The Roar of Enlightened Manhood
February 25, 2014
A troubled student writes:
As a proud male feminist,
Oh, go on. Guess where.
As a proud male feminist, I believe it’s important for men to rally around the feminist movement to provide support and to act as an example for other men to follow. So it confuses me that at university a shockingly large number of male students I speak to refuse to apply the term to themselves, instead being evasive and avoiding such an empowering title.
Yes, dear readers, it’s both shocking and confusing that in the twenty-first century, in one of the most cosseting and politically corrected environments in all of the developed world, some male students feel no need to describe themselves as feminists. And calling oneself a feminist, announcing it proudly to the world - or at least to other, likeminded, equally proud students - is apparently the duty of all righteous beings, especially those with testicles. It’s empowering, you see. And never a sign of narcissism, credulity and pretentious moral grandstanding.
The scandalised and bewildered author of this piece is Mr Lewis Merryweather, a first year student of comparative literature at the University of Warwick. “He is a proud feminist,” reads his Guardian profile, “and writes poetry.” And the sorrows of his life are there for all to see:
I often encounter negative reactions when declaring myself a male feminist at university.
Missionary work is hard. Bring handkerchiefs, quickly, a dozen at least. And possibly towels and a mop.
I find this attitude among male students worrying… Perhaps it stems from male panic, that, foolishly, male students worry they may lose power and opportunity in a world of feminism. Perhaps guy students are embarrassed to align themselves with a word that lexically alludes to female-centrism.
Yes, that must be it. Those lexical allusions are a real bugger.
Maybe they’re worried about feeling emasculated.
Says our fretful poet. A man agonised by the existence of peers who don’t think exactly as he does and won’t wear his badge. And to make matters worse, there’s the ever-present shadow of hegemonic oppression:
In the words of Colm Dempsy, a male feminist who spoke at the forum I attended: “I am a proud male feminist. I am willing to fight with you. If you let me.” This is a statement every man, inside university and outside, should be able to shout without fear of being silenced by society.
Silenced by society. In a national newspaper.
Of course the reason for the annoying non-compliance of other male students is all too obvious:
I think the main reason so few male students identify as feminists is because of the spreading virus of lad culture at university. Lad culture is the idea that overt acts of masculinity prove some form of superiority over others. The reality is that lad culture is a prominent part of university life. Club nights often encourage the sexualisation and degradation of women through dress code, and lad values tell male students it’s important to get drunk, pull women and act like a noteworthy lad.
Heavens, it’s a virus, and on campuses too. And this gendered beastliness, in which women apparently have no autonomy at all, even in matters of fashion, weighs upon the breast of all right-thinking people. Or rather, left-thinking people - the ones who will save us from ourselves and usher into existence a brighter, fluffier world - if only we’d do as they say.
It’s hardly laddish to try and deconstruct a patriarchal system. Lad culture at university makes many potential male feminists feel demeaned; it can be hard to fit in if you don’t keep up with “the lads.”
Well, yes, I suppose “lexically alluding to female-centrism” and unironic “empowerment” - while mouthing an intent to “deconstruct a patriarchal system” – that will signal something to those less priggish and credulous. But perhaps those men and women who don’t want an Official Feminist Hat And Authorised Mental Mechandise™ aren’t being “silenced” by a “virus” of “lad culture,” or by a need to crush womankind underfoot. Some, for instance, may find such ostentatious signalling a tad self-serving, and have little appetite for purity tests and competitive scolding. Others may take issue with Mr Merryweather’s assertion that “feminism simply means you believe in equality.” Perhaps some are wary of a term that is often associated with things like this, and this, and this, and with ludicrous pseudo-scholarship, in which reality is an obstacle to the chosen narrative.
And maybe some are wary of joining a club whose members include such fragile, indignant souls as Mr Lewis Merryweather, of which there are so many, and whose baggage is often fascinating.