it isn’t inherently a bad thing. If those men truly believe in the values of feminism, and are able to promote and spread these values in a positive matter, then it benefits all of society.

      Of course, when they don’t; that’s when the “industry” corrupts.

      1. I liked the part where you said, “And lying is not exclusively a male trait.”
        The part about promoting feminist values is a bit problematic. Which feminist values are we talking about, white feminism, intersectional feminism, gender feminism, radical feminism, sex positive, or what. We have Cristina Hoff Summers, Camilla Paglia, to Andrea Dwarking,

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