Elevate Difference

Men and Feminism

First off, when you see the cover of Men and Feminism you'll notice that this book is part of the Seal Press Studies series. But do not freak out! While this book can easily be in a Gender & Women's Studies course syllabus, I also believe this is an excellent book for anyone to pick up in order to know more about how men have fit into the feminist movement.

What's that? You don't think that men have been a part of the feminist movement? Oh how mistaken you are! But it's not your fault you believe that: first of all, our history classes don't teach women's history, and when we take it upon ourselves we focus on the accomplishments of kick ass women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Dolores Huerta. In fact, men have been supportive of the movement all along, not as many as we would want, but that's where Shira Tarrant really gets into the question of men and feminism.

Tarrant goes through the history of the (mostly American) women's movement and reveals the men behind the amazing women. She also reveals some of their contradictions, including how their public voice did not match their private lives and how men used motherhood as a way to push for women's rights.

I felt the gem of this book was how Tarrant wrestled with trans and gay issues within the context of feminism and masculinity. She showed us how the fear of being labeled a sissy keeps even the most feminist of men silent thus complacent in continuing our sexist and homophobic society. She walks us through how ignoring or being ignorant of trans-issues keeps us focused on the false binary of boy-girl, masculine-feminine, and thus, keeps all of us in gendered boxes. 

As close friends know, I believe my feminism can connect with almost any issue, and Tarrant does a brilliant job at showing us how we must pay attention to the plight of boys and men under patriarchy in order to bring out a more just world. I wish I'd had this book a few years ago when I was trying to create a men's issues committee for a feminist organization I use to work with. I was shot down loudly and quickly.

Tarrant has a great chapter on male privilege. It's an easy read in terms of vocabulary, although it might be hard to totally grasp. Essentially, Tarrant says, "Great, you're a great guy. You might love a feminist woman, never hit her and even support her work. But unless you are taking progressive steps to call out others on their sexism there's still work to be done." It's not finger-pointing or male-bashing at all. Rather, it's a straightforward call to action for all the "I'm not a feminist, but..." men in our lives who really need to walk all that talk.

This would be an excellent present for a feminist-dad-in-training. It's 150 pages of the feminist manliness. If you're a nerd like me, it's great summer reading too.

Written by: Veronica I. Arreola, May 26th 2009

This book sounds quite good and I'm going to check it out. BTW, Allan G. Johnson wrote an excellent book on male privilege called "The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy." A classic that should be required reading for all.

This is a very interesting topic. We need more discussion as to how men fit into the feminist movement.