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Male feminists sometimes misunderstood, overlooked

From bra-burning protestors to Rosie the Riveter, the term “feminism” generally brings a woman to mind.

What’s often ignored, though, is the male voice of feminism.

The rise of the “male feminist” is something that has become more common with the rise of the Internet, feminist blogs and the third wave of feminism. Though it is a popular concept, the definition of being a male feminist, or being a feminist in general, seems to vary.

“I do consider myself a feminist,” said Richard Carnes, a senior studying political science. “For some, feminism is a philosophy; for me, it’s a mindset. A feminist is anyone who observes inequality, looks at it critically and says, ‘You know what? We can do better than this.’ ”

Because of the historical fight for equality, however, some female feminists might take issue with this belief and want men to simply be “allies,” said Patty Stokes, a professor of women’s and gender studies.

“I think that it’s best if men just find a way to be strong allies,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve come so far that we should be refusing help. We need all of the help we can get, but the movement needs to be driven by women. Women need to be in leadership roles, whereas men can be in a more reflective position.”

Zac Oberg, a sophomore studying games and animation, said he believes more men should adopt a feminist attitude because feminism and misogyny do not affect only women.

“When people think of feminism, they often think of it as a movement solely concerned with women’s issues,” he said. “But feminism is also concerned with the way the social hierarchy negatively affects men, too. Women’s rights are human rights; feminists are merely those who spot inequality and challenge it.”

Despite these attitudes, the men said it’s not always easy for others to accept that they identify as feminists.

“My friend once told me, ‘You’re the worst kind of feminist because you’re a guy,’ ” Oberg said. “In today’s society, it’s taboo for men to identify as feminists because of deeply ingrained gender roles we’ve learned since we were children.”

Oberg said this belief is counterproductive to the feminist movement.

“In general, I think that people have issues with male feminists because they don’t see feminism as promoting the status of women, but rather as degrading the status of men,” he said. “This idea is ludicrous, because feminists aren’t trying to attack men. Men aren’t the worst kind of feminists; they’re the best kind of feminist, because they make great allies in the struggle for gender equality.”

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