Oh you darn Men. Is there anything you cannot do?
Given the calibre of many male self-identified feminists, one would have to conclude that the answer is generally “no”. If tomorrow Patriarchy absconded (woo!) and humanity somehow got its collective head around the notion that women are people and were treated as such – then I think men could be feminists (although with patriarchy gone there might not be the need for feminism), but that is the only case that I can think of at the moment.
The problem facing male feminists is the differing ways in which the sexes are socialized. Different language, nuances, and expectations are foisted upon girls and boys by the societal environment around them. This is what the social construction gender looks like .
Like it or not, metrics like these are used in society to evaluate your efficacy in terms of being in one particular sex role, or the other. Gendered socialization is inescapable as it is the societal air we breathe toxic as it may be. So take a moment and consider how your perception of the world is right now and then then imagine if the the prism of how you look at society and how society looks at you is the other coloured box.
Thus bringing us to the fundamental point – women and men experience life quite differently, concomitantly life treats women and men differently. This wouldn’t be a problem if both sets of traits were equally valued in society, however, one set of traits is given precedence. And not just your ordinary precedence, but a precedence in a supererogatory degree.
This ‘precedence’ is what feminists like to call patriarchy. Patriarchy is simply the structuring, adjudicating, and maintenance of society for the benefit of one class of people who possess (in theory) the traits mentioned in the blue box. Those who are assigned the other box are assigned less importance and worth and treated accordingly in society. Thus, in a patriarchal society, the experiences of women and men are quite different.
Men doing feminism have to be very aware that how they interact with society is not the way it works for women. This point needs to be hammered home because, let’s be honest here, a good portion of dudes just don’t get it (sample the RPOJ tag for evidence of this assertion).
Can men be effective in helping women push back the patriarchal tide? Absolutely! Being a feminist ally, and standing up for women, but not leading the charge is what dudes can do to make things better in society.