Men and Feminism: Some Challenges and a Partial Response

By Crowe, Jonathan | Social Alternatives, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Men and Feminism: Some Challenges and a Partial Response


Crowe, Jonathan, Social Alternatives


This article explores the relationship of men to feminism, asking how men can support the feminist movement without compromising its gynocentric nature. It begins by discussing two key challenges men face in engaging with feminism, before suggesting some attitudes and practices men might adopt to advance the feminist project.

Introduction

Feminism brings a focused and specialised perspective to discussions of social justice. It focuses specifically on women's interests, experiences and concerns. In this respect, the feminist movement seeks to bring to light gendered issues that are overlooked or underemphasised within mainstream debates. Another way of putting this is that feminism is gynocentric: it is a response to the androcentrism of mainstream culture, including prevailing views of justice and fairness.

This article considers a particular issue arising from the specialised nature of feminist discourse: namely, the relationship of men to feminism. Relatively few men exhibit active support for feminism, while many men express negative attitudes towards the feminist movement. This article discusses two of the main challenges men face in understanding and engaging with feminist concerns. It then offers some tentative recommendations as to the types of attitudes and practices men might adopt to effectively advance the feminist project.

Being for Others

The first and perhaps most obvious challenge men face in engaging constructively with feminism is that it is not about them. Feminism is about women. It is specifically oriented towards women's interests, concerns and experiences. In a related sense, feminism is for women. The point of feminism is to advance women's position in society and fight for their rights.

Men are aware that feminism is not about them. This is difficult for many men to grasp, simply because they are not used to it. They are used to everything being about them, because mainstream discourses are designed to accommodate and value male points of view. Adiscourse, such as feminism, that is not interested in their problems therefore appears at first as hostile and alien.

Different groups of men enjoy different levels of access to the privileged realm of masculine social discourse. Men practising what Raewyn Connell has called hegemonic masculinity are more likely than those practising alternative masculinities to place themselves reflexively at the centre of the social world. Nonetheless, hegemonic masculinity encourages even marginalised male groups to define their social position by reference to their relationship to other men (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005, 832). The gynocentric perspective associated with feminism departs radically from this social norm.

The realisation that feminism is not about them leads many men - particularly those practicing hegemonic or traditional forms of masculinity - to conclude that it must be directly opposed to their interests. This popular conception of feminism as against men arises from the inability to set aside an androcentric view of social discourse, according to which male concerns must occupy a central role in every discussion. From this perspective, if a viewpoint does not actively further male interests, it must be actively opposed to them.

A related problem that men face in grasping the feminist project is the ambiguous position it affords them. It is ambiguous how far men can contribute to feminism and to what extent their views count within feminist discourse. Whether men's views are heard and considered within feminism depends on whether women think they are worth hearing. And, quite often, feminists are not terribly interested in what men are saying; they would rather hear from women, since their main focus is on advancing women's interests and concerns.

Again, many men are not used to this. They are not used to ambiguity about whether and for how much their perspectives count; they are used to entering any discussion and automatically being heard.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Men and Feminism: Some Challenges and a Partial Response
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.