As we venture forth into this second installment of Not These Guys, we turn our attention to Hollywood. This features guys who demonstrate helpful and productive ways to show the world they are men who would not commit or tolerate harassment and violence against women, in contrast to the #NotAllMen camp with their counter narrative of knee-jerk defensiveness.
As we did with the inaugural installment of this series, we’d like to point out the distinction we're aiming to make here between recognition and praise. The scrutiny and discussion of men who participate in women's movements is valid and important and serves to explore the ramifications and limits of how voices of privilege can contribute to or constrain movements of the marginalized. Further, one simply has to picture what is said about women who identify as feminists (hint: a lot of eye rolling) versus men who identify as feminists (a lot of swooning). When women do it, everyone's all “geez give up all your whining already!” and when men do it, they get the “what a GOOD guy, you know?” treatment. And that sucks. And we're not doing that here.
What we’re recognizing is that while potentially problematic and nuanced, men need to be a part of the movement to end violence against women, the vast majority of which is coming from men. We are not praising these feminist guys for espousing support for the idea that women deserve the same rights and respect that men do- just means you’re also a human. We point to them as examples because we need to change the cultural conversation on masculinity so that it can be articulated as powerful by being respectful or protective or loving. It is especially important for young men to see examples of this narrative, particularly examples that hail from men in mainstream and vaulted positions of success. Men like Aziz Ansari, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have publicly declare their feminism in some funny and thoughtful ways.
Criticism of these recent coming-out-as-feminist stories abound, and with good points. While Anzari laughs about it and Gordon-Levitt squints and grins about it, being a man who stands up to other men and challenges their ideas of masculinity and femininity can be a pretty daunting and scary thing with real consequences, and that aspect certainly deserves our attention and acknowledgement. Taking a stand and speaking out against violence is remarkable because it takes courage and conviction and can yield powerful progress, and we should go ahead and recognize the men taking this up and welcome them to join the many women who have already been fighting this fight. We should welcome these men to the conversation because if we want boys and girls to grow up thinking that feminism is cool and the way to go it's gonna help to have cool people they can relate to promoting that.
Recognizing male feminists is complicated, and should be done just so. We need to smartly recognize and hold up these men as examples for others to follow and then encourage them to follow the example of women who have walked this talk already. This would allow us to capitalize on the need to have examples of men who promote feminist values to point to while managing the overpowering effect their voices can have when they're treated as doubly important as those of their female feminist allies.
On the late show with David Letterman, Ansari identified as a feminist and brought his comic wit to critique those who eschew the term and credits his 'big feminist' girlfriend for enlightening him. Joseph Gordon Levitt has talked about his feminism publicly and why it is so important for everyone to participate in the conversation. He also notes that one must go beyond just saying you are a feminist and that that can be harder than some think. Ryan Gosling is a feminist, articulating the patriarchal norms that shape what we expect to see from males and females on screen -thank you forever Creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling for this significant contribution to the meme world. More recently Terry Crews is getting some attention for his progressive views on gender and masculinity.
As many lists of male feminists to swoon over as there are, there are many really good think pieces about why we should ask these men to deepen their commitment to feminism through reflection and action. Also, just follow our lead guys. We're glad you want to join us, and we welcome you with hopefulness and some guidelines for how to best walk your feminist talk.