Five Toxic Myths About Feminist Men

5/15/2017

I’ve considered myself an outspoken feminist for my entire adult life – and in that time, I’ve encountered a lot of negative stereotypes about feminist men. It can be hard, when people are saying these things, to hold on to your values and to stand up for yourself. It can also be hard for sane people to believe that you are facing this kind of opposition for something that should be so non-controversial. Heck, it can be hard for you to believe that anyone would belittle you for your proudly proclaimed feminism. Here are some thoughts on the most common myths I hear regarding men who are feminists.

1. We are not only allies.

Feminism benefits everyone, including us men. It raises us all up. It makes the world better.

  • Everyone should be free to express their interests and passions without worrying about not conforming to rigid gender norms. That means boys can dance, and girls can climb trees.
  • Everyone should be able to pursue the career of their choice without being judged for not conforming to rigid gender roles. Men can be stay-at-home dads, and women can be astronauts.
  • Everyone has a right to their feelings. This means that men can cry without being “weak” and women can cry without being “hysterical.”
  • Everyone should be able to embrace their sexuality without being punished by society. Gender equality means that love is love no matter the gender of your beloved. Being loved by a man doesn’t make you weak or “feminine.” Being loved by a woman doesn’t make you strong or “masculine.”
  • Everyone should be able to be themselves without people making assumptions about their sexuality. It’s great to not be straight, but being a hairdresser, a snappy dresser, a ballet dancer, or having a lisp don’t mean that you aren’t straight.

Allies are important to any movement. We love our allies, but the word ally implies that you are only fighting to benefit your neighbor. This is noble and wonderful. In the case of feminism, men are fighting to support women, but we are also fighting for ourselves, for our brothers, and for our sons. Men need to recognize that feminism benefits everyone.

2. We are not all “cucks.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “cuck” is a shortening of the word cuckold. It has gone from meaning a man whose wife has cheated on him, to a man with a fetish for being cuckolded, which has morphed into meaning a man who is supposedly “weak.” In this narrow and insulting sense, a “cuck” is supposedly a man who is so afraid of losing sex that he won’t ever stand up to his girlfriend or wife. And that is the sense in which this myth about feminist men originates. Today, this particular insult is very pervasive among the anti-feminist alt right.

The idea that we feminist guys are just insecure men bullied by the women in our lives is clearly absurd. As outlined above, feminism benefits everyone, including men. But even if feminism didn’t benefit everyone, what would be wrong with wanting a better world for our wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, perfectly nice strangers, etc.?

Besides, it seems to me that the truly insecure man is the “anti-feminist” who feels he is not equipped to compete in a world where women aren’t hobbled. Perhaps he worries that no woman will choose him if she is given the right to make that choice. Maybe he worries that without women beneath him, he really will be the bottom of the heap. But yeah, I’m the insecure one for supporting my wife’s equality – sure.

3. We’re not all “alphas,” either.

This myth seems like the opposite of the “cucks” thing, but oddly comes from the same place. The myth that feminism is just for “alpha males” is attributable to a peculiar online movement that calls themselves “beta males.” The movement is highly suspicious of feminism, seeing belief in gender equality as a kind of luxury for “alphas” who can afford the gamble. These fellas don’t want a level playing field, because they worry they won’t be able to compete romantically should gender equality prevail. Sure, they suspect, a handful of guys who have the brains of Elon Musk and the looks of Brad Pitt will still flourish, but average “normal” guys will fail.

At the base of this reasoning lurks the same fear: that given the power to choose, women will choose not to date these poor beta males. And perhaps even more frighteningly, empowered women will “steal our jobs” and displace us. Feminism thus becomes a luxury for those men who are privileged enough to not need the extra leg up of being a man in a “man’s world.” Their bank accounts and abs give them enough of an edge that they can afford to support gender equality – so the myth goes.

Here’s the thing, though: Keeping women down just because you can’t pull yourself up is immoral, absurd, and impossible. Women are half the population. Together with us feminist men, we make a huge majority. Instead of assuming that women can only love a man who is more “powerful” (whatever that means) than themselves, imagine a world where women can love a man for being kind, decent, or nice. Quit imagining that you are a wronged “nice guy,” and actually try being that nice guy. It’s not that complicated – really.

4. We are not all “femme.”

This myth goes something like this: Feminism is for women, so male feminists must all be “feminine.” Guys who buy into this myth think feminism isn’t for them, because they have a beard, chop wood, listen to Johnny Cash.

All the arguments against myths 1-3 apply here. Additionally, it’s worth noting that there’s nothing about feminism which prevents you from being a mechanic, loving football, or sporting a buzz cut. It simply says that if they want to, women can be mechanics, love football, or sport a buzz cut too. Feminism also says that even if a man grooms poodles, loves figure skating, and has flowing locks, he is still a man. In fact, feminism only opens up options for men and women: that is the point. It doesn’t close them.

Let’s be honest. There isn’t a single man alive who conforms 100% with his culture’s arbitrary notions of masculinity. We are all individuals. Most of us like some things that society regards as masculine and some things that society doesn’t. So why wouldn’t we empower ourselves with freedom in this regard? Freedom isn’t just about action; it’s about potential. None of us know all the ways we might be constrained in an unfree world. Feminism gives us the freedom to define our own masculinity.

5. And we’re not all “gay.”

When this is hurled as a slur (which it never should be), gay generally means “not straight.” This myth is very similar to 4. It goes something like: of course “gay” men are feminists. They are sexually attracted to men, so they are basically women, so they must be feminists. Ergo male feminists are basically women, therefore they must be attracted to men, therefore they are “gay.”

Some dumb logic. Same simple rejoinder: A man is no less of a man because he loves another man. A man is a man because he is a man. This should be obvious, but a lot of men seem to think that their sexuality is something that is constantly threatened. The fact of the matter is plenty of straight men are and should be feminists. They still benefit from the freedom to be themselves, free from the constraints of sexist gender roles (which, yes, affect straight guys too).

Besides, isn’t it a good thing to support the rights of others? The rights of your wife, your sister, your mom, your daughter, your LGBT brothers, etc.? Have we really come so far that empathy is an unacceptable emotion for a man to feel? If that is the case, then, boy, we truly do need feminism.

So Who Are We?

We feminist men aren’t the above stereotypes – so what are we?

We are part of the solution. We’re men who support gender equality, who believe that feminism is for everyone, and who want to help change the world for the better. We are here to enthusiastically work with women to make the world a better place for everyone. We believe that men and women, boys and girls can be a lot of different things, can act a lot of different ways, and that we should celebrate those differences. And that is why this bi guy is so happy to call himself a feminist.

Rio Veradonir
Contributing Editor
Rio Veradonir is a contributing editor for Bi.org. He studied creative writing at Southern Oregon University and is a Lead Organizer for amBi - the world's largest bi social club (visit amBi.org for more information). You can follow Rio on Twitter @RioVeradonir.