Are men’s voices as equally important to women’s in feminism? And can men even be feminists?
No, says newly retired gender politics academic Sheila Jeffreys, a leading figure of 1970s-style radical feminism.
She says men can be “pro-feminist but not feminists”.
“Men do not like to be left out and many think they know better than women even about distinctively women’s issues,” she says. “Women daring to organise around their issues without men does actually threaten the power relations of male dominance, and this is why it is crucially important.”
Professor Jeffreys likens this to trade unionism, saying members of “oppressed” groups must be able to meet and articulate their concerns without fear of being surveilled or interrupted.
“Bosses are not saying they know better than and can help create and articulate theory around labour exploitation.”
She has a suggestion for men who would be feminists: they should form groups of their own. Unlike Doug’s feminism club, however, Professor Jeffreys suggests they should “discuss and problematize their own experience”.
This, she says, could include “why, for instance, do some men find it hard even to imagine being attracted to women who do not depilate”.
“This is an excellent question and men need to talk through this on their own. Women should not have to listen to it.”
Iselin’s article, which sparked such debate, was cheekily titled “No Country for Male Feminists”. She argues that the “feminism practised by men is often common decency followed by a request for applause”.
“When you say that women shouldn’t be beaten by their partners, or when you actively ask a woman’s consent before a man puts their penis inside her, you are not practising feminism – you are performing the most basic, bare-minimum actions required to participate in society without being a criminal.”
QotD: “Women should not have to listen to it”