Someone over on [livejournal.com profile] debunkingmale has brought up the old "Men should not call themselves feminist, only pro-feminist" thing. i've written about this topic many times all over the Web, but not, apparently, in the form of a post to my own journal. So here is that post, which i'll update with further points as they come to mind.

The issues i have with the "Men shouldn't call themselves feminists" notion include:
  • All too often it's based on dichotomous ideas of sex and gender. What about people such as myself, who identify as male and female - can i call myself 'feminist'? i've often found that those pushing the "no 'feminist' men" idea tend to be transphobic, or at the very least have very simplistic ideas about trans people's lives and experiences; so they may dismiss this point as irrelevant, or only relevant in that they feel it serves as yet another example of men trying to colonise womanhood. Which brings me to an important point:

  • If only women can call themselves feminist, we have to ask what constitutes 'womanhood'. Having a womb? But then those who have had a hysterectomy don't qualify. Having breasts? But some women have smaller breasts than some men. Having a cunt? Personally, i balk at reducing a woman to her genitalia. Having exactly two X chromosomes? But then intersex people who have been raised female don't qualify. What about having been raised as a female, or having lived as a female? In the case of the former, does that mean that an FTM transsexual can call himself a 'feminist'? In the case of the latter, exactly what experiences are required over what period before a person can qualify as a 'woman'? Does one have to experience oppression primarily through one's gender before qualifying? And so on.

  • The argument that someone made in the debunking male thread that men's definitions of feminism may not match women's definitions of feminism is specious, since feminism consists of a wide variety of beliefs, a number of which involve claims that other feminist beliefs are patriarchal. For example, some anti-BDSM feminists feel that BDSM is one form of the "eroticisation of women's oppression", whilst pro-BDSM feminists often feel that dictating the form women's sexuality 'should' take is classic patriarchal behaviour.

  • i tend to feel that how men identify in this regard is far less important than their concrete actions. Although i'm aware that other women (e.g. [livejournal.com profile] porcineflight) have different experiences in this regard, i've all too often witnessed so-called 'pro-feminist' men act in ways i feel are highly disrespectful to women and their feelings and experiences - for example, this incident, Stan Goff's comments about women and sex work (as per this critique) and a Web-based attack on me in which it was implied that [livejournal.com profile] naked_wrat must really merely be a sockpuppet of mine, since no real woman would enjoy and defend at least some types of porn. :-P Further, it strikes me as odd (at the very least) that a cis woman could declare herself a 'feminist', argue against abortion even in cases of rape, and still be able to call herself 'feminist', whereas a cis man who publicly argued for pro-choice positions and who, in his own behaviour and in his activism, worked towards ending violence against women, can nevertheless only call himself 'pro-feminist'.

Personally, i'll take the man who identifies as a feminist and walks the talk over the man who identifies as 'pro-feminist' but who behaves as a condescending prick anyday.

Edited to add: This thread covers a number of issues relevant to this topic.


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