Men and Feminism

19 May

I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking lately. I mean, most of it has been about, like, cat videos and comic books, but over the past week a significant part of my brain has been occupied by the following question:

What place do men have in the feminist movement?

First of all, let me straight up say that I think that they for sure have a place, and an important one at that. I like dudes, I think they are super great and that many of them have important, valuable things to say about feminism. And I don’t think that we have a hope in hell of achieving equality if only self-identified women are welcome in the feminist movement.



I don’t think that men have any place as leaders in the movement. I don’t think that they should ever, ever lecture women on how to be feminists. And I sure as hell don’t think that they should claim to support equality while at the same time decrying things like the term “privilege” as a silencing tactic.

There have been a few things this week that have kept this issue at the forefront of my thoughts. First, there was this article that a friend of mine wrote for the Huffington Post about Charles Clymer, the man who runs the Facebook group Equality for Women. Clymer styles himself as a feminist and supporter of gender equality, but has been known to silence women (deleting their comments if they disagree with him, banning them if they question these deletions), and has also written troubling things like this post on why “bitch” and “cunt” can’t ever be reclaimed by women. Even worse, Clymer wrote this email to one of the women who was unhappy with his behaviour:

Stephanie, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that, apparently, no one has had the guts to tell you up to this point in your life: having a vagina does not grant you magical powers of perception and nuance anymore than my penis magically blinds me from the horrors of the world.

You have to earn respect for your opinion. I’m not going to hand it to you because you’re a woman talking women’s rights.
And yes, I am the leader of this page. These are my moderators, who I have selected for the page that I created and into which I have poured money for advertising, and make no mistake: I do hold executive privilege (your favorite word, apparently), and I do have the final say on decisions. However, I trust my mods, and instead of being a dictator, we work as a team of equals. They let me know when something’s off, and I listen to them and heed their advice.

I run this page, a feminist blog, write a column for another feminist blog (under a woman editor-in-chief who respects my writing and invited me to contribute articles), and on top of all that, I volunteer 30-40 hours a week at a feminist lobbying firm.

Here’s a good question: what the fuck have you done for women’s rights, lately, other than troll the page I created?

You want to talk about privilege? Fine, we’ll talk about privilege. What about your idiot privilege? It would seem you’re so used to people not calling you out for being an absolute fucking moron that you’ve become blind to how your asshat actions affect others.

So no, after us reaching out to you, you decided to insult me, and, more importantly, my moderators with your bullshit, half-hearted, tongue-in-cheek apology.

Supposedly, you’re an outstanding feminist but have no problem telling my women moderators how they’re supposed to think and feel.
Please accept my invitation of hide-and-go-fuck-yourself.

And one more thing: If I ever see your name on my page again, I will report you for harassment and block you.

Feel free to relay this message to the 1% of women feminists out there who foam at the mouth and put their bullshit on everyone else who disagrees with them.


I just … I’m not even sure that I have the words to explain how fucked up this is. Wait, no, here are a few: a man who is purportedly trying to raise women up is using his position of power and influence to belittle and silence women. He’s disrespectful, condescending, and seems to think that because he took Feminism 101 that trumps any kind of lived experience that women might have had.

Another thing that’s got me thinking about men and feminism is the discussion that this article inspired on The Belle Jar’s Facebook page. In it, a few men (men that I know and really like!) mentioned that they find the feminist movement to be unfriendly towards men, and that they believe that women should “make room” for men in feminism. And you know what? I honestly do think that men have a place in the feminist movement, I swear to God that I do. But I think that place is, as my friend Ryan would say, at the back of the room. If you, a hypothetical dude, really want women to achieve equality, then you do whatever you can to give them a platform. You stand back, let them speak, and you fucking listen. And above all, you let women shape the direction of the feminist movement. Dudes, you know I love you, but this ain’t about you.

The final thing that really got me going this week was this speech given by Ronald Lindsay at the Women in Secularism conference. The talk starts out fine-ish, with some discussion of the history of the subjugation and subordination of women, but then, somewhere towards the middle, things become problematic.

This brings me to the concept of privilege, a concept much in use these days. Let me emphasize at the outset that I think it’s a concept that has some validity and utility; it’s also a concept that can be misused, misused as a way to try to silence critics. In what way does it have validity? I think there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there are socially embedded advantages that men have over women, in a very general sense. These advantages manifest in various ways, such as the persistent pay gap between men and women. Also, I’m not a believer in a priori arguments, but I will say that given the thousands of years that women were subordinated to men, it would be absolutely amazing if in the space of several decades all the social advantages that men had were promptly and completely eradicated. Legislation can be very effective for securing rights, but changing deeply engrained patterns of behavior can take some time.

So, basically, it’s fine to talk about privilege as long as it’s only in a general, societal sense. That’s totally kosher. But calling a specific male out on his specific male privilege? That’s apparently called “silencing critics.”

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

First of all, you can’t listen if you don’t shut up. Pretty much physically impossible. And guess what? If you are a man, then you fucking don’t know what it’s like to experience x, y and z, and if you are actually interested in learning about, then yes, you have to shut up and listen.

This approach doesn’t work.  It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and … poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women.

Dude. We’ve tried reasoned arguments, and you (general male you, not you, Ronald Lindsay, specifically) didn’t want to hear them. We’ve tried explaining ourselves and you called us hysterical and accused us of overreacting. We’ve tried to engage and include men in the feminist movement, only to be told that we’re not going about it the right way. We’ve been pushed around, condescended to, belittled, and much, much worse. And now? Now we’re exhausted. If you’re not interested in shutting up and listening to what we have to say, then you’re not interested in gender equality. Not really. Not in any meaningful sense, anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the concept of privilege is useful; in fact it is too useful to have it ossified and turned into a dogma.

By the way, with respect to the “Shut up and listen” meme, I hope it’s clear that it’s the “shut up” part that troubles me, not the “listen” part. Listening is good. People do have different life experiences, and many women have had experiences and perspectives from which men can and should learn. But having had certain experiences does not automatically turn one into an authority to whom others must defer. Listen, listen carefully, but where appropriate, question and engage.

No one is saying that you can’t “question” or “engage,” but you need to understand that at the end of the day, yes, women’s lived experiences make them an authority on the inequality of women. I can’t believe that I have to say that, but apparently I do.

I started my talk with that reading from the New Testament which unmistakably assigned women a subordinate role.  Both the symbol of that oppression and the vehicle for enforcing that oppression was silence.  Enforced silence is always and everywhere the enemy of truth and progress.  If someone is forbidden from speaking, you are obviously not going to hear what they have to say.

Good lord, no one is silencing you. And this time I am specifically talking to you, Ronald Lindsay. Do you even know what the word “silencing” means, old white dude? You have a huge platform, your organization has 14,000 fans on Facebook, and you have so many people listening to you. Just because someone reminds you of your privilege does not mean that you are being silenced.

As my grandmother would say, Jesus, Mary and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

(I added in the Gordon-Levitt part, in case that wasn’t clear)

But enforced silence is also a way of robbing someone of their humanity.  Part of what allows us to give meaning to our lives is the ability to exercise certain core freedoms, such as freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and reproductive freedom.  We need these freedoms to take control of our own lives, to give shape and direction our own lives; otherwise, we are just going to be forced into a role that has been assigned to us.

You are not being robbed of your humanity. No one is trying to rob white, middle class men of their humanity. All that we’re trying to do is continue to assert our own humanity, which is apparently something that you want as well. But if you’re really interested in giving women a hand up, then you need to listen, even when it gets uncomfortable for you. Even when you don’t like what’s being said. Even when the word privilege comes up. And if you can’t do that? Then get the fuck out of the way, stop speaking at feminist conferences, and make room for someone who actually understands how equality works.

Look. There is certainly a place for men in the feminist movement, but that place is not in a position of leadership. Men should never, ever tell women what feminism is, why it’s necessary, and how it works. In the same way, a heterosexual person should not lecture LGBTQ folks on how to advocate for gay rights, and a white person shouldn’t be telling People of Colour how to fight against racism. It just doesn’t work that way. Privilege is a real thing, and it really does blind you to what an oppressed person’s life is really like.

If you want to be a good feminist man, you need to learn to be challenged. You need to learn to feel uncomfortable. Above all, you need to shut up and listen.



85 Responses to “Men and Feminism”

  1. Jennifer Dutcher May 19, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    Bravo. I truly love reading everything you write. I am from the wave of Feminism of the 1960s and 70s! I am assuming you are my daughters age who just graduated from Michigan State. Keep inspiring!

    • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 4:09 am #

      have you ever noticed that non feminists talk of the actions, ideology, industry, statements etc of feminism. All hard fact. But feminists talk in rhetoric devoid of fact, ignore the torrent of sexism that utterly dominates feminism… from second wave feminism lost all equality driven targets.

      Feminism is completely baseless. Nothing backs it up. Domestic violence is at least 50/50 gender wise, in fact in non reciprocal violence the aggressor is female… domestic violence is directly proportional to female presence, the most violent relationships, lesbian, next hetro, the least same sex male. But it is not reported as such.

      females get significantly less, 60%, less jail time than men for the same crimes, sexual abuse of men by women is not even categorised as an offence, females who have sex with under age children…. it’s an inappropriate relationship as opposed to the correct view when men do it…. this itself shows feminism embracing, as it supports this leniency, what it calls patriarchal social ideas.

      This has nothing to do with men or women being critisized, only feminism being critisized, feminism has only one unquestionable nswer for everything and has crippled social progress…. for what? money, it’s an industry that uses and abuses women at the expense of men and women.

    • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      “To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.” — Valerie Solanas, Author of the SCUM (Society For Cutting up Men) Manifesto, a feminist tract written in 1968. Some feminists defend the male hating text as a parody, but when asked, Solanas ( who later shot Andy Warhol) insisted she was dead serious. Women studies departments at universities all over the world still study her manifesto and to this day conferences are held celebrating her work. And that’s one reason why, -when feminists tell us they don’t hate males -we respectfully disagree.

  2. sarahdaigen May 19, 2013 at 4:03 am #

    Well written piece Anne and I agree; I’d even take it one step further to say that I’m not entirely sure that women should tell other women just what feminism should or should not represent. I think it represents one big word – ‘choice’ – that can mean so many different things. Feminism means the right to work, to equal pay, to bodily autonomy, to an identity and personhood outside of your father and husband. It also by definition preserves the right to marry, take your husband’s name, stay at home, keep house and be barefoot and pregnant the rest of your days. The bottom line we could ALL remember, men and women alike, is if you ask 10 different people to define feminism, you’ll get 10 different definitions, and all through our own paradigms of privilege and/or oppression (based on gender, race, family history etc). I’m not seeing a lot of respect for those individual experiences from the men you quote above.

  3. mieprowan May 19, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    Civil rights should apply to everyone regardless of biological sex or perceived gender. This means freedom to marry the consenting adult of your own choice, equal pay for equal work, the right to adopt, the right to choose to reproduce or not to reproduce.

    Feminism never argues that women don’t have the right to take on roles submissive to men. What we are about is saying women should not feel pressured to do so, and that taking on submissive roles should not be socially rewarded while taking on stronger, more independent roles is attacked.

    • sarahdaigen May 19, 2013 at 4:49 am #

      Oh and please don’t misunderstand me, I agree completely and that’s my point as well – I was agreeing with Belle and in fact taking it a step further to say I’m thinking we could all take some cues from these men in terms of what NOT to do, we could all stand to listen to and respect each other’s EXPERIENCES and choices a lot more than we do. I think one of the strength’s of the women’s movement – or any civil rights movement – is to challenge us to break through the paradigms we see the world through. i see Belle trying to do this every day on her blog; I’m agreeing with her that the men she speaks of don’t, and I believe similarly there are some women who don’t. That there is space for all of us to ‘shut up and listen’, as well as ‘challenge and question’. I might not have phrased it or focused it properly, but I’m actually saying ‘yes, and …’ to her message, not arguing against it.

      • mieprowan May 19, 2013 at 5:13 am #

        Sarah, I entirely agree that women should listen to each other and not criticize each other for being “insufficiently feminist.” Every woman is dealing with her own circumstance, and what looks like compromise may just be survival. Also it’s not easy to get past feminine socialization. It takes time, practice, and support from those who truly support women’s rights. Belle is entirely correct though that doing so does not mean men running the show, and women who have not decolonized their minds of patriarchal values sometimes act them out on each other. It’s a hard row to hoe for all of us, but ultimately solidarity is what brings change.

      • sarahdaigen May 19, 2013 at 5:30 am #

        Exactly right – and I’m in no way advocating men running the show, although their perceptions of the patriarchy as it hurts them too is valuable. I feel strongly that the key word you bring up is ‘solidarity’. And within the women’s movement are many factions; men and women yes but also women of various races and ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses etc. And all bring something important to the table. What these men quoted above don’t recognize – and I’m glad Belle does, and you and I seem to as well – is they/we all bring something to the table and should be heard. Because the more voices in the movement, honestly, the truer the freedom from the patriarchy and its oppressiveness – for men and women both – can be. 🙂

  4. Sahm King May 19, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    I’m torn.

    I’m looking at this through the lens of being a male. But I’m also looking at this through the lens of being a minority (black, with some First Nation influences here and there, and maybe a dash of caucasian in my lineage).

    True: men cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be a woman.
    Problem: some men, especially men of color, may be able to get very close, I think, to understanding what women are going through. In fact, any person that has been subject to prejudice based on their biology (my being black, your being a woman, another person not having all the ‘right’ limbs) may have something of an inkling of what women are going through.

    I’m not sure if I could wholly agree, and here’s why: the same thing occurred in the Civil Rights movement. Though the movement was largely focused on minorities (male and female), white people tended to be heavily involved, and some were even considered “leaders”. We could argue all day that a white person has no concept of what a black person goes through, day in and out, but what people in leadership roles, fighting that fight with black people and other minorities, did some good, I think.

    I would argue the same for LGBTQ and heterosexuals. Why couldn’t there be a heterosexual leader in the LGBTQ movement?

    Some would argue that men ought to take a role in the back, just play support. Valid. Perhaps that’s the way it should be. Problem: there are still many men who will not listen to women, but will listen to other men. My point? Wouldn’t it be advantageous to the feminist movement to have at least a few men in leadership roles? What I’m saying is, in a fight for equality, wouldn’t it be appropriate to use all the potential “weapons” that you have at your disposal?

    As an example, me as a black person seeing someone like Tim Wise speaking out and standing up in the fight for equality still going on with minorities (taking consideration for the strides that have been made), I see this man as a leader in the Civil Rights movement. It doesn’t disturb me that he’s white. What he’s done is this, though: he’s acknowledged the fact that he cannot understand the experiences of colored peoples because of his “whiteness”, and thus the privileges afforded him by society, negates this possibility. It is for that reason that I, a black person, accept this white man as a leader in the civil rights movement.

    While I disagree with Clymer’s approach, I also disagree that men cannot or should not be leaders in the feminist movement for the same reasons I would disagree that white people cannot or should not be leaders of any movement spurred on by colored people.

    For my part, I consider myself a feminist male and acknowledge that, while some of the experiences that women and colored people have are common experiences, there are some experiences that you have that I can have no concept of due to the condition of my being a male. As such, I’m of a mind that women are, in a phrase, the majority stakeholders in this movement. But I do believe there should be, at the very least, a limited role for males as “leaders” in the feminist movement. Of course, I also believe the argument over who should be a leader and who should not is secondary to the arguments concerning the inequality that women live under. In my opinion, it’s an issue that may, ultimately, take away much from the actual fight.

    • mieprowan May 19, 2013 at 6:09 am #

      Sahm: you make an excellent point about Tim Wise. He is a true ally to people of color, just as men can be true allies to women. But people aren’t allies just because they claim to be so. It’s the members of the oppressed group who get to make that call.

      • Sahm King May 19, 2013 at 7:02 am #

        I agree with that. The only foreseeable problem that I can imagine with our line of logic would be the lack of consensus amongst said oppressed group.

      • mieprowan May 19, 2013 at 7:10 am #

        Sahm: But of course. If you’re a member of the oppressing group, and you want to be a spokesperson for the oppressed group, you must be held to a high bar. Do you know any people of color who think Tim Wise is not working in their interest?

      • Sahm King May 19, 2013 at 8:01 am #

        Whilst I do not personally know a black person who feels Tim Wise is not working in the interests of black people, I also do not know any black person, personally, who knows who Tim Wise is. I do know, though, that not all black people feel that Tim Wise is qualified to be a voice in the Civil Rights movement, mostly due to his being white. I think it’s safe to say that at least one doesn’t feel he’s working in the interest of black people at all. But you have lack of consensus in many oppressed groups. It’s the same as the lack of consensus amongst blacks with how to fight oppression: violence, or peace? Dr. King, or Louis Farrakhan?

        I do agree with you on the point that an outsider should be held to a higher standard. Failure, on the part of that outsider, however, should not be the criteria by which all other outsiders are judged. I’m of a mind, speaking strictly from a Kantian point of view, that any member outside of an oppressed group who seeks to further the movement/mission of the oppressed group, should be welcomed as either leader or supporter so long as they do not violate the aims of the oppressed group and so long as they contribute to the positive consequential outcomes of the group’s movement, for the good of all involved, in general, and the oppressed group itself, in particular.

      • Jesse McDonald May 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

        I know a lot of poc who find Tim Wise to be appropriative and colonial in his engagement of race. That’s the main avenue by which I became familiar with his name. I don’t have an opinion of my own about him – I haven’t independently checked him out. I just wanted to offer that second-hand anecdote?

    • brainmusick May 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      I agree with you, and I also think that men/white men/heterosexuals/etc. should be standing up in leadership positions for the causes they believe in–feminism/racial equality/sexual equality/etc. But I also think that it can be a very slippery slope when the proportion is off. To take feminism as an example, we still need women in the top tiers of leadership, otherwise it’s just men leading women again and telling them what to do and think. I realize that is a bit paranoid, but I think the purpose of having men in feminist leadership is not to lead women but to lead other men, while under the leadership of women themselves. Of course, the other side to this is to get women into historically white-male-held leadership positions over men who resist feminism, but that is a good deal harder.

      I also agree with the author’s original point that men cannot inherently imagine what it feels like to be a woman. I read something else recently and I wish I could remember what it was to give the author credit, but it made the point that even in this day and in relatively safe places in the world, women have to be constantly aware when they are alone in public that they have the potential to be raped or harassed. It made the point that most men and boys don’t realize that this is something constantly on a woman’s mind and have no idea how that might feel. And I do think that black men, for example, have a better idea of how that feels if you are in a place where there is a danger of hate crimes. As a woman, I would prefer to see a black man or a gay man or anyone other than an old white man in a feminist leadership position. It would be great to see even more coming together of a variety of groups that have historically had power taken from them, working together.

    • Jesse McDonald May 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      (In case that image link doesn’t work, it’s supposed to be the cover of the best book I have ever read in my life, “Feminist Theory From Margin To Centre,” by bell hooks.) I don’t know if you have read it but I think she made some points along similar lines, and offered some answers, too.

      • Sahm King May 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

        I’ll definitely have to check that out! Thank you.

  5. unsolicitedtidbits May 19, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    Thank you for this post. I do know of men who have done excellent work on feminism and they are not belittling. The book On the Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill is an interesting, thoughtful read, and I have assigned it to my students taking Introduction to Philosophy. My colleague, Dr. Tom Keith, also strongly advocates for women’s rights in part by examining the way in which culture objectifies women and teaches men to participate in this objectification by encouraging a “bro-code” sort of behavior. He made a wonderful documentary called Generation M, which I have shown to some of my classes. I think the heart of the feminism movement is one of equality, and that men can contribute to the literature on the subject. It is unfortunate that some men have asserted such asinine responses to women who are interested in feminism. Again, thank you for writing this.

  6. Jasveena May 19, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Awesome post it just reveals some ugly truths behind people advocating feminism

    • mieprowan May 19, 2013 at 8:54 am #

      Jasveena: no, it reveals some ugly truths behind some people pretending to advocate feminism.

  7. Bastet May 19, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    A great post and I also enjoyed reading the comments…here in Italy, many men considered themselves feminists in the student movement, including my present husband. One of the craziest things I think any man has ever tried to get me to swallow was that HE knew more about what it truly meant to be a feminist…whereas, I just didn’t understand…what a discussion that was!
    Many women at a certain point decided to dedicate themselves to the feminist movement rather than being the tea ladies for the student movement… and there was a time, when men were asked to stay away from some of the meetings where women discussed their problems and their views. I can see that there are still some around who think they have a sort of monopoly on knowing what being a woman. Of course there are places for men…but they should be a little humbler.

  8. Zoë LeMouse May 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    I used to work for Clymer. I don’t have a problem with male feminists and I don’t even think they need to be at the back of the room, but our voices need to in unison, they shouldn’t drown us out. He ignored people, publicly shamed people, encouraged his fans to send people hate messages. He publicly defamed, deleted comments from and banned people for having dissenting opinions that were neither anti-feminist nor offensive. I had to change my name from getting so many hate messages after I left his page. That’s not what being a male feminist is about.

    And actually, a lot of the people he banned unfairly, were men, so this isn’t just a “CRAZY ASS WIMMINZ HATE TEH MENZ” thing. It’s a feminism in general thing. He silenced ALL feminists who didn’t agree with him, of ALL genders.

  9. Valentine Logar May 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Having been on the forefront of bra burnings and early militant feminism I have mellowed over the years. Yes, there is a place for men. Their support and advocacy should be welcome, without it we fail to move forward. Feminism though is truly about finding our voice, our freedom and achieving true choices to say yes and no over our lives, each step of the way. Through education, body integrity, work life, marriage, children, money and all other things that men for so long have taken for granted. It is truly unfortunate, without men as part of our movement, as advocates and in agreement with our goals, we will never achieve true equality within society.

    This was excellently done.

  10. mandaray May 19, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    This was a great post. You laid your thoughts out very logically, and I really can’t find fault with any of it. I, too, love men and want to see them as part of the feminist movement. But I don’t necessarily want to see them in *charge* of it, because let’s be honest–what aren’t they in charge of already? And there’s nothing worse than being lectured by a man on what it means to be a woman. (Or, my particular favorite, men cogitating on what women are “biologically” predisposed to.)

    My only problem is your line about atheists. Perhaps you meant it jokingly and that tone simply sailed clear over my head, but as a lifelong atheist I don’t think I’ve ever “taken a shit” on other people’s religions. Yes, I have some very serious problems with certain religious rituals and concepts. Sometimes I also have problems with highly religious individuals, because of their actions or oppressive worldviews. (The folks over at Westboro come to mind.) But on the whole, I don’t go out of my way to belittle people for their religions, or the religions themselves. If I was at a secularism conference, or an atheist conference, it wouldn’t be because I was seeking to sprinkle crap all over religion.

    Granted, the majority of the atheism movements have been making gargantuan asses out of themselves lately, and I have to admit that these days, I avoid them just as much as I avoid deeply religious groups. Still, though, I was really surprised and disappointed to see that line, because I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and you’re generally not one to make sweeping, stereotypical statements like that. It just…I dunno, I guess it just rubbed me the wrong way. Sorry. =/ Occasionally I just get tired of atheists being the butt of a joke, the assumption being that they’re all angry, crazy zealots with their hair on fire.

    • bellejarblog May 23, 2013 at 1:40 am #

      You’re right, it was a cheap shot. I’m going to take it out right now.

      Just had a not-so-great week interacting with an atheist group on Facebook, and that probably came out here :/


      • mandaray May 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

        Oh. Wow. Thank you. =D I really appreciate that.

        As for the Facebook atheist group…I understand completely. So many of them have descended into anger and vitriol. To be honest, even though I still identify as an atheist, I avoid groups of them like the plague. It breaks my heart to see how hateful they’ve become. 😦

  11. hecnevill May 19, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    As a man who minored in Women’s Studies in college (1991), I have been profoundly influenced and inspired by feminism (and have had my fair share of having to explain and/or defend my choice in curriculum and world-view). I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. Men do have a place in the movement, but our addition is best as supporting voices on the periphery. This is especially true in terms of the political and social goals of feminism. Where I find men have more room to contribute their voice, and where I believe that they can be an instrumental part of advancing feminism, is within the realm of philosophy and critique of the feminist salon. As long as we recognize that it is most important that we listen first, then I think we have a lot to contribute to the dialogue. In order to contribute, though, we must first be willing to accept and appreciate that this will never be our battle to define or lead…we are compatriots (com-matriots?) at best and supporters of the cause–never leaders. In the end, feminism benefits us all, and to that end I think men should join in the conversation. But we must also understand fully when and why we are told to shut the hell up, and to respect that always.

  12. Katie Kasben May 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Hello~ I’m horrified that a person leading a page called “Equality for Women” would call another human being a “fucking moron” and all his other awful words, especially to a woman.

    May I re-post what he said on my page? I wanted to re-post this on HIS page and genuinely ask how he could treat another human like this: Here’s a good question: what the fuck have you done for women’s rights, lately, other than troll the page I created?

    You want to talk about privilege? Fine, we’ll talk about privilege. What about your idiot privilege? It would seem you’re so used to people not calling you out for being an absolute fucking moron that you’ve become blind to how your asshat actions affect others.

    *I don’t care who you are, calling someone an “absolute fucking moron” makes you look like a 2 year old. It sounds like one of my middle-schoolers who don’t want to take responsibility for anything. *

    Thanks for your advice.


    On Sat, May 18, 2013 at 4:36 PM, The Belle Jar

    • bellejarblog May 20, 2013 at 2:04 am #

      Yes, please go ahead and repost to your page 🙂

  13. Renna Shesso May 19, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    “I don’t think that men have any place as leaders in the movement. I don’t think that they should ever, ever lecture women on how to be feminists…” Having been on the receiving end of this “feminist” mansplaining multiple times, including several times from recent converts to the female-body state (and yes, my newly-arrived sisters, when you start explaining Feminism and Womanhood to me, it tends to register as mansplaining) – I say Thanks, Belle, for voicing this.

    Do any two women agree on what feminism is? No. Why should we? Our experiences, however similar, are unique. Some of our self- and collective-awareness is best nourished in our smaller groups, as women (perhaps specifically as young women, or elders, or mothers of small children), as people of color, as LGBTQ people, as workers in specific fields, as ________. We may be unique, but we don’t need to be isolated, and we find our voices as we come together. The more clearly we can each speak for OURSELVES, the less likely we are to presume to speak for others, which is a way of silencing them, appropriating their stories, disempowering them. No matter how lofty the professed intention, it is paternalistic.

    And, when I hear someone purportedly speaking for me, I start to wonder, “What aren’t you telling me about YOU?”

    Yes, men are welcome in feminism. But some of what has been brought up here, by Sahm and others, speaks to the much larger and more inclusive struggles of all people for rights, freedoms, and meaningful lives, those places where we find common ground. Just, we need to show up on that common ground as OURSELVES, with our own voices and truths, and supporting those around us to do the same.

  14. sosayselizabeth May 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Reblogged this on Curiouser and Curiouser (an inquisitve woman) and commented:
    This is an amazing post that says many things I wish I could say but she already said them better. Bravo, bravo, bravo.

  15. mieprowan May 20, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Jesse: I can only speak for myself, as a female non-poc, but I found Wise’s writing to resonate with how I feel about how men treat me, how easy it is for them to be blind to their own privilege. Similarly, I can only assume myself to be blind to my own privilege when it comes to poc, so when it comes to questions of racism, I listen to them, even if it’s unpleasant, and don’t try to argue. They are the experts on racism, not me. That is what reading Wise taught me. That it won’t kill you to listen, that you don’t always have to be right, and that being called out on racism (or sexism) is nothing compared to the experiences oppressed groups have at the hands of their oppressors.

    • Jesse McDonald May 21, 2013 at 2:54 am #

      Those are all valuable lessons! I don’t have an argument against the value of Wise’s contribution to telling other white people things they need to hear, I just wanted to represent that I do hear criticisms of him from activists and politicized individuals of colour. I think searching his name on tumblr would yield a lot of insight into those criticisms, if one were curious.

  16. setinmotion May 21, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Seriously, what the fuck men of the world? What. The. Fuck. Not only have you managed to oppress us for thousands of years, but not you’re trying to oppress feminism by getting angry that we’re trying to state our opinions.

    It also seems pretty black and white to me. I can help the LGBT movement. I can help raise awareness of victim blaming. I can fight for equality across Australia, regardless of race. I can do all these things, but as a white, straight female who has never been sexually abused? What right in hell do I have to assume I know MORE than these people about what they’ve lived through? About what they’ve endured? Absolutely none whatsoever.

    Ronald and Charles need a kick up the arse. How disappointing that these ‘leaders of feminism’ have already taken away the one thing every woman is (I hope) fighting for: a voice. And the saddest thing is, they’ve now failed to listen to woman and will continue to act in this horribly ‘justified’ way. Privilege my arse.

  17. Jairus Khan May 21, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    I don’t have anything to contribute to this! But I think you’re bang-on about a lot here and I’m glad you’re writing about it.

  18. I am womannn May 26, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Thank you for this post; not least because it’s good to see the resulting discussion out there.

    I too think that there is a place for men – along the lines that Sarah Daigen and Sahm King are talking about so I won’t repeat.

  19. I am womannn May 26, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Reblogged this on iamwomannn and commented:
    Thank you for this post; not least because it’s good to see the resulting discussion out there. I too think that there is a place for men – along the lines that Sarah Daigen and Sahm King are talking about so I won’t repeat.

  20. Madame Weebles May 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    That Clymer guy really is a dick, obviously. I agree that men should not be included in the leadership of the feminist movement. Even men who are obviously much better intentioned and more genuine than the schmucks you mention here. I love men too, and we need them to stand with us, but I think women need to be at the forefront of our efforts to gain all the rights we’re entitled to. Not as a matter of exclusion, but as you said, because only women know what it’s really like. And we’ve EARNED the right to fight for ourselves, dammit.

    • mieprowan May 29, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

      Madame Weebles: a more radical way of looking at this is that men can’t be feminists, they can only be pro-feminist. Similarly, I can’t be a black activist, because I am of European extract, but I can be supportive of their efforts.

      The idea that men can be leaders in woman’s rights movements is ludicrous. If a white guy pulled that on a bunch of black activists they’d show him the door.

      • Madame Weebles May 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

        That’s a perfect way of expressing it. Yes. Thank you.

  21. M.K. Hajdin June 13, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    You make good points, but I was put off by the repeated assurances up front about how much you love men and how important you think they are.
    Men can’t be feminists. Most of them don’t even make good allies. Enough with this “feminist man” unicorn fairy-tale. Ain’t no such animal.

  22. kucheza June 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    I think it’s important to consider looking at the historical reality when asking general questions such as “Is there a place for men in feminism?” or “Can men be feminist leaders?” – IF you’re just gazing at your navel on a lovely Sunday afternoon, you might think to yourself, “Sure, why not? Love and equality baby!” But if you look at how men have actually behaved (in all sorts of social movements) – the majority of them – it’s aggression and dominance. Women get pushed to the side and silenced – even if it’s not meant consciously, even if it’s just “Hey could you stop what you’re doing every five minutes to explain hundreds of years of analysis to each newbie coming through the door? Why not, why are you so mean, now I won’t be your ally!” or “Hey that statement vaguely hurts my feelings, here’s how you should say it instead!” I have no problem with men joining in feminist discussions if they 1) are willing to do a little bit of self education, 2) are willing to be made uncomfortable and really look at that feeling and what it might mean, and 3) don’t expect cookies. Oh and 4) care about *our* feelings enough to understand that if we’re in a bad mood it’s not because we’re hateful, humorless people but because 100 people have told us just today that we are ugly man-haters who should shut up or get raped… But what I would really like to see is a non-joke of a men’s movement that really examines how men might liberate themselves from patriarchal bullshit. Those would be some nice “allies” right there – and *I* won’t even get all up in a huff when they want to meet in a space to themselves!

    • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      Neither men nor women whould support feminism in any way. As for aggression, feminism is the most hostile, aggressive and hate filled of the accepted social “justice” organizations for decades.

      Charles has taken part in typical feminisy bullying tactics, now he will see how nasty feminism is and how he will be torn apart by the feminist pack.

      I can’t feel sorry for him, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. He joined a hate group against his own gender…. he thought he had respect, but who could respect that? He was tolerated while he did as he was told.

      The more time goes by, the more feminism shows itself up as still being there with Solanas, Greer, French… oh let’s not forget the CIA pLant Gloria…. you have to be extremely hate filled and/or stupid not to see how evil feminism is.

  23. psusac November 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Two Points:

    1) In response to his telling you to basically F-off, you said

    “I just … I’m not even sure that I have the words to explain how fucked up this is. Wait, no, here are a few: a man who is purportedly trying to raise women up is using his position of power and influence to belittle and silence women. He’s disrespectful, condescending, and seems to think that because he took Feminism 101 that trumps any kind of lived experience that women might have had.”

    I can’t help but notice that he was NOT “using his position of power and influence to belittle and silence women,” he was using his position and power to belittle and silence YOU.

    Here is a man who is working to promote equality, and instead of respecting his efforts, you are accusing him of disrespecting ALL women, because he disrespected YOU. You are NOT all women.

    I have to side with him on this one. You are behaving in an inappropriate and disrespectful way toward HIM and toward the cause of gender equality. I did not see the whole exchange (only the part you cherry-picked), but perhaps he had simply had enough of your disrespectful behavior.

    If we want gender equality, then we must also accept the responsibility that goes along with it right? This includes owning up to the fact that we are sometimes at fault right? Or do you prefer to hide behind your gender to avoid owning consequences of your actions?

    2) It is not your place (or anyone’s place) to decide if a man can be a leader in the feminist community. Leaders are not chosen by individual fiat, leaders are chosen by the led. Sometimes authority is granted by fiat, but leadership and authority are different things.

    If you do not want to follow a male leader, that’s great. Don’t follow one. Rest assured that many feminists are more concerned with equality than gender and more concerned with results than ideology. These feminists will follow a leader based on his or her merits, NOT his or her gender, and if an effective leader happens to be a man, then so be it.

    The fact that YOU are concerned with the gender of feminist leadership says more about you than it does about either feminism or male leadership.

    Either you are willing to give men a voice at the table of gender equality issues or you are not. You can lock a man out of a room, or you can shout him down if he tries to speak. But once you let him speak, it is not up to you what happens next. Leadership, followership and social change are messy, organic processes. They cannot be controlled by your opinion. I’m sure that MANY feminists share your opinion, but at the end of the day, it’s just an opinion. Please be cognizant of the limits of your own power.

    If you choose to overstep those limits, it will be you who are the oppressor.

    • Miep November 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      I have an even better idea. Let’s have men make all women’s decisions for them and we can just sit back and make them sandwiches. SO EQUAL.

    • Paul Susac November 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      I fear that I have to make a retraction here.

      In my prior post I stated: “Here is a man who is working to promote equality, and instead of respecting his efforts, you are accusing him of disrespecting ALL women, because he disrespected YOU. You are NOT all women.”

      I have realized my error, and have to admit that this is not a fair characterization of this article. This is not about you, the author, being called out by a man you have insulted. This is about you, the author GOSSIPING about a man who called out another woman.

      So…this isn’t even your fight is it?

      So what this article is REALLY about is a person gossiping about the behavior of a man by cherry-picking a few post, and using these data points as tools for rationalizing your own desire to discriminate against half the population of the planet. Meanwhile most of the people on this thread pile on the band wagon and support your sexist behavior.

      I guess it just goes to show you, that anyone can decimate on the basis of gender.

      Even a feminist.

      • S_V February 27, 2014 at 1:14 am #

        ^ Idiot.

  24. Alix March 9, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I understand your shock, but I think you’ve got it wrong.

    The fact is that if those words came out of a woman’s mouth she’d be just as ineffective at feminism. Could those words come out of a woman’s mouth? Sure.

    Every feminist leader has to listen. If you’re an able-bodied woman, you have to listen to disabled women, their experiences are not your own. If you’re a white woman you have to listen to women of color. If you’re a straight woman you have to listen to gay women. If you’re a cis woman you have to listen to trans women.

    You always have to listen. Every woman’s story is unique. If you don’t listen, you’ll always be doing harm to someone.

  25. DerpyDan May 15, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    I’ve always felt, myself, that my place is to be a sort of auxiliary, or support, or whatever. The feminist movement seeks goals that will ultimately benefit everyone, men included, true, but since women are the primary victims of patriarchy, I agree that women should be the ones leading the way in dismantling it.

    As for whether women can reclaim gendered insults… I don’t know. That’s too complex an issue for me. I just know that as a man, I shouldn’t use them, for the same reason that as a white person, I don’t get to use derogatory terms for people of other ethnic backgrounds, or for LGBTQ folks. Because they’re not my words. I don’t and can’t understand the effect of being the intended target of those words.

    I do hope that there can be room for men to at least support feminism. Because the feminists are right. Patriarchy has to be dismantled. It needs to happen. And I’d rather be what little support I can be in the effort to make that happen than just some guy doing nothing. I mean, even if pretty much my role is just to listen to folks talk about the various ways patriarchy is destructive, or to say “dude, that’s fucked up, don’t say that shit” in response to a sexist joke or something when hanging out with male friends, that is still a role. I don’t want to be a leader, and can’t, because it’s not my movement. But I do feel I should make it known that I support feminism and want feminists to succeed in making our world less shitty.

    One question I have though… the most uncomfortable situation, for me, is when confronted by an anti-feminist woman. Do I just not say anything if I’m not in the company of feminists to back up? I assume this is the case? Like a friend of a friend, who is a woman, told me a pretty terrible rape joke, pretty much immediately after being introduced. I kinda just, I don’t know, ignored it and decided to avoid her. Was that what I was supposed to do?

    • bellejarblog May 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

      I guess my preference would be to say, “I’m not really comfortable with rape jokes and here’s why.” But it’s totally up to how comfortable you feel about talking about that!

      I also think that rape jokes aren’t just harmful to women – there are a lot of rape jokes about male victims, and those for sure are toxic and make it harder for actual male victims to get help.

      • DerpyDan May 18, 2014 at 12:28 am #

        True. I was rather flabbergasted. Thanks for the advice… if there’s a future situation where it’s applicable (though hopefully there won’t be… I’d love to never hear another rape joke in my life), I’ll try to remember it.

      • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

        feminists love rape jokes…. genital mutilation jokes…. you saw FEMEN’s cover photo of the women triumphantly hold a severed scrotum right?….. or let me guess, not all feminists are like that…. even if that were true….. where are they? feminist leaders are all sexist and most are very free with violent speech.

        Feminism is toxic scum that hurts women at least as much as it does men.

  26. shaynegryn May 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    That email is horrifying. If I ever write anything like that, I want you to take me out back and shoot me.

    • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      so having a vagina does give you magical powers?

  27. Improbable Joe4Pony! (@ImprobableJoe) June 2, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    Yeah… Clymer is a horrible person.

    Men in feminism should be talking to other men, and otherwise should be supporting women. Leadership positions in feminism obviously belong to women, and any man who finds himself being handed a microphone to speak for women should pass it on to a woman and sit down.

    • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      lol…. men should not be in feminism at all…. he is a scumbag, always was, typical feminist. Your contempt for men and your view of their role in feminism backs the fact men should stay far away from feminism 100%

  28. Ian martin June 3, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Real men and boys have been severely damaged by feminist bigotry, and whiteknight men are ones who haven’t found out the damage that this hate organization has done,
    Single mothers are creating lots of future effeminate Eliot Rodgers , expect more shootings

    • Renna Shesso June 3, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      Ian, what “hate organization” are you referring to? If you mean feminism, well… feminism isn’t an organization. It’s millions of individual women each holding the personal belief that she deserves to be treating fairly and equally under the law and in her social interactions. What a shame if this seems threatening.

      • Daniel Murray June 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

        Renna, you have corrected one person’s definition of feminism with a completely incorrect one. Feminism claims to be an ideology, it is not a persons individually help lose belief in fair treatment for women.

        It is a combination of, movement, ideology, industry and is a hate group. If you can’t see that in this incident, you are totally blind and think feminism is what you say it is, rather than what it actually is. It is what it is completely independent of what you say it is. It is not defined by you, you are defined by it.

      • alanbowker June 4, 2014 at 1:59 am #

        What a joke.
        Read up.

    • alanbowker June 4, 2014 at 2:02 am #

      Ian. You are 100%. Engage and continue to challenge this vile organisation which revels in the name “feminism”. It has NOTHING to do with Equality.

  29. Daniel Murray June 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Feminism is a toxic pit, Charles Clymer is a perfect example, as is the person he is addressing.

    There are no 1% bad feminists, feminism itself is “bad” and completely illogical. Feminism is feminism, trying to say it is up to each person to decide what it is is ridiculous. That would mean it was not and ideology but another way of saying “your own opinion”.

    So much hate was bound to end with this cannabilizm.

    • Amanda Lynn Larson June 4, 2014 at 3:21 am #

      lol. Daniel, you’re a great comedian. *gets popcorn, watches.*

      • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

        thanks, but look at the material I have, feminist idiocy it a bit old and hackneyed I know, but combine it with a fallen mangina/male feminist … who says men who have issues with feminism just are inadequate with women…. how will he square this circle.

        Usually feminists attack men’s rights, children’s rights and whinge and whinge about ridiculous things…. it is very funny to see them eating their own alive like this.

        thanks again, but in fairness, this stuff writes itself lol

        How is Charlie boy going to square his pandering own gender hate, feminist love…. with this cannibalistic circle?

      • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

        Don’t believe feminists when they tell you Solanas and her bigoted and misandric writings are no longer relevant. Feminists still hold conferences to honor her life and work .

  30. John Narayan June 4, 2014 at 1:09 am #

    “I don’t think that they should ever, ever lecture women on how to be feminists.”


    I don’t think anyone should ever, ever lecture anyone on how to be anything.

  31. alanbowker June 4, 2014 at 1:58 am #

    Struggling a little against your friends, Charles?
    Turned on you, huh?
    Toxic, my friend, toxic.
    Repent in Leisure.

  32. Jorick June 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Good lord, Clymer banning dissenting opinions. I hate to be that kind of woman, but that sounds like feminist procedures…

    • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

      lol….. now he will be banned, oh it’s like a Shakespearian tragedy! he has fallen on his own little sword, and now the crows are picking at his eyes…. great

      • Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

        maybe thay slime adam mordacai of upworthy next!

  33. Daniel Murray June 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    “having a vagina does not grant you magical powers of perception and nuance” how dare he says having a vagina does not mean you have magical powers!

  34. Grant TeeBee June 4, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    I don’t see anything wrong with Clymer’s note.

    I don’t know of any indication that he’s banning large numbers of women. His estimate that 1% of feminists are problematic is generous.

  35. garth_greenhand September 29, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    i like, really agree with most everything here. in fact i try to live by it. and most of your examples have been handled in a way in which i would agree. but at some point it feels like what you’ve just defined is the opposite of a meritocracy. where an individual who is a member certain group of people, by definition, they’re opinion is invalid no matter how intelligent it is.

    when does a man who has been brought up by women, learning every day about these issues become intellectually inadequate compared to a woman who has experienced her own kind of privileges and maybe lived far from the typical life that most do? just an example. i’m sure it’s only like this 1/1000 times.

  36. House Mouse Queen October 2, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    I am a radical feminist. I know from my own experience that men cannot be feminists. They can be pro-feminists but they shouldn’t appropriate that membership. I think it’s important to be clear on the language.

    Men will never understand what it’s like to be a woman. Ever. They just won’t. The argument that men need to be feminists so other men will listen to them is a bullshit argument.

    As women, are we interested in whether some dude will listen to us? No. We’re concerned with our liberation. If some men don’t want to hear it and want to co-opt our struggle then they should be shown the door.

    We just don’t have time to vet men and decide which ones are good or bad. We should just make a firm stance and say NO. men cannot be feminists but can only be in a supportive role.

    Men are going to continue to try and co-opt our movement. We must be vigilant.

    I see that men are on Twitter tweeting images of themselves under the hastag #Heforshe. You know what women? It means nothing to me. They don’t get a cookie because they made a tweet. They don’t even get a cookie if they stop a male from raping a woman. That’s called being a human being with compassion for others.

    How much you want to be that if I took one of those men on twitter and sat him down and explained how he had privilege and power and that the majority of violence against women is perpetrated by men and so on that he would start throwing a snit?

    Men on the proverbial left are not feminists. They never will be.


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