Wise Guys: Do Most Men Consider Themselves Feminists?

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.


  1. 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’s 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. ^ 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.

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






    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.

  6. Matbo said:

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

    No doubt.

    “I think you’re 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Sioux says: “So you’re saying women don’t 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?


    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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