This week I saw a photograph on Twitter, posted by an academic, of a group of gender studies students. There is no such thing as women's studies anymore, a discipline that was designed by feminists to attempt to bring the voices and perspectives of women in science, sociology and the like, and to highlight the origins and meaning of women's oppression.
'Gender' is a safer word, because it includes men. But back to the photograph, which showed a group of shy, smiling women, sitting around on the floor, and the lone man, standing by the door. I do not possess a crystal ball, but it is clear what will happen with that one man on the course. It will somehow become all about him.
Many of the women in that room will wish the course was women only, so they could expose the uncomfortable truths about the unique experiences of growing up female under patriarchy. The others will defend, cosset and protect him.
When anything true but damning about men as a class comes up, such as they do less childcare and housework, and are paid more than women, there will likely be a twee little intervention, such as 'present company accepted', or 'Nigel is OK though'.
In recent years, the cry of 'we need more men in feminism'. and 'we must include men' has been creeping in. To counter the accusations of man-hating that feminists like me face all the time, many of the more liberal, 'fun' feminists' bend over backwards to tell men that feminism will fail without their intervention. But the whole point of the women's liberation movement is that is challenges and seeks to overthrow male supremacy, and to liberate women from the shackles of patriarchy. it goes without saying that most men will take exception to this. We wish to remove the privilege they are granted at birth. Feminism is a threat to men, and so it should be.
Hashtags like #HeForShe, and fem-lite books like "Hot Feminist" have not only not helped, but have in fact hindered progress towards equality. When Guardian columnist Owen Jones wrote an article in praise of Emma Watson's initiative, he got to be the good guy without actually doing anything. On the day the article was published Jones' Twitter feed was dancing with praise from women. It's a bit like those men who say they 'babysit' their own children or occasionally iron their own shirt. Women describe them as 'good', when in fact they are barely pulling their weight.
'Poor men suffer from sexism too', pleaded Jones in his piece, explaining that Watson first became a feminist because she felt bad that her male friends were unable to express their feelings. Whatever Watson's concern about the men in her life is, it is typical of a man to manage to make feminism about men and their 'feelings'.
Imagine an iconic civil rights activist saying that s/he became involved in black liberation struggles because s/he felt bad about how white people felt in it all?
Whilst I agree with Watson that men are affected by patriarchy, the truth is that it is a system set up for them, and to their massive advantage. Yes, some suffer feelings of humiliation and self doubt when they cry or get sentimental over kittens, but who picks on them when this happens? Other men. Under male supremacy, men constantly police each other, often kicking the shit out of the weaker ones. This is a problem for men to sort out between themselves, and do the type of work in dismantling the social construction of masculinity, which my friend Jackson Katz, an anti-sexism educator, does so brilliantly.
Under male supremacy, men constantly police each other, often kicking the shit out of the weaker ones.
It is neither the problem or responsibility of women, nor the role of feminism to run around mopping away their tears and offering a motherly breast for men to sob on. Today, rape and domestic violence rates are worse than ever. Misogyny is off the scale, with porn being pushed at us every which way, and laddish culture morphing into rape culture.
Men are increasingly invading and even heading up student feminist societies, and are demanding to be a part of feminism, because to exclude them would be man hating.
We need men to educate other men in how to be decent human beings, and not for them to don a Batman outfit and save us from danger.
Domestic violence, rape, child sexual abuse and exploitation, are all men's issues. Men, in the main, commit these crimes against women and girls. It is down to them to choose not to commit such crimes, and to call other men to task when they do so. I hear you cry, 'women do it too', and 'men suffer domestic violence'. Despite the irrefutable fact that the vast majority of these crimes are carried out by men, there are those that will fight tooth and nail to argue the opposite.
Feminism does indeed need men. We need them to support our efforts, and not take over. We need men to educate other men in how to be decent human beings, and not for them to don a Batman outfit and save us from danger. Feminism needs men to support us in our efforts, not to colonise it for their own benefit.