Hi there, men who want to be feminists. Take a seat.
I’ve noticed that you’ve adopted a lot of buzzwords. You think these phrases make you seem enlightened. You think you’re proving your feminist cred.
I’m here to tell you that you’re really, really not.
If you’ve said any of these things, you need to stop, and I’m going to tell you why:
1. “I’m really attracted to strong women.”
Wow, thanks for making female empowerment all about what helps you get your rocks off!
This might come as a shock to you, but women didn’t become “strong” so that you’d find them more attractive. The women’s liberation movement isn’t about turning women into a race of sexy fem-bots who will kick ass and take names in latex catsuits for your enjoyment. It’s about allowing women to express themselves however they like without having to worry about the male gaze.
Besides, who says all women have to be “strong” (whatever that even means)? All human beings have moments of vulnerability. Stop putting women up on a pedestal. That’s kinda what got us into this mess in the first place.
2. “Consent is so sexy.”
No, consent is so necessary.
Again, this is not about what you find hot. Consent is not important because it gets you aroused – consent is important because violating a woman’s bodily autonomy by coercing her into having sex with you is a crime and a denial of her humanity. It’s not about sexiness – it’s about treating women like human beings. This would be like me saying, “getting permission before entering someone’s house is so sexy,” except worse, because you’re talking about a woman’s body here, and the only way you can make consent appealing is apparently by turning it into a fetish. Uncool, dude. Uncool.
3. “Real women have curves!”
Which would make all non-curvy women…figments of their own imaginations, I guess?
I am a skinny bitch. At my heaviest, I was a size 2. And I assure you that this does not make me any less real than women who are bigger than me, or differently shaped.
Body acceptance is about promoting all kinds of healthy body types, not about fetishising some and tearing down others in the process. This is no better than saying real women work out incessantly, or real women say no to that second slice of cake, or real women have D-cups. We’re all real, whether you’re attracted to us or not.
4. “Intelligence is way sexier than looks anyway.”
Again – what the hell is it with men thinking that a woman’s characteristics can only have value if a man finds them arousing?
Some women are intelligent. Some women aren’t. Some women are conventionally beautiful. Some women aren’t. Some women are both of these things. Some women are neither. And none of that matters, because a woman’s worth is not defined by whether or not you can find something about her that’ll make her fuckable in your eyes.
If you need to tear some women down to prop others up, you’re not a feminist.
5. “Men experience that kind of oppression too!”
Just. stop. right. now.
Keep saying this to yourself until it’s engraved upon the inside of your brain: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Do not walk into a feminist space and start talking about your problems. There are places where you can do that, and those places are known as the entire rest of the world. Literally every other media outlet and soapbox is devoted to men’s problems and things men find important and concerning. Do you really need to bring that into women’s spaces as well?
6. “Personally, I think all women are sexy.”
Personally, I think you’re pretty damn full of yourself if you think all women care what you think of them.
I cannot stress this enough: women do not exist for you to find them attractive. Stop focusing attention on what you find sexy. We don’t care! Either we already have partners or we’re not looking for partners or you’re not our type anyway or we’re not even into dudes and therefore couldn’t give less of a damn whether you think we’re sexy or not. I realise that the world has conditioned you to see everything as a performance played out for the benefit of the male gaze, but if you actually want to be a feminist, you need to drop that right now. You need to drop it yesterday.
7. “Don’t you think more people would listen to you if you weren’t so emotional?”
Here’s some emotion for you: FUCK OFF.
Do you know why women are angry at men? They’re angry because men have systematically perpetuated their depression for centuries. They’re angry because it is men who are predominantly responsible for the rape and murder of women, particularly trans women, sex workers, and women of colour. They’re angry because it is men who control the boardrooms and the bedrooms of the world, because it is men who stop women from being able to access affordable healthcare and education, because it is men who have set up arbitrary standards for ideal womanhood and it is men who punish women who don’t meet those standards.
That anger is valid. That anger is entirely justified. We can and will express it. We have that right. If you’re the kind of guy who says, “well, I was going to be a feminist, but your anger is really off-putting,” you were never an ally anyway – you were just a man looking for a cookie and a pat on the head. And we are alllllll out of cookies, my friend.
And even if you personally have never done any of the things I just mentioned, I really don’t want to hear you say…
8. “But I haven’t done any of those things!”
Congratulations! You’ve managed to behave like a decent human being. Do you want a medal to go with that huge sense of entitlement you seem to have accrued along the way?
I am a privileged person in some ways. As a cisgender woman, I enjoy many privileges that my trans sisters are constantly denied. I have not actively participated in the denial of their rights – in fact, I work as hard as I can to ensure that they can achieve equality – but the fact remains that I’m a member of a privileged group to which they do not belong. When they’re angry at cis people, I know it’s not about me (because, fun fact, not everything is All About Me!). I know their anger is justified. I know they’re not exaggerating their lived experiences. If you want to be a decent ally to women – and if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you do – you need to shelve that sense of entitlement at the door. The fact that you are not a heinous criminal does not excuse you from being called on your privilege. Learn to sit down, shut up and listen. You might actually learn something.
Speaking of which…
9. “I haven’t witnessed any of what you’re describing.”
Geez, I wonder why. Do you think it might be because…you’re not a woman?
No, you have probably not witnessed street harassment – or you have, but it didn’t register with you the way it registers with the women who are forced to endure it. You may not think you know any rapists (though odds are that you actually do, since statistically speaking, one in sixty American males will commit rape in their lifetimes). You might never have seen a female colleague be passed over for a promotion at work – probably because you weren’t paying attention. Why? Because these aren’t things that affect you.
It’s pretty easy to be blind to the injustices other people face when you never have to face them yourself. That’s kinda how privilege works.
10. “But I just want to help! Why are you picking on me?”
Because if you sincerely want to help, this is all stuff you need to hear.
Did you think this would be easy? Did you think being a feminist was as simple as reading something by Gloria Steinem and not raping women then showing up for your hard-earned participant ribbon? Well, boy howdy, do I have news for you: like every other worthwhile endeavour in life, it’s not that easy. Being a feminist is hard work. It’s even hard work for women! Why do you think you deserve an easy ride?
Being an ally isn’t a title you claim. It’s not who you are – it’s what you do. And if what you do is barge into female spaces and derail conversations so that they’re oriented around the male gaze, if what you do is whine about how you don’t get enough credit for being a decent person, if what you do is baulk when you realise there’s actual work to be done, then you are not doing the work of being an ally. All you are is a hindrance, and one we neither want nor need to put up with.
I’m sorry, fellas, but them’s the breaks. If you want to be a feminist, you need to leave your baggage at the door. You need to go into this with an open mind and a closed mouth and a willingness to be taken down a peg or two at times. This is not your movement – this is our movement, and you will play by our rules or not at all. Don’t be surprised if your self-aggrandising male ally circle-jerks are met with hostility and derision. You’re coming into female spaces, ostensibly to help. So let go of your ego, get rid of your preconceptions and stop making it all about you.
If you want to help, we want you to help us – on our terms, not yours. Take a seat and start taking notes. You have a lot to learn.