How do men fit into feminism?

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Members of women in Leadership are inviting students to take part in a discussion on the role of men in feminism.

The club will host Men and Feminism, a night dedicated to dialogue on the subject.

“My hope for this event is that we can deal with the word feminism,” said Fiona Rumohr, vice-president public relations for Women in Leadership.

The event will also feature a guest speaker from the WizeGuyz program, which educates young men on sexual health.

People will be asked to divide into groups and discuss different assigned questions. After groups have time to chat, there will be a full group discussion.

We thought we’d get everyone primed for the event by interviewing members of the club — and a couple rapscallions from around the way — about some of the issues with regards to men and feminism.

The event is on Wednesday, March 26 from 4:00–5:30 p.m. in That Empty Space.

Fiona Rumohr, fifth-year international relations.

The Gauntlet: Can men be feminists?

Fiona Rumohr: Some people would say that you couldn’t be part of a movement unless you have experienced the issues that the movement identifies with. So there is an argument there. But, to me, how you identify with the movement, and how you label it isn’t as important as the movement itself.

G: How can we teach young men and boys about feminism?

FR: I think it starts really young. We always tell girls ‘you can do anything boys can do’, and we make it about the girls. We need to talk to the boys too. When we say to young boys ‘you play like a girl’, we make that an inherently negative thing and that is teaching them that it’s bad to be like women. I think the language that we use is impactful.

G: Some might say that a man speaking on behalf of women can diminish women’s empowerment.

FR: It is important to be cognisant of that. Men speaking on behalf of women can be problematic. It’s important for women to speak for themselves because they have experienced the problem. But I don’t see an issue with men allying with or promoting the cause. If you say guys can’t talk about feminism, guys aren’t going to talk to each other about feminism. And then we come back to the problem of only half of society trying to fix this puzzle.

Smith, third-year education.

The Gauntlet: Can men be feminists?

Michael Smith: I think so. I think the problem is the term feminist. The way society is, at this point, is that feminism is seen as a dirty word. We think of women burning effigies of men or saying that they don’t need men. There’s certainly a side of feminism that is that. But I would even say that I’m a feminist in the sense that I believe that men and women are, in most things, equal.

G: How can we teach young men and boys about feminism?

MS: A lot of the comparisons we see in areas like education right now always compare girls to boys. And what we’ve seen through these comparisons is that all our traditional notions of who should be better at what have been blown out the window. We, as educators, need to start breaking that down with students right away.

G: Some might say that a man speaking on behalf of women can diminish women’s empowerment.

MS: I can understand why. The notion would be that men have to solve the problems because only men understand the problems. That’s not the way I see the equation. My perspective is not less or more right. Some might argue that a woman’s perspective on feminism is more valid than a man’s perspective. I don’t agree with that either. I think the perspectives are different but not one of them has more weight or power than the other.

Farah Kammourieh, fourth-year international relations.

The Gauntlet: Can men be feminists?

Farah Kammourieh: Yes, I believe so because they can believe in equality for all genders. I think a lot of women have problems with men saying that they’re feminists because ‘you don’t know what it feels like.’ But I think that’s dangerous because then you can’t say ‘I’m pro-human rights even though I’ve never been tortured’. I don’t think that makes sense.

G: How can we teach young men and boys about feminism?

FK: The same way we teach them about anything else. It can be through formal schooling, but it should also be just sitting down with your dad or sitting down with whatever male or female role model you have. I think it’s especially important to have that male role model who is straight up with you about this kind of thing. And I think it’s important that you don’t have a dad who’s always like ‘yeah check out the tits on that one’.

G: Some might say that a man speaking on behalf of women can diminish women’s empowerment.

FK: I think that speaking on anyone’s behalf isn’t necessarily a good thing whether you’re a man or a woman. But if they’re advocating for equality, I don’t think that is taking away from women’s empowerment. I think that overall it’s good for the cause when you have anyone that wants to support it and it doesn’t hinder someone else’s ability.

Scott Weir, fifth-year political science.

The Gauntlet: Can men be feminists?

Scott Weir: I believe they can, yes. Feminism is about the recognition that women have not only an equal place in this world, but that society is lacking without them having equal representation. Right now in our society we’ve progressed a fair bit, but there’s always work to be done.

G: How can we teach young men and boys about feminism?

SW: A big part of it is giving them female role models. Because, as it exists right now, young boys often look up to their fathers — [that is] they look up to male role models — and that’s perpetuated by the media. From a young age we need to be giving [boys] positive female role models that they can look up to so that they’re not just looking up to men in society. Teaching them respect is a big thing too.

G: Some might say that a man speaking on behalf of women can diminish women’s empowerment.

SW: If it’s looked through a narrow lens that would be true. I think that on a wider lens though, men aren’t speaking on behalf of women. Men are speaking with women. And it’s led by women. That’s the whole point of it.