A portrait of the feminist as a young man

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By Jordan Barker, English and Philosophy

The Croft Magazine // Some men find it tough to discover and claim their feminism, but men can be feminists too, you know.

If a man says he’s a feminist and there’s no one there to hear him, is he still a feminist? Whenever you’ve encountered blokes who declare their allegiance to the feminist cause, you wonder ‘What do you mean?’

‘I am a feminist,’ usually translates as, “Look here, ladies: I’m a right-on guy who knows what’s what. I’ve read the Wikipedia entry on The Feminine Mystique, I’ve publicly decried gender bias at the Beeb (with graphs!), and I think it’s about bloody time the Labour Party elects a woman for a leader.’

Amazon / The Feminine Mystique

The male feminist is a curious creature. Where did he come from? Usually, a boy will become a feminist during his adolescence. One cold morning he will awake, and his soul will speak to him: ‘You must change your life.’

Friends make jokes at the expense of female contemporaries. Laughter rings through the dimly lit hallways, and as he gazes into a bag of ready-salted, he whispers: ‘I am not them. They are not me.’ All at once, the veil lifts and he sees their true form, recoiling in disgust at the brutish apes he once called brothers.

‘Oh, how unlike me!’ he proclaims to the darkness at the foot of his bed. No sound but his weeping. ‘Mother, sister, Katie Maxwell of top-set Maths, I am sorry!’

He takes long, solitary walks in the twilight. How does he reconcile past with present? The years of delusion and loyalty to false idols weigh upon like a leaden slab. Stumbling, half-drunk on his own despair, he spies in the will-o’-the-wisp a figure, a fair-maiden.

‘Simone de Beauvoir?’ Yes, it is she! Hark, the boy sings! And he asks her, ‘For must I do, Simone, to atone?’

She replies. But he can’t comprehend her. Because she is French.

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That night, he makes a pyre and consigns his collection of James Bond DVDs to the flames. The vapours rise to his nostrils, he faints from the evil concoction of casual misogyny and melting polycarbonate.

Where does he go? To which other men does he look towards for guidance? Then it hits him. Therein lies the fatal drawback. Look not to your own kind, but to women.

He reads. He writes. For it is not only a cause for women, but for a man. One day, the world shall know that he is a feminist. No longer shall he deign to hold open doors for women (or if he does, then he will make a point of opening them for men, too). He will abandon the male gaze – he will not gaze at all, merely look and see the human-being that stands before him. And mother, you can put the dishcloth down, for your boy is now a feminist.

He casts off the shackles of prejudice, ready for the voyage of his life and forge within the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race. And in becoming a feminist, the boy becomes a Man.

Featured: Penguin Classics / James Joyce


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