When I first ran across this issue my initial reaction was: “Sure, why not?” Feminism’s strength is partly in numbers and without the cooperation of those who hold a lot of privilege, feminism could never have succeeded at anything.
But then I must remember that any advances made by feminism never happened with the cooperation of those in power. They were always forced to grant women more rights under the law, because constant protests and bad press made it very unprofitable for them to do otherwise. One very good example of this was the struggle for women’s suffrage; this was even in some countries of Europe, not achieved until after the second world war.
Still, I was OK with men joining the feminist movement and calling themselves feminists until I stumbled across this guy. He is a sexual predator who used feminist concepts to lower the defenses of his victim(s). He used it to build trust where he didn’t deserve it. I am absolutely disgusted by assholes like these. Since I have learned about Kyle Payne I feel that if men are truly serious about advancing equality they will not label themselves feminists and will leave it up to feminists to determine if he can be considered an “ally”.
They should also not try to educate women on feminism or the inequality they live in. Some women are not aware of the situation or choose not to think about it. It is not up to men to try to change their minds. What men can do is speak to other men. They can call out their friends on their bigotry and tell them off for laughing at rape jokes or anti-woman jokes in general.
Another thing that irks me is men who consider themselves allies trying to take over feminist spaces. It is hard enough for women to find spaces where they will not be interrupted or ridiculed by men. Where they can speak about their pasts without having to worry that there will be men who don’t understand or who will use it as ammunition against them.
I have encountered men at feminist spaces who were the loudest and most vocal, who hijacked almost every conversation and who always demanded to be the center of attention and made every issue, feminists related, about them. They are a serious disruption of feminist discourse. Feminism’s strength may be in numbers, but it is also in the bonding of women and their opportunity to talk to each other and share experiences.
It would be equally ridiculous for me as a white woman to demand access to womanist spaces. How could I possibly discuss what the experience of racism feels like? The only think I can do is discourage it in my own environment.
There are of course places where people can unite in their activism, but as long as privilege exists, groups who are disadvantaged by it, must have the room, the security and privacy to express themselves freely. Until we have a better society, this is the only solution.