Men can be feminists but it’s actually really hard work

Feminism is for everybody because sexism hurts everybody, but lots of men are comfortable with the status quo

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The Betteridge law of headlines states that “any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no,” but a Monday piece in the New York Times may be the rare exception. “Is it possible to be a male feminist?” asks writer (and self-described male feminist) Jake Flanagin. The answer to this question is yes. Possibly even, “Yes of course come on seriously?”

It’s a fine enough question for a journalist to ask (think piece glass houses, etc.), but Flanagin’s decision to focus on Hugo Schwyzer — who was given several platforms to write about men and feminism while he spent his spare time attacking the personal, academic and professional lives of black feminists and other feminists of color – is an odd one. As Jamil Smith noted on Twitter, if you want to have a conversation about men and feminism, why not talk to male feminists? Smith’s point, I think, is to raise the issue of why we seem to have a lot of pieces questioning whether men can be feminists and very few that explore what happens after you answer that question in the affirmative. Aren’t we even a little bit curious?

The most compelling part of the Times piece comes in the very last paragraph, when writer Noah Berlatsky discusses the work that being a male feminist actually requires. “It’s true that sometimes male feminists, myself not excluded, imagine we’re brave allies, altruistically saving women by standing up for them,” Berlatsky observes. “But dreams about men saving women are just another version of misogyny — and, in this case in particular, totally backwards. Misogyny is a cage for everyone. When I call myself a male feminist, I’m not doing it because I think I’m going to save women. I’m doing it because I think it’s important for men to acknowledge that as long as women aren’t free, men won’t be either.”

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