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Wise Guys: Do Most Men Consider Themselves Feminists?

Tue, Mar 22, 2011

Advice, Wise Guys

image via Ms Magazine

Advice from three of EMandLO.com’s guy friends. This week they answer the following: “Do most guys you know consider themselves feminists? Why or why not?” To ask the guys your own question, click here.

Straight Married Guy (David Jacobs): No, most of my friends are sexist, racist, classist pigs. What can I say? They’re just more fun!

Actually, no is probably right, but not for those reasons. I like to think the folks whose company I enjoy would have been feminists, at least to some degree, just like I like to think they would have been abolitionists and supported the suffragette movement. But those were different times, as was the era of feminism — at least as I understand it (poorly, no doubt). That is, at least in the West, feminism’s goals of equality before the law, equality in the workforce, an end to glass ceilings and the straitjacket of traditional domestic roles, etc., have mostly been met.

Which is not to say women aren’t still just as fucked up as men, but at least now the wounds are mostly self-inflicted. Will I be annoyed if my one year-old girl hits her teens (or tweens or whatever) and starts reading stupid women’s magazines that rattle her self-image, or starts warping her personality in a way she thinks will please boys? Of course, I’ll probably kill her. But I won’t blame it on the “male establishment.” She’d just be following in the footsteps of millions of other insecure women, just like my three-year-old son, should he someday succumb to all the stupid macho influences of adolescence, would merely be behaving like so many other neanderthals out there, not the victim of some female cabal.

Of course witnessing women’s treatment in many other parts of the world often still raises my ire — that’s right, I’m not only not a feminist per se, but also a cultural imperialist! — and I imagine most of my friends are in the same boat. So I’m not sure where that leaves the grimy lot of us…

mark_luczak_100Straight Single Guy (Mark Luczak): Well, quickly refreshing, even just for my own reference, on a generic¬†definition…feminism basically refers to movements aimed at¬†establishing and defending equal political, economic, and social rights¬†and equal opportunities for women. In this day and age, I like to think¬†we’ve come far enough that a majority, even among males, would endorse¬†such equality in those realms, even without the overt activism that the¬†word “feminist” might connote to some. Either way, what would the¬†opposite be, male chauvinism? I feel like I rarely witness that in my¬†life anymore, and I hope that it’s duly becoming continually passe¬†universally. Still, I don’t know that any guys I know would identify¬†themselves explicitly as feminists, but that may speak as much again to¬†just how much the notion has become a norm.

daniel_100Gay Single Guy (Daniel): Frankly, I think most guys think feminists are exclusively women. So in other words, most are not.

Our “guys” are a rotating group of contributors. This week’s Straight Married Guy is David Jacobs, a NYC-based photographer; our Gay Guy is one-time stripper and sex columnist Daniel; and our Straight Single Guy is Mark Luczak, a tech geek at Carnegie Mellon University. To ask the guys your own question, click here.

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28 Responses to “Wise Guys: Do Most Men Consider Themselves Feminists?”

  1. Johnny Says:

    I generally believe in equal civic and human rights for all, but subscribe to no particular ideologies in general. I make up my mind about situations on a case-by-case basis, and I think that loyalty to a team of any kind – a gender or political party or religion or literal sports team – clouds one’s ability to do that. So no, I’m not a feminist.

  2. matbo Says:

    Does any one really consider themselves feminist? I mean, I’m more feminist than most, but even I have trouble with the label. It seems grossly misinterpreted by most these days and sparks countless discussions wherein I have to defend myself and why I view women to be “less” in this world.
    I wish we could come up with a new term, like equalitarian or something (but less lame) – that we can all agree on, and there are no left over bra burnings or red stockings attached to it.

  3. Tiffany Says:

    Wow. I’m shocked at the general consensus that the work of feminism is somehow “done.” We’ve come a long way for sure, but we’re not there yet. There’s still a wage gap, reproductive rights continue to be under assault, there’s sexist treatment of female political candidates in the media, just to name a couple of issues. But mostly, I see a general misunderstanding of what “feminism” means, which I think has a lot do do with the success of the right in making it a dirty word.

  4. Johnny Says:

    Here’s what I want to know about that often-quoted workplace gap I keep hearing about.

    1. What percentage of men compared to women even APPLY for super high-paying corporate jobs? If 90% of applicants are men, it makes sense that more men than women would hold those positions.

    2. Egalitarian pay scales DO exist – become a civil servant if that’s what you want. But business is about the bottom line and nothing else. So next questions: do high-up corporate women BRING IN as much revenue for their company as male counterparts do? If not… sorry sister. He or she who brings in the most, is worth the most. Period.

    And on that note… I do know women who are very highly paid and very powerful in their fields. And they don’t give a SHIT about their fellow woman’s pay. They’d throw their own sister under the bus to make a buck. They’re ladder-climbing, cut-throat backstabbers, just like the men who succeed in their lines of work. That’s how business works. The women (and men) who complain about how “it’s not fair” aren’t the ones who make it big.

  5. Judy Says:

    There is STILL no ERA Amendment:Equal work for equal pay- got that Johnny?

    I personally know of at least 2 jobs where I did the exact same work as the men and was paid less and it is extremely disheartening.

    It all adds up to women being seen as worth less than men in this society.

  6. johnny Says:

    I know men who have the exact same complaint – “I work as hard or harder as my peers or supervisors, yet I make less than them.”

    I don’t think women are seen as worth less in society. If they’re seen as worth less in BUSINESS… “worth” meaning not human value but monetary value… well, that brings me back to my two questions: do women WANT those jobs as badly as men do, and are they as financially lucrative for their companies once they’re there?

    That’s what I’m saying: in business it’s not about how hard you work. It’s about how much money your hard work brings in. Not about what’s fair.

  7. johnny Says:

    ^ And when I say “questions,” I do mean questions. I don’t know the answer. I’m not trying to be a dick. I’d really like to know, because it would explain a lot and help me understand the situation.

  8. Jenna Says:

    I feel like feminism needs to simply be replaced by a movement for equality for all people. It used to be women who were denied certain right because they were women. Now times have shifted so that gays are denied certain rights because they are gay. This is an over simplified statement but you can catch my drift. All people who want society to improve should be rallying for equality for ALL groups and not be worried about the specific label that will apply.

  9. Sioux Says:

    Johnny,

    Believe me, plenty of women “want” high paying jobs. Many women do not get to the place to apply for those jobs for a multitude of reasons. For instance, many people would not think twice about promoting a man with a newborn or with several children to a high-stress or time-consuming job, but women are assumed to have additional child-rearing commitments. As a woman of child-bearing age, I have actually been asked in interviews whether or not I plan to get pregnant or have children in the coming years. In an informal interview of, oh, every dude I know, none have been asked this. Do I think this factors into hiring decisions? Hopefully not.

    But feminism isn’t just about biology. At energy conferences I am usually one of a few women attending. It’s not because people with uteruses are BANNED FROM ENERGY! But, there is definitely a boy’s club–it’s real, palpable, and probably off-putting to a lot of women. These are all very corporate/business world-specific, but those hiring and promotion decisions add up over a lifetime and leave fewer women at the top of the hiring pool.
    We’re groomed, by both men and women, from a very young age to exhibit gendered tendencies. While I am not particularly “girly” and participate in traditionally masculine activities like fishing and rock climbing, I do not have an effortless masculine vernacular to assist me on corporate golf outings.

    Unfortunately, gender inequality persists, especially in the US. I think that men, too, should have the opportunity for things like paternity leave. Men should be able to work in care-oriented fields like nursing or be able to stay home with kids without being forced to defend their masculinity all the time. I don’t think that men should bear the majority of combat warfare. These are ALL feminist issues.

  10. clandestine Says:

    Agreed with everything Sioux says. The problem is that there are structural obstacles to women attaining, or even being in a position to try to attain, the same positions as men at high levels. The boys’ club still exists, and it is an asset to men rising in the ranks. That there is no, or a limited, girls’ club at the same level means that women lack the privilege of currently well-situated mentors who had a similar experience as they progressed in their careers. Sometimes men take women under their wings, or vice versa. But when there are fewer people like you, it is harder to integrate into a group. It just is.

    And why do women end up being (or being supposed to be) “less valuable” to business? Fathers are just as able as mothers to take time off to raise children, and yet the prevailing assumption is always that women will bring in less because they’ll have babies and quit. The problem is that there are more structural impediments to men staying home than there are to women staying home. Like it or not, and I don’t, the current structure still rewards male breadwinners and female SAHMs. In an economy where two-parent households are the norm, that’s not equitable.

    This is another case where more generous (read: reasonable) parental and family leave acts would benefit both men and women: fathers who want to stay home with their kids would be more able to, and mothers who want to pursue careers would be able to. And the more this happens, the more the cultural signals that create inequity die down.

    The usual round of disclaimers: Not that there’s anything wrong with women choosing to stay home, but there is something wrong with women being coerced to stay home. And I recognize that my comment is couched in heteronormative language, but I don’t feel well-positioned to know, much less discuss, the issues that face gay/lesbian couples.

  11. clandestine Says:

    “Fathers are just as able as mothers to take time off to raise children, and yet the prevailing assumption is always that women will bring in less because they‚Äôll have babies and quit. The problem is that there are more structural impediments to men staying home than there are to women staying home.”

    One clarification: In the first sentence, I mean in theory fathers are just as able. But given cultural expectations and many family leave policies, women are usually left holding the buck.

  12. Judy Says:

    Sioux and Clandestine well-done!

  13. Tiffany Says:

    Sioux & Clandestine – thank you for your insightful posts!
    They really help to clarify the issue of structural sexism.

    Hopefully Johnny gets the point now.

    To those who see feminism as needing to be “replaced” with a movement that is about “equality for all” – I think you’re taking a limited view of what feminism means. Again, a view defined by the right and/or the mainstream media. Feminism has long been painted as strictly a white, straight, middle-class women’s movement, which it is not.

    I’m of the opinion that you can’t be a feminist without also being antiracist and antihomophobic. Feminism IS about equality for all. Systems of oppression intersect, and the movements to fight against them necessarily overlap.

  14. Johnny Says:

    ^ I’ve heard all that before. I get it. I still want to know: of jobs paying more than, say, 100K per year, what percentage of applicants are women and what percentage of applicants are men? And who brings in more money for their companies once they hold those jobs – men? women? approximately equal?

    High paying jobs require both the will and the competence to hold them down. Those two conditions are an uncommon combination in both men and women – hence the scarcity of those jobs and the competition for them. Trust me, lots of under-qualified, can’t-hack-it men out there also complain about how it’s no fair that they don’t make more money.

    It’s a glass ceiling, not a bulletproof glass ceiling. Glass smashes easily, and the women who realize that have already done it. And those women reached the ceiling by clawing their way up a giant pile of defeated male and female competitors.

    My point is that business is inherently dirty and unfair, not just in this country but in every country. The people who get to the top – male and female – are those who embrace and exploit that unfairness. There’s a place in the world for people who think that way. It’s not MY place in the world, but hey – it takes all types.

    I don’t like that atmosphere – and I’m not sure I could hack it – so I don’t work in the private sector. I don’t want to be a scumbag, or work for one (and yes, I generally believe that in the private sector it’s one or the other or both).

    Here’s what my girlfriend, who comes from abroad, told me last night:

    She works for a rich family. She guesses that the woman of the house is the primary bread winner, earning at least 20K per month. She’s 4 months pregnant – and she just got a promotion. Says my GF, “this country is amazing. In [my country] a woman would probably never get a job like that. And if she got pregnant it would end her carreer.”

    That woman’s work day starts at 6 am and ends at 8 pm. I’d say the number of people – men and women – who could hack that life is low. But she wants it, and she’s got it. Good for her.

  15. Johnny Says:

    ^About the highly-paid woman I mentioned:

    One might ask, “but who makes more: that woman, or her male counterpart with exactly the same job description?”

    That’s a valid question, but it’s only half of a two-part question. The second half is, “who BRINGS IN more money for their company, the woman or the man with the exact same job description?” I’ve never heard that question asked by the girls’ club of academic feminism. If the answer is, “they bring in exactly the same revenue, or she brings in more, but the man gets paid more,” THEN I’d cry sexist discrimination.

    Don’t like that kind of thought, where monetary value supercedes human value? Me neither. That’s why I found a more egalitarian line of work.

  16. Tiffany Says:

    Johnny – with all due respect, you are still missing the point. The point is that there are still structural obstacles in our society that prevent many women from qualifying for, and applying for, those high paying jobs that you mention. There is also the so-called “mommy track,” which slows or stops many women’s ascent into high power, high salary positions. That’s my short answer. Reread the posts above if you want a longer version. I have to get ready for work.

  17. Johnny Says:

    I don’t think I’m missing those points at all. I’m questioning them. I’m questioning the assumption that sexist discrimination is the main reason you don’t see more women in the hightest-paying jobs, and I’m seeking an answer to that question in the form of quantifiable figures – a point which I think you’re missing.

    But whatever. It’s not your responsiblity to provide me with statistics (that was the responsiblity of my college womens’ studies professor – either it didn’t happen then or I was out that day). I can look them up myself.

  18. sioux Says:

    Johnny,

    So you’re saying women don’t bring in as much money to corporations as compared to their male counterparts? I do not buy that argument. Also, I have to disagree that those positions that you are talking about are based solely on income generation. Vision, innovation, and the ability to create a positive work culture that attracts and retains talent also have a lot to do with those positions. All genders and sexes can contribute to those environments AND bring in money–it depends on the individual person’s talents, and I do not think that those talents are firmly drawn along gender/sex boundaries.

    Also, we all have anecdotal evidence of men and women being able to have families and advance their careers. The point is that at a basic level, there is a gendered bias towards men in the corporate workforce. This bias comes in part from conditioning of children early on to display gender (which is socially constructed, by the way) that may encourage girls to move toward nurturing/care-based fields and discourage aggression/assertion. Care-based professions are very important, and I’m not saying that all little kids should taught to be aggressive, but the fact is that the corporate structure caters to traits we typically associate with the male gender, for better or for worse. Once you pair this with the assumption that women are tied to their biology (the babymaker), it creates a doubled bias. This bias doesn’t just exist at the top of the corporate ladder, but even sometimes at the lower rungs. All of this bias is also aimed towards men in other ways I consider damaging–it’s not just women’s issue. I believe it *is* changing, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still work to be done.

  19. sioux Says:

    I think this article does a good job of pointing out structural bias towards men, in the context of stand-up comedy: http://jezebel.com/#!5767272/why-there-arent-more-female-comics-at-sxsw

    I’d also agree that feminism has become a dirty word that people associate with man-hating militants. That’s not true. Most men, including the Wise Guys, probably hold beliefs that are actually quite feminist. Feminism means equality. That’s it. It’s not scary. It doesn’t demand “special treatment”. It (or, we) demand fair treatment. I agree with Tiffany’s points about feminists also being anti-racist and anti-homophobic.

    The most important call for feminism today, in my opinion, is the legislative attack on women’s health and family planning. This demands outright feminist action, whereas the pay scale, etc., are more subtle.

  20. Tiffany Says:

    Johnny – I referred to structural sexism, which is not the same thing as active sexist discrimination. Structural sexism is far less obvious to most of us because it’s “just the way things are.” It’s much easier to notice someone not getting a job, or a raise, or a promotion because of their gender – discrimination. What I’m talking about is women having less access because of their gender, which is caused by the way our society and the the corporate world function, rather than by discrimination by individuals or groups of people.

  21. Johnny Says:

    Sioux says: “So you‚Äôre saying women don‚Äôt bring in as much money to corporations as compared to their male counterparts?”

    No. Once again, I’m asking two questions:

    1. Does the number of women in high-paying jobs reflect the number of women applying for those jobs?

    and

    2. Do women whose jobs are business oriented bring in less than, equal to, or more than their male counterparts for their companies?

    I’m not telling you, or even presuming for myself. I’m asking you.

    As for structural sexism, Tiffany, I get that argument, but I certainly don’t buy that it holds women back to the extent that some women like to claim. Not today. This is the 21st century, an age of female billionaires… African-American presidents… African-American female billionaires… record white male unemployment…

    It’s there for the taking. Do men currently have a bigger piece of the pie? Yes, naturally, because we’ve been at it much longer. But there are plenty of women chomping away at a big fat slice of their own, and you don’t hear them complaining about structural sexism. To me that’s defeatist talk.

    Low-paid, professionally low-ranking men also have a long list of excuses why it’s no fair. But in my opinion they, like women with similar complaints, 1) don’t really want those bigshot jobs anyway (they’d love the paycheck, but not the long hours and stress and cut-throat competition) and 2) couldn’t hack those jobs if they tried.

    Statistics and rhetoric are like yin and yang. What’s one without the other? I’ve heard the rhetoric. Now I want the numbers. But I’m starting to think I’ll have to look them up for myself.

  22. matbo Says:

    Johnny, with all due respect it may be hard to notice things when you are a man. I think you’re raising some interesting questions to be sure. But as a woman in a competitive field, with high ambitions I see exactly where men are given advantage and women are not. It is still noted if it is an all female group presenting a project. Just the other day I was asked if I was trying to compensate for my childhood (not being able to play with swords) I gently informed the nice people on the board, that in my childhood I had played with swords while my brother read in the couch.

    People still see gender stereotypes where there are none. They don’t do this because they are cruel, but because change takes times. The abolishment of slavery was way before feminism struck and black people (as a whole, obviously not all) are still struggling in society. Maybe we should have a bit more respect that creating equality and breaking hundreds of years of repression/gender divided work tasks is not easy, it’s not just done with one little movement, then we win and all is good. We’ve come far very fast, but we’re not there yet.

  23. Johnny Says:

    Matbo said:

    “Johnny, with all due respect it may be hard to notice things when you are a man…”

    No doubt.

    “I think you‚Äôre raising some interesting questions to be sure.”

    I’m just sayin’. I don’t think any ideology should be unreflectively accepted, and there are questions about this that I’ve never heard answered, or even asked.

    Both statistics and rhetoric are easily manipulated in the absence of the other, and the fact is that most people latch on to beliefs that resonate with them emotionally, rather than ones that they understand completely. They then repeat what they’ve heard (the parts they like, anyway) without the info to back it up.

    Like, most people who identify as democrats or republicans have no idea what’s going on in government… they’re just picking the one that sounds good to them and repeating what they heard their favorite newscaster say.

    So when I hear, “Iraq has WMD’s,” or, “the planet is getting warmer,” or “women get paid less than men,” I say, “let’s hear the argument AND let’s see the figures. Prove it.” THEN I make up my mind.

    And these figures must be out there. Now I’m on a mission – I’m gonna find ‘em.

  24. Sioux Says:

    Here are the results of my 5-minute Google session on the wage gap:

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/the-gender-wage-gap-around-the-world/

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/the-gender-pay-gap-by-industry/

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1983185,00.html

    http://www.catalyst.org/publication/322/women-ceos-of-the-fortune-1000

    http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/compensation/Articles/Pages/MotherhoodGap.aspx

    I do not think that statistics give the best picture as to why feminism is still relevant. Here are some examples of women’s issues under attack in our state and federal legislatures:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/04/georgia-lawmaker-redefine-rape-victims-accusers_n_818718.html – In other less gendered crimes, the victims still get to be victims.

    http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9M5KMEO4.htm – People who are generally white men legislating women’s uteruses.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/151853-the-war-on-women – Summarizes recent legislative attempts that chip away women’s rights. Some examples include investigating miscarriages, redefining the murder of abortion doctors as justifiable homicide.

    And the house vote to completely defund Planned Parenthood while also cutting services for pregnant women and young children and their families. Not linking to this because it’s all over the media.

    These are the issues that point to the continued need women’s health advocacy, which is a feminist pursuit.

  25. Johnny Says:

    ^ I’m not trying to talk anyone out of advocacy for womens’ causes, sioux, or from identifying as feminist if they want to. Just questioning the unchallenged presumtion that discrimination is the main reason more women don’t hold hotshot jobs.

    Thank you for all those links I haven’t had a chance to read through them all yet but I surely will.

  26. Robin Says:

    What an interesting comments thread. Great to see there are still women out there who realize the fight is far from over – and of course, disheartening but expected to see the usual response from some other commenters. What so many men and women don’t realize about feminism – especially feminism in 2011 – is that it’s about men’s rights as much as women. Men should be able to be stay-at-home dads, for example, without facing questions about their “manliness”, and feminism isn’t just about women, but about equality and freedom for BOTH sexes.

  27. Johnny Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male%E2%80%93female_income_disparity_in_the_United_States

    Very enlightening. The wikipedia page provides lots of stats and complicates the picture, which is what I wanted.

    It’s pretty thick reading, and I can’t say I got it 100% on the first skim, but here’s what I took away:

    Discrimination partially explains the gender pay gap, but not totally, and there are many, many variables to take into account.

    Which is what I was saying.

  28. Johnny Says:

    Ah. One answer to my own question, “who earns more, females in high-paying jobs or their male counterparts?”:

    “In 2009, it was reported that sixteen women heading companies in the Standard & Poor‚Äôs 500 Index averaged earnings of $14.2 million in their latest fiscal years, 43 percent more than the male average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News from proxy filings.”

    BAM! All the honeys, makin’ money, throw your hands up…! I’ll be their house-husband any fiscal year!

    Hopefully that re-heartens you, Robin.


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