Can men be feminists?
Well, I think they probably could be. Not because I think there are any men free of male privilege, or any men who don’t act on male supremacy, but because I don’t think there are any women who don’t collude with male supremacy in some small way or another. The social conditioning is too ingrained.
So being a feminist can’t mean never partaking in male supremacy, because then there would be no feminists. Feminism means trying to battle male supremacy, every day. Can a man do that? Sure. Do many (any?) of them? Doubtful.
Now, while I think a man could be a feminist, I don’t think he should call himself one. It’s our word, one of the few words created by women, for women. Plus, enough women are against men identifying as feminists that it would just be disrespectful to.
I like “pro-feminist” and “feminist supporter” for men. I don’t like “ally” as a self-designation. I feel like it is the people who are fighting the war who get to decide who their allies are. I want to be able to choose if I want a man as my ally, not be told I’m in an alliance I haven’t consented to. And if I don’t want any men as allies, I want that choice, too.
Now, I think it is very very very important to be wary of pro-feminist men.
Kyle Payne was a popular pro-feminist/anti-porn blogger until it came out that he sexually assaulted a woman (Nine Deuce’s take).
Terrence Crowley, in the essay “The Lie of Entitlement” from the book Transforming a Rape Culture (recommended), writes of how he spent decades in the feminist movement while coercing women into having sex with him.
And my best friend was stalked, and her roommate raped, by a man she met in college who was very active in feminist and anti-rape student groups.
Pro-feminist men can be especially dangerous because you’re more likely to let your guard down with them. But even the best pro-feminist man is never really going to understand. He will never know what it’s like to be raised and socialized as a girl, to be treated as a woman in this culture. At best it will be an intellectual exercise for him. But it is our lives.