By now, you know that as a man, you’re privileged.
You also need to know you shouldn’t feel guilty about that, because being privileged doesn’t define you.
You are not an asshole just because you’re a dude. You are also not an angel just because you are a woman.
So what can you do about it?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
You can try to change the oppressive system — the system that gives you the unfair advantages that you have and the disadvantages that you have.
We have to undermine the patriarchy.
But how can we change the system that is actually oppressing all of us?!
Yes, that is the question.
It will take time, and it will often feel like we’re surrounded by people who don’t care.
But as Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
It’s up to us.
So here are nine ways men can support feminism — straight or not — though many of these can apply to anyone.
1. Call out sexism when you see it.
If you hear someone — whether or not they are a fellow dude — just point it out. “Hey, isn’t that kind of unnecessary to say?” or “What do you mean?” are pretty good non-confrontational ways to get another person thinking about what they are saying.
If you are okay with a little bit of confrontation, call it what it is. Tell them what they said is sexist. Explain why. If you point out that you don’t think it’s cool of them to behave how they are behaving, they’ll rethink their actions and their words, even if it seems like they’re just defensive.
This is really important if you are dealing with people who respect you. I know it adds a different kind of pressure, but the fact that they respect you means they are more likely to hear you out. And that makes all the difference!
2. Avoid using sexist language.
It might take a while to catch yourself using sexist language and rid yourself of those habits, but it really will make a difference. A big one.
When people never use sexist language, it tells me they are my ally. And it’s comforting to know that there are people on my side. They are the people I can trust to back me up, and they are the people I would love to share ideas with — a big part of what feminism is about.
And since so much of the battle is trying to show people that feminism isn’t just about women, having male allies really helps the women in the fight.
Slowly eradicating sexist language starts with you. And it means the world to those who notice you trying!
3. Notice your own sexist habits, and do something about them.
Don’t take this the wrong way. But even I sometimes find myself being sexist.
I mean, it’s been ingrained into our brains since childhood.
Maybe you expect your wife to cook and clean without your help, or you push your sister to stop dressing a certain way. Whatever it may be, pay attention to what you are thinking and figure out how you can change it.
For example, if you do want to control how your sister dresses, remind yourself that it isn’t your place to tell her what to do, and that you wouldn’t want someone to think they can do what they want with her just because of how she dresses. Extend that thought process to all the women you know.
If you think men are less “manly” if they show their sensitive side, remind yourself that you have one too. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being human.
Remind yourself to think the way you want to think, and eventually it will come without effort.
Don’t blame yourself. Just change it. Just do something.
It takes time and effort, and you are doing the right thing.
4. Encourage young girls to think, and don’t assume what they like — same with boys.
I once read an article that pointed out how society teaches girls to be pretty, and that adults only help in doing that by telling him how gorgeous their curly locks are, or to twirl their skirts and dresses.
Lisa Bloom, the writer of that article, says that young girls are rarely asked about their minds. She argues that it’s important to stay away from prettiness and the focus on their bodies in order to teach them that what they think is important — not just what they look like.
So ask young girls what they are thinking about, what they like to read, what they wonder about the world.
And don’t forget that boys need encouragement, too, because not all of them like cars and trucks and video games.
Maybe your nephew loves playing with dolls, not action figures.
He needs to know that he’s not any less of a boy for it.
5. Question how the media represents women.
The same way that you might want to change how you think, change how you see things.
Misogynistic representations of women are so ubiquitous in our world that so much of the time, it barely even registers.
But it always starts with noticing.
The more you think about the way women are represented, the more you’ll see it, and the more critical you can be of what you see every day, the more you can break concepts down and understand their effects.
Then you can share what you find and discuss your findings with others.
Which leads me to the next point…
6. Talk about feminist ideas with other men.
You don’t always have to bring things up directly.
It could be as simple as suggesting that your friend helps around the house more if their girlfriend or wife is doing all the work, or discussing why that’s important. Maybe at work you think that a woman could be great for something that other men are not considering her for; you could bring up her name.
If you can talk about women as people and not just as sources of sex or nagging, it will help the men around you to see it, too.
It’s all about spreading the message.
7. Educate yourself and others about consent and rape culture.
Note: If you purchase any books through my Amazon link below, I will receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!
Consent is HUGELY important as a concept, not just as a topic under the umbrella that is feminism, but also in life.
Learn as much as you can, and share as much as you can.
There are many books about consent and rape culture, too.
If you have children, teach them what consent is and how it works. If you have friends that might need a little clarification, point out what they could be doing better, and talk to them about why it’s so important to do better.
Just learn everything you possibly can, and don’t stop sharing — unfortunately, this topic is receiving more attention lately, but there are still far too many people who don’t know enough.
8. If you see sexual harassment, towards anyone by anyone, say something.
You hold more power (unfortunately) if the situation involves a man harassing a woman, because the man likely already respects you just for being a guy, while the woman is likely worried about being hurt if she stands up for herself.
But this applies regardless of the peoples’ genders.
If you see someone on the train or walking on the street who looks uncomfortable because of someone approaching them or talking to them, try to offer them an out. An action as simple as stepping between the two people can make a difference, or even just asking the person being harassed if they are okay. If you’re comfortable asking the person harassing to leave or to stop, do that.
Of course, don’t then go ahead and sexually harass them yourself — or anyone else for that matter. Pay attention to how people are reacting to you when you talk to them. If they are closing their body off from you or avoiding eye contact, leave them alone.
9. Commit to learning more about feminism.
Read more. Watch more. Discuss more — not just with other men, but also with other feminists. Learn as much as you can, if not just to educate yourself, but to back yourself up when someone questions your support of feminism. It really helps to know your stuff when you are trying to defend your beliefs!
I hope this makes you feel more confident about supporting feminism.
It’s not always easy, but it’s always about learning.
Check out this article for more ways you can contribute to feminism!
How do you like to contribute to feminism?