Do men make better feminists?
by Diane Ofili
Steinem. Wollstonecraft. Pankhurst. Greer. No prizes for guessing what that little list is about. I’d like to add another name to that list; Mohammad. Not one expected to appear on a list of famous feminists. That said, being slain for defending the right of girls to be educated makes for pretty good credentials on his part.
Thankfully men in Britain would not have to endure such a fate to demonstrate the same sort of principle. Yet their effort in promoting women’s rights has been cruelly and [probably deliberately] underrepresented. Why so? Any real defender of sexual equality would not only see this for the misandrist nonsense that it is but also recognise their value as an indispensable ally. Quite frankly how many women would or could have shown the colossal courage that Khan Mohammad did?
There is no obvious vested interest in men supporting feminism, as it would have no directly self-serving impact. Yet is it so naive to believe that men are capable of empathy? It was not only women who died in hunger strikes for female suffrage or wrote well-thumbed, dog-eared tomes or words on the virtues of the fairer sex. However who is more recognised for this; Simone de Beauvoir or John Stuart Mill? Even the world of music, a notorious battleground for women, was able to spawn such a man in the form of Kurt Cobain. His memorable diatribe against rapists is even more noteworthy in the wake of statistics claiming that men are less likely than women to blame a rape victim for being attacked. If anything, more scope now exists for them to be feminists. The modern society in which we now reside should make it easier to adopt norms no longer dictated along gender lines , given that newer generations of males will have witnessed and profited from the advent of ”Ëwomen’s lib’. British families in particular have seen the palpable effect. Both sexes have gained from developments in reproductive health as well as the increased options as to rearing and providing for children. For a greater proportion of children rises in both prosperity and personal aspiration have prevailed, not least counting the better health enjoyed on broods becoming smaller.
”ËAh, but patriarchy still exists,’ goes the battle-cry. That is true but it is precisely for this reason that men should be engaged in pro-female discourse. Women have been traditionally excluded from positions of influence and thus depended a great deal on men to accomplish social reforms on their behalf. Even so it would be disingenuous to dismiss the huge improvements they have had on women’s lives simply because someone with a penis allowed them to happen. Who would genuinely say that the Pill is pointless just because it was made legally available by Enoch Powell [yes, that Enoch Powell]? The [current] monopoly that men have in the social sphere makes ignoring their input both churlish and myopic. There are very few, if any, causes that can turn their nose up at bolstered numbers or income. Too much emphasis is placed on blindly smashing the ”Ëglass ceiling’ and ”Ëbringing down the Man and/or the System’. Radical idea: why not harness the potential from those within who are sympathetic or even supportive? Elizabeth Cady Stanton did so, which permitted her to hold the Seneca Falls convention, a major milestone credited to this day with galvanising women to improve their lot. Most campaigns to eradicate discrimination have relied on strategies that involved multilateral negotiation and dialogue, not least given the lack of material clout with which to impose pervasive, non-civil forms of dissent. The female of the species may be deadlier but is no exception to the rule.
Unfortunately progress is almost always slow with any social movement, especially those that aim to establish parity. Fortunately it goes without saying that we are headed there. As long as misandry is defeated with the same venom and vigour that chauvinism meets , then effective cooperation between men and women is conceivable .To quote Princess Shirley, Empress of Garbage [the male] ”Ësex is not the enemy’.
The quote which ends the piece is taken from ”ËSex is not the enemy’, a single released in June 2005 by Garbage.