#FemFest: Why I am a Male Feminist (In the Making)
Hey guys, I'm linking up with several cool bloggers today for Feminisms (yes, with an s) Fest. Check out more great posts at Love is What You Do.
Trigger warning: abuse
I used to have a hard time understanding feminism. I always knew that women were equal to men, but feminism was just too much for me. It hasn't been until recently that I've grown to understand feminism.
Back in high school Lilith Fair was all the rage, and even though I thought it was cool to have an all-female concert tour, it seemed like it was all Birkenstock-wearing hairy armpit hippie vegan chicks. Plus at the time I liked Marilyn Manson and Korn, so a group of white women singing "Water is Wide" together was too lame for me. If Lilith Fair represented feminism--which in my mind it did--then I didn't want to have anything to do with it.
My opinion didn't change even after meeting an actual feminist. Her name
was Sarah (okay, not really, but we'll call her that for now), and, yes, she wore Birkenstocks and listened to Ani Difranco. She was always talking about feminism, but she never fully explained what it was. I tried to understand her, but to me she only reinforced the hippie-dippie Lilith Fair stereotypes I had in mind. When she told me she was uncomfortable around me, she reinforced another feminist stereotype in my mind: man-hating.
Of course I did have a creepy obsession with her, so that might not have helped.
So for years I associated feminism with bra burnings, hairy female armpits, and lesbian folk singers. And feminists were always angry, too. They were always walking around with their fists in the air and talking about "the patriarchy," whatever that meant. Couldn't these chicks just lighten up?
During my anti-feminist years, I met Amanda (again, not her real name) and we were engaged after a year of dating. We planned on having the typical evangelical marriage: she would stay home and raise the kids while I would go to work everyday to pay for a roof over my family's head. Throughout our engagement, though, I sensed that something wasn't right with this picture. Most married couples I knew shared household responsibilities equally, including my own mother and stepfather. Yet with Amanda and her family, I was to be the sole provider. I was going to be the one who worked. I was going to make all the decisions. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but the pressure to be the head of family got me even before Amanda and I picked a wedding date.
After six years of being, together, I called off the engagement. Shortly after, I met some women online that forever changed my life.
Through social networking I eventually met Christian bloggers who were also feminists. One in particular opened my eyes. On her blog she wrote about how she suffered for sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. Not only that, but the environment she grew up in told her that the man was in charge, and that women were supposed to submit to men. The church didn't outright condone the abuse, but it did create an environment for her that, inadvertently, fostered an unhealthy view of gender roles. This was a mentality that said men have more privileges than women, therefore women were less than human.
And when I made that connection, I said, "HOLY SHIT!"
That's when I got it. Feminism had nothing to do with bra-burning, or hairy armpits, or Birkenstocks, or even folk music. Feminism is about seeing women as human beings.
Now don't think that I'm somehow an expert in feminism, or that I'm the best male feminist in the world. I still have my flaws. I listen to a lot of Tyler, the Creator. I often don't see misogyny unless someone points it out to me. Sometimes I feel like a particular girl I like has to be with me, regardless of how she really feels. But I'm learning. I listen. I grow.