Magazine article The Spectator

Men Can't Be Feminists

Magazine article The Spectator

Men Can't Be Feminists

Article excerpt

My futile attempt to become a feminist ally

These are tough times for what I call the #MeToo Men -- those white, liberal, high-minded men who pride themselves on being good feminists. Disgusted with Trump and horrified by Harvey, they want to show solidarity and be good allies to the women of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. So they wear their feminist hearts on their sleeves and their Time's Up pins in their lapels -- and they wear them with pride.

But pride comes before the fall, especially if you try to parade your feminist credentials in public. Just ask actor James Franco and comedian Aziz Ansari. After appearing at the recent Golden Globe awards, both of these #MeToo Men were spotted sporting Time's Up pins and ended up being denounced for sexual misconduct. Poor Franco. He faces the ultimate humiliation for a #MeToo Man -- Scarlett Johansson wants him to give back the Time's Up pin she gave him. It's like being stripped of your knighthood by the Queen.

The problem for #MeToo Men is that the rules and regulations of what makes a man a good male feminist have suddenly changed. Where, for example, is the line between consent and coercion? To find out I attended a workshop entitled 'What about the men? Male allyship and #MeToo'. It was billed as a 'workshop designed for men who are interested in looking at feminism, masculinity and what men can do to be better allies to the women and non-binary people in our lives'.

I'm all for that -- even though I don't actually know any non-binary people. Being a #MeToo Man without a non-binary buddy is like being a leftie without a black or gay friend. It's so uncool.

Our workshop takes place in the study room of a language school for foreign students -- which is appropriate as we learn a whole new language of male oppression. We are taught terms like 'misogynoir' (the misogyny and anti-blackness that black women experience), 'mansplaining' (men explaining something to women in a patronising or condescending manner) and -- here's a new one on me -- 'tone policing', when a man demands that a woman points out his sexist behaviour in a 'nice' way.

You may wonder what sort of man pays good money to spend an evening at an event like this. I imagined encountering a nice mix of social misfits: obese blokes with beards and body odour, and metrosexuals with too much mascara. To my surprise the room was full of very handsome, young, articulate and professional men.

As we put on our name tags our workshop leaders -- Jack and Jill (not their real names) -- introduced themselves. Jack has the bouncy wackiness of a presenter of a child's TV show. Jill is fond of air quotes and not being 'judgmental' -- even when pointing out what a sexist white male shit you are.

Exercise one was entitled 'active listening'. This involved partnering up with the person next to you and taking turns to talk for two minutes while the other person listens in absolute silence. …

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