On Feminism and Being A Man

By any reasonable definition, I suppose I’m a sort of feminist.

You can tell just from the way I say it how reluctant I am to accept the label. You probably mean something positive by it, but it’s always had weird and mostly uncomfortable associations for me.

For a start, I’m a man. I’m pretty secure in my masculinity and don’t often feel the need to engage in all that juvenile machismo nonsense, but even for me, accepting the label of “feminist” has always felt like a non-starter. The very word seems exclusionary, with me and the rest of my gender outside by design. I’m not saying it shouldn’t necessarily be that way; goodness knows there’s been enough exclusion of women in history to justify it, and frankly, what else are you going to call a movement encouraging women to be the strong, capable people they ought to be?

But as a man, the perception is that it isn’t about me or for me. That makes me reluctant to accept the label.

Secondly, the associations I have for the word aren’t helpful. The word brings to mind floods of emasculating scorn from angry women who actively seek out opportunities to take offence. As much a stereotype as that whole “submissive little woman” crap, I know, but it’s what’s in my head. I didn’t put it there on purpose.

Even as I write this, my expectation is that this is going to get taken as an attack on women. I don’t mean for it to be one; if anything it’s me trying to come to terms with a label that technically fits but that I don’t like.

I believe women can and should be strong and capable, and judged for what’s inside rather than whether the packaging is attractive, just like I believe men ought to be. I believe in equal treatment regardless of which kind of reproductive organs you’ve got. That’s the core of feminism as I understand it, but most of me wants to reject the label. In my head, my attitude towards women is just part of me being a real man the way I understand the Scriptures to teach, not something special that needs a special label. Especially not a label I find uncomfortable. Being a man and saying you’re a feminist feels like being a chicken and working at KFC.

There need not and should not be any conflict between the ideas of strong womanhood and strong manhood. I don’t find the idea of strong women somehow threatening to my manhood – why should I? Look at who I married. The fact that I could gain and keep the affections of such a wonderful and powerful woman reflects well on me as a man.

In contrast, it seems like my experience of “feminism” is just the same old dominance games but with women on top. Rejection of things I hold sacred (like marriage), offendedness at polite gestures, double standards, belittling of masculinity, female sexuality as a means to power. I’ve seen all of these first-hand. I want no part of it, thanks.

I reject the idea that male-female relationships are intrinsically connected to the idea of dominance. In the beginning it was not so.

After Adam was made, God brought all the animals to him and Adam named them. But, as the Bible says, there was found “no suitable helper” for him. The idea here is not of a diminutive “Santa’s Little Helper”, but the powerful Ezer Kenegdo. One more powerful who stands alongside to help. It’s also used to describe God’s role with His people. No “little woman” here. God’s original design for the female of the species is that she is at least as powerful as the male.

When God unveils His masterpiece before Adam, there is immediate recognition (and the first poetry in the world): “This is my equal and partner!” Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.

The whole domination idiocy doesn’t come in until the Fall. “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you”. One of the primary ways sin makes its presence felt is in the realm of human relationships. Without God centring and focusing everything, the need for relationships often grows into a crushing burden even as the relationships themselves turn sour. Alienation and dominance. It’s directed at Eve, but it’s not like men don’t also feel the effects of it, any more than women are insulated from the other curse, directed at the ground and producing failure and frustration.

As far as I can see, patriarchalism is a result of the Fall, not a design feature of the original creation of humanity.

Yes, we’re on this side of the Fall. But we’re also on this side of Calvary. In Christ, we are no more bound to replicate the same fallen patriarchal pattern than we are bound to keep on sinning. The fact that it often seems to be followers of Christ who are on the leading edge of the patriarchal rebellion against God’s original design for human male-female relationships is bizarre and tragic to me.

So yeah, I’m probably a feminist by most people’s definition.  But for me, the practical outworking of what’s called feminism just looks like being a man the way God intended.

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7 thoughts on “On Feminism and Being A Man

  1. To me you sound like a gender egalitarian, not a feminist. Check the dictionary, Feminism is the advocacy for women’s rights. If you think gender equality can be achieved exclusively through more benefits exclusively for women, then you are a feminist. If you think gender equality will be achieved by balancing both rights and responsibilities for both men and women, you are a gender egalitarian, not a feminist.

    • Whatever you want to call it :). Historically (as I understand it), “Feminism” is the belief that men and women are equal, combined with an advocacy of the recognition of said equality. Culturally, “Feminism” has come to mean numerous things to numerous people, not all of them good. I personally don’t care so much what it’s called. It’s the outworking of it that concerns me. Stick a label on it that you’re comfortable with 🙂

      • If “Feminism” means numerous things to numerous people, then it doesn’t have a consistent definition. Words without consistent definitions are meaningless. We may as well be talking about Supercalafaglisticexpalidoisism. If you won’t reject the label of feminism because it doesn’t actually fit, reject the label because it’s meaningless.

      • Words are defined not by dictionaries but by usage. Good dictionaries reflect this. That’s how words can shift meanings between generations. “Access” used to be primarily a noun. Now it’s mostly used as a verb. Word meaning shifts are particularly common for “isms” and belief words. I’m a follower of Christ. To me, “Christian”, “faith” and “church” are generally positive terms. If you’re an atheist you’re almost certainly going to have a different functioning definition and perspective on each one of those. It means something different. An atheist and I can both agree that “Christian” refers to those who follow the teachings of Jesus, but our perspectives on whether or not that’s a good thing, who is acting more in line with reason and so on will be so different as to create completely different contextual meanings.
        There’s a difference between it meaning something different to different people in this sense and it meaning nothing. In the case of feminism, historically, its central tenet has been that men and women are equal. I can agree to that and in that sense I’m a feminist. But the images the word conjures up are also part of its meaning; its contextual meaning. And those are unhelpful. Hence my post.

      • Words can and do change meanings. Dictionaries can and do get definitions wrong. I agree with these points. If you want to claim that not one, but every dictionary got the definition wrong that would take a massive mountain of evidence. If you want to claim that the meaning of the word has changed again a massive mountain of evidence. (A great many dictionaries still call Pluto a Planet even though the definition of Planet has changed, the dictionaries are wrong on this)

        I agree that contextual meanings and connotations can vary between person to person. Explicit meaning and denotions do not. “Christian” referes to people that follow the teachings of Christ. This is the explicit meaning. Every one agrees that Christian means follower of Christs Teachings. No one is trying to argue that this denotation is incorrect. No one is saying Christians follow the Buddha or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. The connotation of if this is good or bad varies, but not the denotation.

        When talking about the definition of feminism we are not talking about the connotations of feminism. We are not talking about if it’s good or bad. We are not talking about if it brings up images of Dworkins, Steinem or The Girl Next Door.

        When talking about the definition of feminism we are talking about the explicit meaning, the denotation. If this is not consistent between people with different perspectives than the word is meaningless. The contextual meaning and connotations can be different, but if the explicit meaning, the denotation is different it renders the word meaningless. Dictionaries contain explicit meanings and denotions, not contextual meanings and connotations.

        I agree that much of the contextual meaning of feminism and it’s connotations are wrong backwards and harmful. But without a consistent and agreed upon explicit meaning disagreements about connotations are trite and trivial. Who bothers to debate the connotations of Supercalafragilisticexpealidocis? It doesn’t have an explicit meaning.

  2. I think we’re talking at cross purposes here. The point of my original post was that according to the central tenet of feminism, ie that men and women are equal and should be treated as such, I’m a feminist, but that I don’t like the label because of the baggage associated with it.
    You appear to be saying that this is not a true definition of feminism, that feminism is defined not by its own central beliefs but by the summary statement of its _effects_ (ie “advocacy for women’s rights”) found in dictionaries. In addition, you appear to be advocating that _I_ reject the label because _you_ find it unhelpful, or annoying, or something else. I’m not quite sure.
    The problem with only going by a dictionary to define a set of beliefs such as feminism, or Christianity, for that matter, is that it doesn’t tell you enough to be any real use. “Christian: noun. A person who follows the teachings of Christ”. And? There’s not enough detail given for the dictionary definition to be any help in actually understanding it. Nor should there be. It’s a dictionary, not a statement of doctrine.
    This is all a little beside the point, though. My original post was about the difference between my emotional perception of feminism through its cultural baggage (its contextual meanings and connotations) and my intellectual understanding of feminism through its own central core of beliefs. I don’t see where the dictionary comes into play here.

  3. Pingback: Post-Meta-Transmovementism | The Word Forge

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