Stop Dude Feminists
Take a seat, please.
On the surface it makes sense: encourage men to champion for gender equality. Given that patriarchy and misogyny have ruled the economy, education, culture and policy in popular society, men should feel the impetus to make things more equitable.
Yet, this campaign is built to make men the champions or gate-keepers of feminism.
While also reproducing a biologically violent dichotomy of HE and SHE, this campaign offers men a new way to pay lip service to justice without actually challenging them to destroy the system they created and sustain.
The action kit the UN provided is a document that basically says:
Talk about #HeForShe and give us money to keep talking about it.
Yes, conversations help progress, but listening is better and men don’t need to be catered to in this discussion. Nor do corporations need to be curating these conversations, as abolitionist and organizer, Lauren Chief Elk, more eloquently pointed out.
Leading men like school children to support gender equality still requires such women to work and that’s unsustainable. Plus, feminism is more nuanced than just gender equality.
Now, for the record:
I’m not a feminist. Never been. Never wanted to be.
I am, however, relentlessly committed to using the body and access I have as a cis-man to combat violence and systemic discrimination against women. That being said, I’m not here to discuss feminism, its tenants or shortcomings (like, historically erasing Black/Indigenous Women/of Color, or marginalizing sex workers, or ignoring transwomen completely).
I’m here to interrogate the men sniffing around this movement — nice guys who really just “want to help”.
The heart of dude feminism is the theatric.
I see it in Twitter bios, on t-shirts, in campus awareness campaigns during Women’s History Month. Dude Feminists touting top-notch rhetoric co-opted from their favorite popular and often White feminist. I see these brolic masculine dudes getting praise for fetishizing consent. I see these queer men speaking virulently about (trans)women’s bodies.
I see these dude feminists using the title in order to shine.
The heart of dude feminism is the spectacle, the validation of being seen as better than other dudes. Yet talking a good game is only none of the work. In the way that men on the street go from complimenting to attacking at the slightest bit of resistance, dude feminists have this tendency to reject those beliefs that don’t benefit them. There have been countless stories of men in the movement or woke men whose feminist stances vanish when rejected by women.
If you’ve made it this far without writing some hurt comment below, thank you.
Now, dude, you genuinely want to be a supporter of women, gender equality, and justice.
Good. In the same ways that White folks don’t need to be allies to People of Color, we don’t need to be allies to women. We need to be anti-misogynist. We need to center our work around combat.
We need to call out the casual misogyny we see on our timelines, in our dude spaces, in our families. We need to intervene when we see sexist violence on the street. We need to show each other that accountability begins with us. We need to support the labor, creativity, and resistance of women. It’s about calling out men to be better. Men calling out men is the work. Men giving resources and access to women is the work (see: #giveyourmoneytowomen).
Some dudes are like:
My mom/daughter/wife/sister makes me want to be a feminist.
Okay, but what about because women are human? They are people. They are and have been at the front of every political movement for justice. We should support women simply because they are. We don’t need to infiltrate their spaces to support them. We don’t need pats on the back, or international campaigns, or sweeping speeches by old White dudes about it.
We need to listen and give. We need to support and shut up when asked. Our active work should be directed toward each other. We should be providing safer spaces for women. We should be doing work instead talking about it.