At days like crazy paving, jaythenerdkid writes Ten things male feminists need to stop saying. She includes things like, “I’m really attracted to strong women”; “But I haven’t done any of those things!”; and so forth: all things that either sound like feminism only to men, or make the discussion about them, or both. In her comments she writes that male feminists who want to contribute to feminist discussions should “respectfully stay quiet until you are asked to speak,” which I think more than amply covers her other ten points.
I also have a single simple rule for male feminists that amply covers jay’s ten points:
Do not claim to be a feminist.
Don’t get me wrong: you might think you’re a feminist; if so, more power to you. But saying it doesn’t make it true, and no matter what you think of yourself, you’re not going to convince anyone by saying it.
As always when you want to persuade, show, don’t tell. If you are a man and you care whether people think you are a feminist, behave like a feminist. A man’s claim to be a feminist sounds like a protestation. It sounds like he’s trying too hard to be accepted, or to be liked, or to get laid. When you claim to be a feminist you’re likely to make a fool of yourself, as demonstrated by jay’s post. If you think there’s anything you can say that jay can’t use, if she chooses, to make you sound stupid, you’ve never been in a relationship with a woman.
Better yet, if you are a man and you care whether people think you are a feminist, stop caring about that. Care about equal rights, care about equal pay, care about glass ceilings and rape culture and misogyny and patriarchy. Just stop caring about whether your feminism is acceptable to women.
Treat people right, do what you can to make the world a better place—whatever that means to you—and don’t worry about what labels other people stick on you. I think jay sets a good example, again in the comments: “I couldn’t give less of a fuck about a man’s criticism of my feminism.” Why should any man care about a woman’s criticism of his feminism any more than jay cares about his criticism of her feminism?
If you insist on trying to contribute to a feminist discussion, ((I’m not saying you should.)) follow jay’s “don’t speak until asked” advice. If you want to help, shut up and listen. ((This is true in any unfamiliar milieu.)) You’re not going to contribute in a positive way—you’re not going to make the world a better place—by calling yourself a feminist, nor by explaining what it is that makes you a feminist or why you are different than other men.
In the best-case scenario you won’t be asked to contribute. This will irk your male ego—we are creatures of action, who seek to fix things now—but this feminist discussion is, by definition, not about you. You’ll learn something by listening—maybe even something you can use to make the world a better place—and you won’t screw things up, make an idiot of yourself, or give jay ammunition for her next list of ten things male feminists shouldn’t say.