A few years ago me and a group of my guy mates went on a big night out. Lad culture was all pervasive and despite being thoughtful and shy, I used make sexist jokes about “pulling sluts,” suggesting the word was ok because it was being used ironically. Now of course I was wrong and part of me knew this because I wouldn’t have dreamed of making the same conversation in different company, but I was also young, frustrated and confused. The group mentality of a geeky lad pack offered a kind of camaraderie, security and comfort blanket for those failed chat up lines.
At the time I really fancied friend of mine. Naturally we’d met up to go clubbing, hitting every bar possible along the way. It had been a good night by all accounts, but come half 12 my friend had drunken a lot and come close to passing out so I opted to walk her home. It wasn’t a long journey, but she needed support walking and was leaning a lot on me heavily. It was difficult getting her home. Really drunk people don’t balance well, they sway side to side. Luckily I ran into an acquaintance that helped me carry my drunken friend to her street. However before leaving me to help my friend into her home she warned me: Nick do not to take advantage of this situation.
I found the suggestion of me have bad motives a little frustrating. In my head I was doing a good thing and I went home straight after letting my friend into her house. However on reflection the concern of my acquaintance was right. Lots of women get assaulted at university and the perpetrators are often their friends. In trying to get my friend out of a venerable position, I’d put her in a different kind of venerability where I was the risk. When I think back on that night, I feel this tinge of worry. Is there a chance I might have behaved differently?
Men are born into a society in transition hung over from hundreds of years of sexist ideology. We benefit from inherited privilege and are told it is the natural order of things. This ideological hangover of inherent sexism affects our thinking patterns, habits and sense of humour. Feminism may be a movement about redistributing cultural and political power away from patriarchal institutions but it is also about personal development. Recognising our own inherit sexism is just the first step but acknowledging this makes it difficult for men to claim to be feminists in our daily lives. On that night I though I was a saint for walking my friend home, but actually being a good friend and not taking advantage of people when they are drunk is the bear minimum in life. Being a feminist about changing your attitude and unlearning inherited prejudice.
So I’m not a male feminist. This is not what a feminist looks like. I’m still culturally hung over from patriarchy, I still subconsciously treat women differently to men and at times my habits and attitudes are probably part of the ideological net holding back progress. But I’m confident that if I’m not a feminist I’m also not an asshole and am doing my best to be self-reflective. A male feminist isn’t something I am, it is something I’m trying to be. Unless you (reader) are some alt right, men’s rights person in which case: I am a feminist, smash the patriarchy.