Commentary on male feminists with a male feminist

By Eric Eldridge

Eric Eldridge: Am I a bad feminist?

Tyra Bosnic: I don’t know. How do you view women?

EE: Like humans?

TB: So not like defenseless angels who need you to save them from sexism?

EE: I wouldn’t say “saving,” but wouldn’t using my excess agency as a man to contribute to the cause just be doing my part? Aren’t I best equipped to make non-feminist or anti-feminist men see reason? 

TB: It’s an honorable intention, but the execution determines if you’re an ally rather than perpetuating the same harmful narrative under the guise of feminism. When advocating for oppressed groups, it’s important to be cognizant that you benefit from some of the same oppressive systems relished by anti-feminist men.

EE: So how can I empower folks around me without making them feel like they’re in my debt? Also, how can I self-identify as a feminist on Twitter or Tinder without devoting a nuanced paragraph to it or being performative?

TB: It comes down to subtlety. If you have to constantly remind people that you’re a feminist, the statement loses its meaning. Small actions that communicate your true intentions show women around you they can trust you. If a friend of yours is angry because another guy catcalled her, for example, you have the ability to validate her anger by telling her that’s not OK and offering any help that may make her feel safer. 

EE: Okay, so I don’t want to be unambiguous about offering support when a friend is catcalled, and it would be going too far to insist that I or another dude walk her home or something. Restricting someone’s agency like that would defeat the purpose. 

TB: Exactly, and because you mentioned Tinder, we should also address some of the “male feminists” in the dating scene. There is nothing wrong with a privileged person dating members of a marginalized group, but using that relationship status to gain feminist brownie points or broadcast to the world how progressive you are is never good.

EE: This takes it back to “compensating” for the imbalanced state of things. It’s almost selfish not to promote and normalize your “unconventional” love. That can be risky depending on who and where you are, though. It can be a red flag if someone repeatedly exaggerates their position. Considering how many outspokenly anti-gay politicians are caught with a male escort, it’s not unreasonable to question whether a man aggressively broadcasting feminist rhetoric has ulterior motives. That said, I hope it’s more likely they’re just lacking self-awareness, not realizing that they’re potentially hurting their own cause by beating people over the head with their good intentions. 

TB: Men are so far removed from gender-based oppression that they don’t always see the harm in their actions and rarely have to face the consequences of them. 

EE: Right. It’s important to open yourself up to criticism. I’m sure the last thing women want is a guy mansplaining feminism to them.