A rare breed: Male feminists in St Andrews


It takes a level of courage to openly declare yourself a feminist. In honesty, I’ve struggled with it at times – it seems to me a lot of so-called feminist principles are in fact just common sense. Is there really a need for me to label myself? I have resolved however, that it is important. To shy away from the term feminist is to pander to the misconceptions surrounding it, not to mention disregarding what it truly stands for and why it is needed. I’d be doing a disservice to the people brave enough to speak up and fight injustice not just in the present, but throughout history. After all, it is thanks to them that I, a woman, have the rights I have. The Feminist Society in St Andrews places great focus on the inequalities suffered at the hands of the patriarchy by all genders, and we have a decent amount of men involved in the society. Indeed, there has been a significant rise in male feminists in general, thanks to campaigns such as HeForShe and White Ribbon. Nonetheless, I believe men should be encouraged to have their voices heard on the subject. They bring a unique and important perspective in how the patriarchy oppresses us. This is the reason I put together this article: to place the spotlight solely on the experiences and views of the men who bravely put themselves out there as feminist.

Walt Andrews, 4th year, IR student:

“Feminism is for Everybody,” according to Bell Hooks, and I whole-heartedly agree with her. A common refrain of so-called “Men’s Rights Activists” (MRAs) is that feminism doesn’t provide an adequate response to the problems faced by men in modern society. MRAs are rarely making these arguments in good faith, but this is actually an interesting point to discuss. In short, the hidden assumptions that patriarchal societies make, which keep men in power and women marginalized, are also harmful to those they benefit. Men who wish to participate in society are expected to behave in certain ways at the risk of the loss of their ‘man card.’ Crying in movie theatres? That’s a no-no sure to result in ridicule from more ‘masculine’ men. Liking the wrong kind of cocktails, or not enjoying sports? Clearly he’s not a real man. There’s nothing wrong with not being an emotional person, or drinking only Old Fashioned, or obsessing over football, but it’s bizarre that we would use these things to evaluate someone’s worth in society. It is no mistake that I’ve chosen three ‘unmanly’ things that are also supposedly feminine in Western patriarchies. As unpleasant as it is for the men that we denigrate, men who behave in ways we interpret as feminine, it is clearly even more horrific for women that these apparently unpleasant traits are apparently inherent to them. Everyone must accept how different the harm faced by women and men under patriarchy is in both nature and scale.

Carl Truedsson, 4th year, IR student:

sexist feminism
Illustration Milan Cater

I take feminism to essentially stand for the advocacy of equal rights for all persons. So, when asked why I’m a feminist, my immediate response is, why wouldn’t you be a feminist? The answer? A thick sea of propagandistic fog. For too long has the term been successfully hijacked by all types of zealots and derogatorily misrepresented as some sort of extremist perspective. This disinformation has been incredibly powerful in cementing a wrongful picture of an aspiration that, when stripped bare, would gain wide-spread support. I have witnessed first-hand the successful fruits of this campaign. People (oftentimes friends) who one would otherwise consider relatively ‘progressive’ – adhering to liberal democratic principles – have raised eyebrows when my feminism has come up. Every time that I’m met with this look of sceptical surprise, I’m struck by the tragic irony of it all. Though they gladly spout disdain at right-wing war mongering and white-collar criminals, they don’t seem to understand their own gullibility in their acceptance of an unreasonable depiction of feminism. With that said, I refuse to accept that this status quo is somehow permanent. I refuse to accept that ignorance truly is bliss; ignorance to the patriarchal structures that enshroud societies the world over. Feminists must continue to counter this with reasoned debate and the overwhelming evidence at our disposal. Perhaps then the fog will finally lift.

Sam Mills, 3rd year, Film Studies student:

Growing up I had some pretty misguided ideas about what a feminist was. I remember the time we had a conference on feminism at my school. The women who came to speak to us were nice, articulate, ordinary people – so when we got on to the playground it only seemed right to make fun of them. We called them lesbians, we said that they hated men because they were ugly. It never occurred to us that – as well as being unfunny – we were being blatantly sexist. We’d grown up in a world that told us that we were supposed to hate feminists. Despite what 15-year-old me might have thought, many institutions in the world – and in the UK – are objectively skewed against women. Only 20 per cent of our MPs are female. The World Bank estimates that women do 66 per cent of the world’s work, but receive only 10 per cent of the wages. Only 7 per cent of the major feature films that came out of Hollywood in 2014 were directed by a woman. It turns out that being a feminist doesn’t mean creating divisions between men and women. It just means recognising the divisions that already exist, and doing what you can to change them. Being a feminist definitely isn’t about being perfect, either. I need feminism because I sometimes still call my friends p*****s and tell them to man up, even though I know these insults assume that being a man is good, and being a woman is bad. I don’t call myself a feminist because I think I embody some holy ideal of how to treat women. I call myself a feminist because I can see that I – and the society I live in – still treat women in incredibly unjust ways, and I want to be part of the movement fighting to change that.

Michael Hobbs, 4th year, sexual health rep:

Since openly identifying as a feminist I have received a few slightly negative comments from people. These came mainly from those who have the same image of a feminist that I admitted to above. Others, however, came from women who identified as feminists. Although they expressed their admiration for my support of the cause, they maintained that as someone privileged by my biological sex and gender identity I could never understand the problems they had to face. Whether that’s true or not is largely irrelevant; I personally don’t think it’s particularly constructive to compare issues faced by men and those faced by women, or discuss which are worse. What is worth discussing, and more importantly acting upon to change, however, is that almost all gender-specific problems have a common root: the patriarchy. Patriarchy is all about imposing gender and gender roles upon everyone. This can cause many problems with dynamics in heterosexual relationships in particular. For me, one positive aspect of identifying as gay, therefore, is that these “rules” are not enforced as much; if both partners identify as the same gender, the power dynamic is not constricted by gender roles and therefore able to shift more freely. This means that one of the stumbling blocks to achieving equality and balance within the relationship is removed. Unfortunately, the repercussions of living in a patriarchal society are not confined to romantic relationships, however. The patriarchy teaches us that gender is binary and should correlate to biological sex, orientation and masculine or feminine behaviour. It makes no more sense to assign people traits based on their gender than it does based on their eye colour. Whilst we are all different in an infinite number of ways, ultimately we are all human and deserve to be treated and regarded equally. It’s for this reason that I prefer to call myself a feminist rather than a male feminist.


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