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The Complicated Calculus of Feminism for Men

An interview with Michael Messner, whose recent book explores three generations of feminist men.

Male feminists take part in a 1980 protest. Photo by Rick Cote

Described as a "solidarity movement for gender equality," the HeForShe campaign is the United Nations' attempt to recruit men to the feminist cause. Launched last September with the star power of U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, the campaign became thinkpiece fodder and a Twitter trending topic for weeks after the Harry Potter actress took the stage to formally invite men to the women’s movement. As with anything attached to a feminist label, the campaign inspired plenty of contentious online discussion, from those who thought that it didn’t do enough for men to those who thought it did too much. These popular, contemporary debates embodied one of the major conflicts simmering within the feminist movement since the ‘60s and ‘70s: What role do men have in the women’s movement?

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The Science Behind Male Idiot Theory

A new study outlines the perilously stupid behavior of men

Photo by Paul Stevenson via Flickr

A study published in the British Medical Journal yesterday hypothesizes that dudes are just doomed to be dunces. Men will likely be banging their heads against the wall in fury at the results of the tongue-in-cheek survey, which examined the “winners” of the Darwin Awards, granted to those who, by contributing to their own fittingly stupid deaths, do humanity the service of removing themselves from the gene pool. A 2004 winner, for example, was the victim of an exploding lava lamp, which he heated on his stovetop in an effort to speed its sweet psychedelic throbbing. In the study, BMJ, a venerated medical journal, puts forth ample evidence that guys are wild-eyed, self-destructive adrenaline junkies that do really stupid stuff. Men apparently make up 88.7 percent of Darwin Award winners, and though the study concedes, “it is conceivable that the sex difference is attributable to sociobehavioural differences in alcohol use,” the gender gap is pronounced enough to underwrite the authors’ conceptual brainchild: Male Idiot Theory, or MIT. The journal explains:

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7 Unlikely Male Feminists

Lately feminism has been all about … men. Here are seven dudes who prove that gender equality really is for everyone.

“Male feminist” is a fraught term. There are those who find it oxymoronic, those who think it’s patronizing, and others who find it unnecessary (there’s even a satirical magazine about it). But as recent campaigns—including the UN’s HeForShe and the White House’s It’s On Us campaign—have highlighted, the struggle for gender equality is everyone’s problem.

It’s difficult to be a feminist, and male feminist allies have the added burden of being men. No one goes to bed a misogynist and wakes up a feminist—feminism is not an end goal, but a process. It’s a process that requires men not only to listen to the experiences of women but also to leverage their privilege in support of the feminist cause. It’s not a slouch’s journey, which means that even the best of men have to constantly struggle to achieve better feminist politics. In honor of that effort, we highlight seven unlikely men who are making the case for gender equality—without waiting for a formal invitation to the cause. They’re not perfect, but at least they’re trying.

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