Will the male feminist please stand down!

By Bhushan Salunke
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Image used for representational purpose only

Are these “male feminists” just a bunch of chauvinists masquerading as liberators of oppressed women, patronising and mansplaining them or are they really helping the cause of women?

Of late, thanks to social media, we have been witnessing the emergence of a phenomenon known as the “male feminist”. Some people may be shocked or surprised to learn of the term “male feminists”.

So, who are these “male feminists” and what do they stand for?

They are a set of men who appear to champion the cause for women’s rights. They want to be the “knights in shining armour” and rescue “damsels in distress”. They express great empathy and understanding of women’s needs and requirements and exhibit male chivalry in spearheading movements for them.

This sounds like progress, that men are joining the women’s cause and are not bent on subjugating women. So, what can be wrong with “male feminists?”

The poster boy for male feminists is Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. He has said, “It’s not only that men can be feminists, it is that men should be feminists, as well.” The late Anthony Bourdain, another male feminist, had said, “Write this down: I’m a f**kin’ feminist.”

The first thing that male feminists do is to distance themselves from other “ordinary” men, talk down to them and claim a superior position over them by proclaiming to be a “champion” of the “weaker” sex.

What male feminists say in public does not always translate into action. The halo of Trudeau has slipped and suffered a few dents when it was revealed that he had groped a girl in 2000 at a music festival; that he had recently elbowed a female MP in the chest and told her to “get the f*** out of the way”, for not calling out Donald Trump for his crude remarks about women during his meeting with him, etc. His bizarre behaviour during his recent visit to India clearly shows he likes to play to the masses and media for political and social advantage.

In spite of all his rhetoric about male feminism, Trudeau is losing female votes in opinion polls because women consider him to be a “fake feminist”.

Another example of a male feminist gone awry is New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned when it was revealed that he was a day-time champion of women and a sexual sadist and misogynist by night. He was even investigating potential charges against Harvey Weinstein. Do such male feminists manipulate to advance their own careers and ambitions by ingratiating themselves with the women, in public?

‘Dangal’ poster

Let’s take a look closer home. By that I mean, Bollywood. LOL. The movie Dangal was hailed as ground-breaking for having “empowered” women and was a huge box office success. Really? Look closer and you will see patriarchy and male chauvinism written all over it.

It is the story of a man, Mahavir Phogat, an aging wrestler, who has a burning desire to win medals for India in international events. Wrestling is predominantly a male sport in India. Mahavir has no sons, only daughters. The disappointment, when he hears of his wife, delivering another baby girl is clearly expressed on his face for everyone to see. Would Mahavir have bothered to train his daughters, if he had sons? We will never know.

He decides to coach his daughters in wrestling, despite their vehement protests. This does not stop the “male feminist” from carrying out his plans, for he has decided what is good for the girls. He puts them through a rigorous training regime, a diet that they do not like, and cuts their hair short after which they get ridiculed by the neighbourhood. The girls undergo mental and psychological trauma at the hands of a man who is trying to live his life through them and who has never bothered to understand the girls’ life ambitions but instead crushes their dreams, whatever they may be. There was no opportunity provided to the girls to have their say.

The poster for the movie Dangal says it all. The man is in the front and centre of the poster while all the women are in the background. It seems to say, “Woman needs a man for her to progress”. “The man knows what’s best for a woman”. Is this empowerment or patriarchy?

Australian writer Kasey Edwards sums it up nicely when she writes about male feminism. “They are, in fact, the worst kind of chauvinist, blithely revelling in the self-assuredness of their own superiority. They’ve gained the trust of women by pretending to be feminist sympathisers and then proceed to do what men have done for centuries: de-legitimating women by labelling our opinions and views as “rants” and presenting our perspectives as the partial views of the “ghetto” in contrast to the presumably universal male perspective. The last thing feminism needs is for men to be snatching the microphone away from women to tell us what we’re doing wrong. If men really want to be feminist allies, then they need to stop talking over us and to start listening.”

 

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Madmimi


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