If you read my post yesterday you probably find the inflammatory title of this entry confusing - that's on purpose. After I posted about the lack of trust between men and women, a friend challenged the idea that men should aspire to be feminists with this:
Good thoughts, although I'm not sure I agree. I don't think a man has to be a feminist to reach that higher level consciousness when it comes to relationships. Simply respecting yourself and your partner should pretty much take care of insecurities within a relationship. Take the relationship for what it is and forget what it's not. Be in touch and connected with yourself as a man, meaning you can show and share vulnerability and true emotion in any situation. Be understanding and open. But most of all just be honest with yourself and your partner. Share your thoughts and the things you're scared of. When the right woman sees you for you and realizes just how unique and special you are, and she is able to share herself completely, most insecurities can and will go away. Many times shit just doesn't work out and it is what it is. I don't think one needs to be a "feminist" just to identify with the female species and be a better partner. Hopefully she will identify with you and be able to be a "manimest" just as much as you are trying to relate and be that feminist. Relationships are simple, it's the people in them that are complicated (mostly for no reason). Calm the mind, be in the moment, listen, be in touch with yourself, be confident in who you are, and the right woman will find you. When that happens trust won't be the issue. It's finding enough time to keep her mind, body and soul occupied. If it's not, the constant attention from other dudes will eventually break your bond. I ramble...
Writing back, the reason for my discomfort with men claiming to be feminists suddenly crystalized: it's just the opposite side of the same issue and we are doing it out of guilt.
When humans discover that we are doing something wrong or harmful, we are prone to swing to the opposite extreme as if that will somehow relieve the guilt and cure the problem more quickly. That's called being bipolar - it's unhealthy and dangerous because it's unbalanced. Usually coupled with a swing to the opposite side of a spectrum is the constant announcement that you are there. As if somehow you will absolve the guilt by convincing yourself and everyone else that "you aren't doing that evil thing anymore" and all is forgiven.
I take issue with anyone calling themselves feminists (or labels in general) because it defines by confining. Everyone wants to be respected as equal and valuable in the world. In my observation, people that have been oppressed and treated as second class have identity issues where their subconscious is constantly filtering everything through the idea that they are worth-less. As a reaction to this painful statement a brute force attempt to override the core programming ensues with constant admonitions - "you are actually better than them (the oppressor)". If I can believe that the rest of the world is jealous because of how awesome I am, it provides a context for all the mistreatment which helps in a way but is just as wrong because it is just as much a lie. The goal isn't to feel equal not superior but once you go to the extreme as a hail mary, it's just as easy to get locked into a mindset that spreads more damage. Trying to ameliorate your own self worth through self-aggrandizement is only layering superiority over a foundation of inferiority. That may lead to some outward success but only pushes others down while you still feel like shit about yourself for eating this fucked up lasagna. Believing that one group is better or more valuable is a fatal flaw that has engendered much of the trouble in the world.
Men claiming to be feminists rubs me the wrong way because it feels insincere and insecure - like a white guy trying to prove how much he loves black people by co-opting a perceived view of American black culture. When you focus on something and define it with "I'm a feminist" etc, it puts undue focus on one side which is what got us in trouble in the first place. Women are fantastic and I love them; however, they are not better or less than men - we are all equally valuable. You can't abnegate part of your identity by throwing a new color of paint on the walls and call it good. Bandying labels about is swinging to the opposite pole instead of finding the zero crossing point in the center where both sides are equal. Anyone who denies their own identity claiming a label is someone who hasn't figured out / accepted who they are to begin with. If we weren't insecure, then the guilt wouldn't be there. We're trying to prove to everyone that we are good because we want to be liked and celebrated.
The world needs both sides to appreciate each other for who they are as the other side of our humanity. We have issues in human interactions because we aren't honest with ourselves and each other. Lack of truth keeps things obscured creating a guessing game like passive aggression - you think you know what's going on but there is just enough doubt and obfuscation that you can't be sure and are left trying to solve for all possible answers. Airing your fears is a great way to watch them shrivel up and die. As you come to realize that you can accept yourself, there becomes less of a need to emblazon words such as "feminist" on your person. It's like someone wearing a gaudy Ed Hardy T-shirt - dude's got something to prove.