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Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

Men! Hello there, men! You nice guys, you soft bois, you f**k boys; you manarchists, you tech bros, you entrepreneurs; you politicians, you beta males, you alpha males. Are you listening? I have a question for you:

Where are you?

Specifically: where are you in the feminist movement? In the early twentieth century, when women sought the right to vote, many of you were there to support the legislation that would become the 19th Amendment. But where are you in 2017, when seven states are now only home to one abortion clinic and our elected officials are questioning why men should pay for maternal healthcare?

Men, we're in trouble. Despite the perks of the more egalitarian world into which many millennial women were born, we need feminism today more than ever.

So where are you, gentlemen? You marched on January 20, but where are you now? Where are the impassioned New York Times columns written by men about the importance of the feminist movement? Where are the male politicians prioritizing women's rights and reproductive justice? They are certainly not in Nebraska.

The crazy thing about your lack of commitment to feminism is that the patriarchy affects you too. Maybe you don't know that, or maybe you use that as an excuse: you're a victim, too, so why should you advocate for a movement that prioritizes the victimhood of women over yours? Okay, you will never be as much of a victim as we are under the patriarchy. Never. That said, you are still a victim, and feminism, although it focuses on the liberation of women BECAUSE THAT'S MORE IMPORTANT, also includes breaking down barriers for men. I hope that sounds good to you. If it doesn’t, that might just be the patriarchy talking.

The thing is, we need your help with this: you still run the world, and barring violent revolution, change can't come unless those who hold the existing power get on board with that change (see: the 19th Amendment). So, where are you?

A cursory Google search of “where are the male feminists” proves to be a revealing exercise. The top Google results are not dominated by articles about how men should join the feminist movement, work to understand women's perspectives, and become nurturing, helpful, outspoken allies.

Instead, they're dominated by articles (written by both women and men) about how feminism alienates men through its strident rhetoric and its unflinching criticisms of men's bad behaviors.

Is this it, men? Are you staying away because feminism doesn't spend enough time acknowledging your problems and your feelings? Look, I know you have problems and feelings too, and I get that it stings when no one seems to care about them (really, I do: you're a person in the world, right, so of course you have problems and feelings. Being a person sucks like 85 percent of the time).

But here's the thing: you can't compare feeling sad because you saw a woman wearing a “Male Tears” t-shirt with a woman worrying about getting murdered while she's waiting for her train home at night. Feminism might hurt your feelings, but the world has been hurting women (everything about us, including our bodies, our children, our futures) for millennia. Can you put aside your hurt feelings in service of our safety?

Or maybe it’s not that feminism hurts your feelings: maybe it’s that if you were honest with yourself, you’d realize you’re a little bit scared of it. You were born into a world that was engineered to tell you that you owned it. It valued the things you were taught to be good at; it validated your behavior. You have benefited from the patriarchy every single day, in a thousand ways that you probably don't even recognize. We get it: changing that might be scary. Really, we do understand. But the world moves forward; you can’t cling to the way things were forever. It’s not good for any of us.

Or maybe, like so many "aware" and "engaged" men, you're not not a feminist—maybe you think abortion rights and reproductive justice are important but, like, just not that important. They would be nice, but how can we focus on them when we should be focusing on economic issues? By which you mean economic issues that affect historically male professions and spaces—not the economic issues of support for working mothers, equal pay for women, and social safety networks for the millions of underpaid women who work in service-industry jobs. You silo women’s rights into the realm of special interest group, forgetting that women’s rights are also human rights.

The bottom line, men, is that although you clearly have a plethora of reasons for your lack of involvement in feminism, we still need you.You need us too, of course––as already indicated, we all suffer under the patriarchy––but we would hope that you would want to get on board regardless. Because we women are people, we are imperiled in this country right now and always, and we need you to help us fight that fight. We want you to be part of it.

So men: where are you? We're waiting.

3 Comments

Hello there, Cataneo! Please forgive me for not using a title; I'm not sure how people like to be addressed nowadays. And for my writing style as well; I've the habit of writing with a sarcastic and slightly spiteful tone in my years of penning terrible fanfiction.

But to answer your question: in the background. Or participating in another social movement going on now. I hear AntiFa has been popular lately.

The reasoning, I think, has already been mentioned (by yourself). Initiative in the feminist movement has always been with the woman, for the woman, because "[men] will never be as much of a victim as [women] are under the patriarchy." A man is "still a victim," but "the liberation of women... [is] MORE IMPORTANT." (I hope my quoting still carries the spirit of your argument.)

Since the "focus," as you put it, is in women's liberation, the meaning of feminism changes for men. Fighting "patriarchy" means men surrendering power to women, as women's liberation is "MORE IMPORTANT" than men's issues. 

And suggesting that men who don't agree to be supporting the patriarchy or incapable of independent thought isn't a great way to convince them to "commit."

Let's not forget that men don't run the world the way you seem to suggest.

There is no Council of Males who meet every month in some rich man-cave and decide what men should do. Men don't make the world move.

Money does. Political clout does. Populism, majorities, and academia do.

Feminism has gotten a lot of those, actually. And you see the results: women have better standing in the workplace; women "dominate" men in college; women have numerous support groups for all sorts of women's issues; women have been getting custody and financial support in divorce; women almost had a female US president (and female leaders in office in other countries). It seems that feminism's journey isn't done, but it's done a lot. So, congratulations!

Meanwhile, men have been trying to deal with the changes. They've been relinquishing jobs, seeking other opportunities outside of college, establishing their own support groups, losing their kids (and money and freedom) in court, and watching prominent male figures tip-toe around social landmines set up by feminism. 

Let's not forget shifting social dynamics between sexes and genders and race! Since feminism puts men's social identity second, men have had to do the work themselves. Since traditional male values have been poached, men don't even know how to act in a relationship anymore. Some see the loss of power as complete loss, and have left relationships completely.

See, the problem isn't that change is "scary." Social change leaves loose ends and vacuums, and men are dealing with it.

Also, asking a man to champion a movement that puts women's liberation ahead of men's problems doesn't command respect from men. Your champion will just be a traitor or enemy to the eyes of men, because he will embody issues that go against that of men's.

Bottom line: men's "problems and [men's] feelings" are important to men, and having them belittled doesn't earn feminism (or yourself) much interest.

I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the men are done with their work. 

Or, maybe you can call up the guys who marched for women? I'm sure they'll listen to their feminist peers.

P.S. If you want to contact a male politician, you're better off contacting them.

Hi Jeremiah, thanks for your thoughts; I appreciate you taking the time to weigh in. Unfortunately I have to disagree with some of the points you've made here. I think there's a fundamental disagreement here on just how far women have come with feminism: yes, of course, we've made great strides since the days of our grandmothers and even mothers, but there's still a long, long way to go (see: equal pay), and in fact, women's rights have been backsliding lately (see: abortion clinics closing, threats to Planned Parenthood, Trump's reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule). Sure, there's no official Council of Males that meets in a rich-man cave every month to decide the fate of the world (although it sure seems like it, when you look at pictures of the Trump administration meeting to discuss legislation), but men still do run the world by and large: they dominate Congress (and have always dominated the presidency--close but not quite doesn't count!), their art and literature is still considered more serious and legitimate than women's art and literature, their bodily autonomy is not at risk of being legislated away...I could go on. Of course, men have problems too (we all have problems) but the facts show that they are not quite as imperiled as women are in American society. With all of that in mind, it's hard for me to understand why men wouldn't want to act to support a movement whose aim is to fight for the rights of 50 percent of the population.

That said, I do agree that we need models in our society for what positive masculinity can look like, and models for how men can act in a new, egalitarian, post-patriarchal world.

Hello again, Cataneo!

I think judging the progress feminism has made is ultimately a matter of perspective. Undeniably, feminism has given women rights in its history; how many rights, or how far feminism has gone, depends on the individual's vision of the conclusion. It's easy to say "until women are equal to men," but that vision is too distant to understand in concrete terms. The effect is that the vision of the "end" will change in little ways all the time, and therefore the journey will never end. When I mentioned the results of feminism, I intended the meaning to be "the net result of it so far" rather than "the relative progress overall."

I think that no matter how one looks at it, women in the States today have it better off than during, let's say, the early 20th century. Or your grandmother's time. Thankfully, we can agree on that.

The points you bring up afterward (the pay gap, abortion clinics closing, Trump, etc.) seem to be issues that come and go with the metaphorical tides. The Democratic party in the States platform most of those topics, from what I understand. It is likely that those issues will have legal solutions once they get back into office. I understand that there are arguments for and against each of the issues you've mentioned, so I think that people who are better informed should make the call. It sounds like I'm hand-waving your problems aside, and for that I'm sorry, but I'm hardly an expert in the specifics of feminist matters and I don't have any solutions to those problems (again, sorry!). If it reassures you even a little, my English major courses featured both "male" literature (from historic writers) and "female" literature (from contemporary writers), and I thought they were just about equally boring! Academia seems to take feminism very seriously, so logically feminism should always have a strong support base in the humanities.

Of course, I can't speak for all the men in the world about their lack of action for feminism. I can only speak for myself.

If anyone came up to me in person and asked me to actively participate in some feminist march or something, I'd likely walk away. Why? Because the problems feminism believes patriarchy brings to one's life are fairly negligable to me (since I'm a male). Problems I do face, I learn to overcome. While fostering systematic change is a good investment of time for society, it's not a good investment for the individual. If it takes another century for feminism to bring equity for women, and it decides then to help men, I will be either dead or wishing I was. As personable, helpful, and "gentlemanly" as I try to be, I refuse to spend my life for the sake of another person.

I'm more invested in the development of the new male, for obvious reasons.

Again, sorry. I'm not a saint, but I hope you find one.

Who Needs Feminism?
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How to cite this page

Cataneo, Emily. "Where Have All the Good Men Gone? ." 17 May 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 28, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/where-have-all-good-men-gone>.

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