The F Word: Why are so Many Young Men Scared to Call Themselves Feminists?

From an onlooker’s perspective it may appear that the grasp of toxic masculinity is
slowly releasing itself from the young men of today – who are often portrayed in the
right-wing media as weaker, more sensitive, and to an extent more of an
embarrassment to mankind than their older, ‘heroic’ counterparts who were taught to
repress their emotions so deep down that chauvinism, misogyny, homophobia, and a
horror of anything deemed effeminate, becomes second nature. Never will I forget in
one of my Year 7 PE lessons, being told by my teacher not to kick the football in a
certain manner because ‘that’s how the girls do it’.

Being one of those weaker, ‘snowflake’, cry-baby embarrassments. I would love to
say that the demise of toxic masculinity has become a reality. However, despite the
progress that media influencers such as James Charles and Troye Sivan have made
in attempting to dismantle this dangerous phenomenon, this is simply not the case,
not least when it comes to feminism. One in 10 young British boys still don’t know
what it means to be a ‘feminist’, with many more reluctant to use that label.

I identify as a feminist myself. Having been brought up in a family with strong,
independent, intelligent women at every level, in conjunction with having heard the
word ‘feminist’ since a young age, it seems only natural that I proudly use this label
to define my beliefs in favour of complete social, political, economic and legal
equality for both men and women. Yet, for many young men, this isn’t the case. One
of the overriding reasons about why many young men don’t identify as a feminist is
due to a misunderstanding of the movement itself.

Social media has undeniably been a blessing when it comes to furthering social
progress, yet it also hosts the curse of extreme identity politics. On major platforms
such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you can guarantee that young men are
being bombarded with images of stereotypical ‘feminist’ protests full of middle aged
white women calling for Father’s Day to be banned, news reports about sexist air
conditioning, and poorly constructed jokes from Amy Schumer about how all men are
trash. This distortion of the foundational feminist focus on gender equality by
extreme ‘third wave’ organisations has skewed the label of feminist towards an
association with female superiority. Thus, many young men have made the incorrect
link between feminism and misandry, naturally discouraging them from using the
label ‘feminist’. Because why would you support a movement that supposedly hates
you to your very core?

Even young men who understand feminism may be influenced by the all-
encompassing values of toxic masculinity to reject calls for gender equality. The
image of the fedora-wearing Mountain-Dew chugging, microwave food addict
‘meninist’ who resides in his mother’s basement (rather ironically) is a rather
prominent portrayal of this type of young man these days. This is the man who will sit
at his computer for hours on end trolling feminist accounts and prominent female
media influencers, telling them to get back in the kitchen and make them a sandwich, or making memes promoting the position of the woman as the subordinate, child-
bearing dependent housewife, as the model that we should return to today. This type
of young man will be shocked at the fact that the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters
featured four female leads, and will angrily type in broken grammar that the
‘feminazis’ are depriving boys of the 21st Century strong male role models. Yet,
perhaps the bigger problem relates to a significant sample of non-feminist young
men who will not directly be involved blatant sexism yet laugh at, share, and joke
around these types of comments, legitimizing them and threatening decades of
positive social progress. ‘Grab ‘em by the pussy’ is a phrase that plagues men from
the highest office of the United States of America right down to the changing rooms
of a Year 9 PE lesson.

So please don’t believe that all the photos of Benedict Cumberbatch and Ed Miliband
wearing the ‘This is what a Feminist looks like’ T-shirts means that every young man
believes in the total equality of men and women (also known as being a decent,
valued, empathetic human being). Despite the work of organisations like the
HeforShe Campaign or the Good Lad Initiative, many young men reject this
movement from a position of misunderstanding or ingrained stereotypical thinking.

To the young men reluctant to say they are feminist, please read up on the history of
this important movement and the brave pioneers who have fought for basic human
rights. And if you complain about the feminist movement – that they hate men or
aren’t doing enough for women in third world countries – become familiar with the
mantra that change happens best from the inside. Start contributing positively to the
feminist movement by simply even identifying as a feminist or following or supporting
feminist brands, accounts or icons, and get your voice heard concerning the direction
that you think the feminist movement should go in. Feminism isn’t like a political
party – there are no membership fees, no online applications, no contracts to tie you
down. You have no right to complain about the direction the feminist movement is
taking if you are not actively involved in it.

Written by Fiónn McFadden

One thought on “The F Word: Why are so Many Young Men Scared to Call Themselves Feminists?

Add yours

  1. What an insightful piece of writing, it’s so good to know that there are such good minds in the next generation


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