Every man a feminist

Such is the vision of David Moscrop:

If true equality is to be achieved between men and women, men are going to have to enlist as feminists. This begins with men realizing that being a “man” is complicated, variable, and has nothing to do with sports, worn jokes, and preserving unjust and unearned privilege. It proceeds when men realize that they are bound up in those social structures that obscure, oppress, and abuse many women. But the pursuit of equality never ends. Instead it remains active as a constant and critical reflection about how we engage with one another as gendered human beings and action toward remedies.

I’m not sure that every man should be a feminist. Personally, I’ve toyed with the idea of being a feminist here and here. Nonetheless, I think Mr. Moscrop’s piece is pretty on the ball. One less-noticed aspect of chauvinism and misogyny that has always bothered me is that it diminishes men.* Chauvinism doesn’t just pigeon-hole women, as Mr. Moscrop notes, it pigeon-holes men, too. Further, it limits the prospects of men. I do not know how one could fully experience life if one only had relationships with subjugated women. There’s something fantastic about meeting and dating (let alone marrying) a confident, empowered woman.** Life would suck if I was stuck with some meek, infantile woman.

*This is probably the worst topic to address in a post about the oppression of women.

**I know, I know. My hetero bias is shining through. Having only ever dated women, it’s all I have to draw upon.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. It proceeds when men realize that they are bound up in those social structures that obscure, oppress, and abuse many women. But the pursuit of equality never ends.

    Whether or not all men should self-apply the label feminist (accurately, not only nominally), the realization David Moscrop speaks of here gets to a core aspect of the feminist critique. It’s not enough to be individually for equality: the social structures in which we live and act (and that act upon us, moving us to act) have to be considered and possibly changed. You need individual and social progress.

      • I think a person who recognizes this easily fits the definition of feminist. I’ve rejected the label for a long time because, like you, I don’t agree with all the policy prescriptions – or even a lot of the major policy prescriptions – of the self-defined political feminist movement. I’m pro-life, lean towards opposing gender-based affirmative action, and suspect that legalizing prostitution would create as many or more problems than it solves (given you’re a libertarian, I expect we’d disagree on that last point; short answer is that I’ve read a book on the global slave trade and evidence points to legalized prostitution making sex slavery more prevalent and harder to combat).

        Nonetheless, I’ve come to think that the feminist movement as represented by NOW shouldn’t be the only ones capable of claiming the label. Anyone who believes women should have equality of treatment and of opportunity with men, who displays respect for women as persons, and who is willing to seek to understand the ways in which women aren’t equal to men in present-day society can be considered a feminist in my book. And by that definition, yes, it would be wonderful if all men were feminists.

        • I’ve come around a bit, too. I don’t reject the feminist label if someone applies it to me – I think that might say more about their views/feminism than mine – I just won’t self-identify as a femenist.

          It’s a bit tricky. I agree with the author of the article that feminism is more than a simplistic interpretation of “all people are created equal”. There’s a lot of context that comes into play. At the same time, there’s a lot of context that comes into play when discussing “feminism”, and I’m not quite prepared to wave a lot of it away.

    • “the social structures in which we live and act (and that act upon us, moving us to act) have to be considered and possibly changed. You need individual and social progress.”

      On the latter: How? How fast? How much?

      (Which is to say, can I be judgmental about other cultures without inevitably being called a racist?)

  2. Why would you think the diminishment of men by misogyny is the worst topic when it comes to the oppression of women? I remember a discussion with some Arab and African friends on the subject, all of whom had emerged from patriarchal, Islamic cultures, with very strong ideas about the relationship between men and women.

    So I asked them. “If you choose a smart woman over an ignorant woman, don’t you think that choice would reflect well on you? After all, who wants to be known as the guy with the ignorant wife?”

    There was a girl there at the little soiree who heard that and started to laugh, and couldn’t stop.

    • It just seemed to smack of male privilege to take a discussion about feminism and focus on how it affects men. Perhaps not the worst topic, but it might appear pretty self-absorbed.

      Your anecdote is pretty much where I’m coming from on the topic.

      • It just seemed to smack of male privilege to take a discussion about feminism and focus on how it affects men.

        You know, a lot of plantation owners were terribly conflicted about keeping slaves, but since it was the only path to wealth and status in the antebellum South, they had little choice in the matter. In many ways, they were the true victims.

      • Why shouldn’t men talk about their own subjective feelings on this subject? Women want smart men more than dummies. Why shouldn’t we think of our relationships with women like they do? Oh sure, there’s an argument to be made for some poor, caring guy over some heartless guy with a few capitalised initals after his name, but damn… all other things being equal, educated guys always go to the head of the line.

      • I agree that it comes across as self-absorbed if it’s the only thing you focus on. But I also think it’s valuable to look at the ways feminism is relevant to men, beyond “empowered women are more fun”.

        There’s definite problems in the way our media and society deals with men that mirror the problems with how it portrays women: male characters generally have to be tough to be respected (I’ve heard a lot of dislike for Peeta in The Hunger Games based on this), not having premarital or promiscuous sex is portrayed as rather pathetic, being a stay-at-home dad isn’t as accepted as being a working mother. To give a couple examples. All of these things seem relevant to feminism, if feminism is about equality. They may not impact men as much as structural sexism impacts women, but they’re still worth discussing.

        • To be clear, I think it is a topic worth discussing (hence whey I did). My little aside was just a nod to the fact that the disservice chauvinism does to men isn’t the worst thing chauvinism does.

  3. Would it be possible to get a link to the larger piece by Mr. Moscrop?

    • The confident and empowered woman to whom the author is most fortunate to be married has added the link. The egalitarian author was occupied with caring for a baby.

  4. But the pursuit of equality never ends

    I have a problem with this. It seems to me that it is one thing to say that it is unfair that men have A, B and C but women don’t, and so if we have society provide A, B and C as well to women, then everything should be back on track. i.e. the pursuit of equality ends when equality has been achieved and equality can be achieved by society providing some finite list of goods (liberties, opportunities etc)

    However when we say that the pursuit of equality never ends, you are saying that no matter what is done, there is always going to be something else that can be done. Once we’ve achieved parity on issues like A, B anc C, feminists bring up D, E and F to say that hose to should be equalised. i.e. there is a sense that some goalposts seem to be moving.

    Now it could be that equality is complicated, and that we only are going to appreciate and identify some aspects of equality once we once we have achieved certain more basic aspects. So, we can only appreciate the need for D, E and F once there is parity on A, B and C. But by the time get to א, I’m not sure that it would be unreasonable to ask “really? is א really important?”

    Also, even if the list is really long, it is still finite, so there does seem to be a point (at least conceptually) when we can say that we’ve finally done it.

    One wrinkle could be that because of certain ineradicable biological differences (women still are the ones getting pregnant and giving birth), we could only approach equality asymptotically, but never fully achieve it. The problem with such a framework is that it is utopian (and not in a good way). However we conceive any kind of social ideal, in order to say that said social ideal is a poper object of pursuit, it must be the case that such ideal is realistically achievable. i.e. if gender equality is our goal, then the only kind of gender equality worth talking about is the kind which is achievable given the more fundamental human limitations. i.e. ought implies can

    • Murali,
      Ought ought not to imply can. We do many things that are impossible on a daily basis… or at least we pretend to.
      We all know that the short guy ain’t gonna get the respect of the tall guy, and gonna have a hell of a time leading folks about. Don’t mean we gotta codify that.

      • Kimmi, I think we are using a different sense of the word can. So, really, the tall guy can respect the short guy. I’m a tall guy (6 ft 3) and I respect people that are shorter than I am. Even broadly as a society, even if people currently have unconscious biases against tall people, I’m sure that over time, under more favourable but still realistic conditions, this bias can be combatted to a significant degree.

        Also, I didnt say anything about codification. I’m thinking more in terms of feminists collectively saying “OK our job is done” the same way abolitionists (about death penalty and slavery) can say the same thing when either the death penalty or slavery has been eradicated.

        • I’d be a lot more willing to sit down and shut up if there weren’t rape apologists wandering around, trying to say “it’s not rape” when it’s clearly nonconsensual intercourse. “well, how did you KNOW she didn’t want it?” is not the question to ask.

          • Well, I’m not saying that things are all hunky dory now. We may very well have a lot of room to go. I’m just saying that there is some point when it will end even if that point seems like a long way off from where we are currently standing.

          • Is it okay if that point involves some form of human selective breeding?

    • I think that line might be more rhetoric (in the good sense) than a firm prediction. I think the author is speaking more in the present. There is, currently, no end in sight for discrimination against women.

      Further, I think the author might mean that the battle never ends. Even if we were to achieve perfect equality, we’d still need to keep an eye out for oppression re-appearing.

      All that being said, and aside from my intermittent pessimism about the status and progress of the human race, I can’t really disagree too much with your comment.

Comments are closed.