Conforming to gender stereotypes is pretty silly. What if a dude doesn't like football? Or maybe he wants to knit? Or maybe he likes going to his kids' plays more than their sports games?
Society impresses upon us that there are certain things "real men" must like and do and things we simply cannot do. We cannot enjoy dancing. We can't care about our appearance a lot. We have to act certain ways, and there are things we can and cannot say.
Men aren't really allowed to talk about their feelings. Men aren't really allowed to have feelings, beyond some certain base ones (e.g. horny, rage, anger), and certainly nothing nuanced. We're allowed to have relationships with other men, but we can't really talk about emotions with them. We're not really allowed to bring guy friends together with girl friends (other than to hook up). A lot of men would say you can't even have "girl friends," since all women are romantic/sexual objects, ultimately.
Isn't that incredibly limiting? Isn't it insulting and degrading?
I don't mean to get too preachy, and I don't want to push the rhetoric too far when I say that feminism can be liberating for men, but it's capacity as a tool for self-advancement is powerful. When you can see how society has molded your own personality, your patterns of behavior and even your friends around expectations of gender conformity, it truly can be eye-opening to break free of that kind of gender conformity.
Now as I've written in the past, I think there's positive things that men are expected to conform to. But be it in shredding the bad or embracing the good, I find that I live much more intelligently and with much more self-respect when I've made those choices, rather than being forced into them.
So if you need another reason to be a male feminist, here it is: buck society's gendered expectations of what it means to be a "man," and be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, but do it because you want to do it.
As part of the continuing column, "Why Be A Male Feminist?" I present reason #2:
The Sex is Better
With the first reason being a little abstract, I figured I should hit off the second reason with something visceral: as a male feminist, the sex will be better.
A central tenant of feminism is sexual autonomy. This has the obvious broad policy implications, such as pro-choice policies and sex education. It has social and cultural implications, such as reducing frequent media practices like slut-shaming and objectification of people.
But as described in the first entry in this feature, feminism is more than broad based policy, but also individual lifestyle. Part of sexual autonomy means acknowledging the myriad influences that society has on our sexual choices and making those choices because we want to make them, rather than from societal pressure.
So, let's talk about what this all means practically. Well, if you're willing to acknowledge societal pressures to do or not do things, you can overcome those pressures or succumb to them, however you choose. It means communicating with your partner(s), respecting what they do and do not want. If you're able to communicate (and it takes practice), then you're able to achieve a very healthy openness.
Let's say it plain: if you can talk about sex openly with your partner, your sex will be better. Even though it isn't always easy, if you're both able and willing to talk about what you want, what you like, what you don't like, and give each other feedback, it gets better. A lot better.
It Makes You a Better Person
I have to admit that it sounds rather cliché, but being a male feminist makes you a better human being.
Let me explain.
There is a sort of spectrum among "men who accept feminism." It can perhaps be described in the simple phrase of "think globally, act locally." There are men who only think globally and do not act locally and those who do both.
Of the globally thinking: there are those who accept the political beliefs and policy positions behind feminism, such as pro-choice policies, equal wages, and other legislative remedies. That is perhaps what one might call the "least" feminism side of the spectrum.
Of those doing both: there are persons who have accepted feminism as a sort of lifestyle to guide their own personal actions, hence the "local." And for them, feminism is a way to become a better human being. Once you accept that feminism is an ideology or a way of looking at the world that is applicable to your own life, you cannot but accept that is an ideology of self-improvement.
Being a male feminist of that sort is like being a recovering alcoholic. If you read the descriptions of an "awakening" moment of a recovering alcoholic, you read how they realize that their very own lifestyle, from where they live, where they work, with whom they are friends, is based around their disease: alcoholic. So too, is the male feminist not truly a feminist, but a recovering chauvinist.
Our society is one built around chauvinism and misogyny, and it is the feminist who acts locally that realizes that their life too, is but a microcosm of that same system. And thus, the feminist realizes this, and begins acting, like the alcoholic, to slowly change even the tiniest parts of the world they inhabit into something better. By making things better, by fighting a system that denies humanity to others, they improve themselves, and they bring themselves closer to the humanity that society denies them as well.