Why Feminism Is Also Dude-Ism

Not intended to be a factual picture of John Kyl.

[Ed Note: Please welcome back, readers, Austin journalist Dan Solomon, who wrote this up specially for Hay Ladies!, because he is something of a baller.]

By Dan Solomon

Here are some things that happen to a dude when he first starts to speak up about feminist issues:

  • He discovers that women in his life whom he would never have associated with the word “feminism” have strong opinions about the things that he’s talking about. Because while we have the luxury of perceiving these things as not being about us, and thus not relevant to our lives, every woman he knows has had to consider what she’d do if she got pregnant when she didn’t not plan to. Every woman he knows has been talked down to by a man who wasn’t as smart or capable as she was. Almost all of them have been treated poorly or made uncomfortable by some dude at some point who saw getting into her pants as a prize to be won. Even women who seemed like just one of the dudes begin to share experiences that he never would have imagined that they’d had, because doing so around him begins to feel safe.
  • Other dudes, they get really offended. They call him pussywhipped, or claim that he’s just playing up some sensitive guy routine to get laid. They contest his manhood, call him a mangina, or claim that he holds some white knight hero complex, and they’re the real advocates for equal rights, because they’re willing to bully women without giving them special treatment!
  • He realizes that these issues that seemed like they were not relevant to his own daily life are actually very much about him, too. That issues that seemed, at first, to be matters of fairness that required taking a stance simply because it’d be cowardly not to are actually issues that affect him in every aspect of his life.

Realizing that feminist issues are also dude issues is a major revelation. At first, the notion that, say, women make up about 17% of Congress seems wrong as an issue of basic fairness. (Or maybe it seems awesome, if you’re a dude who wants to go into politics, and likes the idea of 83% of the jobs being reserved for people like you.) But then you do the math. You think about the women you know, or that you’ve known in your life, or who’ve done important things. You realize that these women are all as smart as men, as courageous as men, as capable of leading as men. You think about someone like, say, Elizabeth Warren, who is in government and working very hard to solve problems that not many of the other people in government seem interested in solving. And then you realize that, if women and men are equally bright and capable, the way to get the brightest and most capable people in the country in charge would be to have Congress made up of about half and half women and men. In other words, of all the members of Congress, 34% of them — just statistically speaking — are men who are probably not as qualified as women who do not have the opportunity to serve.

And that affects dudes, because we’d sure benefit from having more smart, qualified, capable people in charge! The same is true when you consider that only 16% of CEOs are women — that means that there are a whole bunch of men who are not the best people for the job who are running shit that they shouldn’t be running. It stops being a matter of fairness and starts being a matter of wanting what’s best for ourselves.

It holds true in just about every aspect of what feminism is about. The more equality we have, the more opportunity we — as men — have. Learning to not dominate every conversation you’re a part of with a woman means that you get to learn from smart people who have things to teach you. Trying to change the association between “feminine” and “weak” (don’t be such a pussy, bro!) means that in order to feel like men, we don’t have to pretend to be invulnerable. Learning to not try to fuck every woman you meet just to prove that you can means that you get to benefit from forming actual friendships with those women. Speaking up about issues surrounding rape, or rape culture, or rape apologism, means that you’re working to build a world where women can trust you without worrying what you’d do if you have a few drinks in you, and she had been flirty but just wanted you to take her home.

And it’s true on abortion, too. Conservative dudes love to talk about abortion! They can give impassioned speeches on the subject, they can weep for the fetuses, they can make statements on the floor of the Senate that aren’t intended to be factual about Planned Parenthood statistics. But liberal dudes — that is, guys like me — we tend to be quieter. We’ll speak up occasionally, if someone else starts the argument, but for most of us, it’s hard to see it as a cause that we’re really entitled to an opinion about. “Her body, her choice!” we shout even if we’re marching for Planned Parenthood. It’s between women and their bodies, and our opinions aren’t necessary, except to try and keep other dudes — lawmakers, especially — from getting too into their opinions. And that’s true, except when it isn’t.

Because abortion affects men every day, too. Legal abortion saves the lives of women who would otherwise be threatened by being forced to carry an unviable fetus to term. One of those women could well be my wife. Legal abortion helps the lives of women who would otherwise find unsafe or illegal ways to terminate their pregnancies, or be forced to bear children that were unwanted. The woman in that story could well have been someone I’d dated, and the eventual baby in that scenario would have been my unwanted responsibility, too.

So why don’t we talk about this stuff more, fellow liberal dudes? Why do we let conservative men rally for a return to traditional roles or cry about all of the poor fetuses as they pass restrictive laws that would mean we’d have more unwanted children, too, when we could be speaking up? Why do guys who are outspoken advocates for any number of causes keep their mouths shut so often when it comes to feminism?

I don’t know, but I have a guess, and it starts with that word: Feminism. Because it’s cool and all, and we’re for it and not against it, but it’s also weird to identify with a movement that is — right there in the name — woman-centric. Even if the end result would help men as much as it would help women, the fact that the movement identifies itself as woman-oriented makes guys uncomfortable. If it’s for everybody, can’t we call it something dudelier?

I don’t have much in the way of answers, but I do have this: for me, talking and writing about feminism, and using that scary word to do it, is part of the change that I want to see. If you call your movement for general equality “feminism,” that means that you’re overcoming the impulse that says that women are inherently marginal — it’s hard for a movement called feminism to be totally dominated by dudes, at the very least, and that much is a good start toward creating a better world for all of us.


About andrea grimes

Andrea is a journalist living in Austin, TX. She has a master's degree in anthropology and did her thesis work on gender and stand-up comedy. Seriously. Also, she has a bunch of cats. Three of them. Is three a bunch? Discuss.
This entry was posted in abortion, activism, duders, feminism, legal issues, personal essays, politics. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Why Feminism Is Also Dude-Ism

  1. Dan Mortenson says:

    Why should guys be afraid of calling a women’s empowerment movement by the name that gets the message across? Movements focus on those they are trying to raise up; that’s how simple it is. And saying that they shouldn’t do that is just a way of hiding the ball, so we can go back to playing the way we always have.

    And by doing that, the Cons are just out to steal the movement’s thunder, its mojo, make it NOT about women at all, so that in the next turn they can steal the whole issue back for themselves, and send the women back to the kitchen.

    Which is what will happen, if we let them win. That’s how Conservatism works; by taking the change out of change. If they have to lie in order to do that, if they have to tell us one thing and do another — well, that’s what they think Jesus would TELL them to do — despite the documented fact that He wouldn’t tell a lie to save His own life. Check the text: Pilat gave Him every chance, but He refused to take the easy way out, and was handed over to the Pharasies for it.

    Ask ANY woman, how long our society has already been biased toward male privilege, male dominance. You’ll get the same answer you would if you asked a Black how long Whitey has been on top.

    Forever; that’s how long.

    And it’s always first done by relying on the standards of the culture; which assumes that the “standards” are by definition always right. But remember, someone, sometime, had to change TO the new standard, from some some OTHER, older standard. Does that mean that those who made that change were WRONG at the time? No it doesn’t. It means simply that standards are not by definition right or wrong, but are instead simply WHAT WE ARE USED TO. Change the standards, and you will have a DIFFERENT defacto norm, which WILL be normal AS SOON AS WE GET USED TO IT.

    Women want to get jobs and work outside the home. But “standards” men say that THEY need those jobs — ignoring the plain fact that one job will no longer support a family. True, once they would; but those days are gone, thanks to Reagan, Clinton, the Banksters, NAFTA, and the death of the Union Movement. Women now HAVE to work, but we still get the same bullshit that women’s equity is just another name for shorting the men. It’s not — It’s what NEEDS to happen, now.

    The “standards” are telling us lies. Or rather, we are USING the standards as an excuse to shore up what we are simply used to. It’s a way to run from making the changes we need to make. But the world won’t hold still while we run from it, no matter how we deny and try to stop the changes.

  2. sean says:

    “Movements focus on those they are trying to raise up; that’s how simple it is.”

    I don’t think that anybody called the Civil Rights Movement “blackism” or “Negroism”. If the name is more off-putting than the message, what’s wrong with changing the name?

    • I think the fact that people believe women/feminists should change the name “feminism” demonstrates the degree to which feminism itself is and continues to be so necessary.

      • Max says:

        Could you please elaborate, Andrea? I don’t see how changing the name of the movement diminishes it.

        I think of myself as a ‘gender equality activist,’ even though I would be doing the exact same things as a ‘feminist.’ I’m pretty sure the only difference is that I feel like more of a stakeholder with the former phrasing. Is there something wrong with the words I use?

        This was a great article! It opened my eyes to some things. I was especially fascinated to realize that 34% of our congress is less competent than they could be (shocker!) and I can’t wait to tell my friends about it.

      • Dan Solomon says:

        @Max: to my mind, the movement is diminished in two ways if you change its name — semantically and practically.

        Semantically, you diminish the movement because you’re saying that, while women can and should be expected to identify with male-identified groups (check out the name we gave our species!), men shouldn’t be expected to do the same. I know that for me, I really did feel uncomfortable identifying as “feminist” because it sounded girly, and I didn’t like that. Teaching men to check the impulses that say that if something is girly it’s bad is an important part of what feminism can accomplish. For the amount of our own prejudices, preconceptions, and stereotypes that it requires us to re-examine alone, it makes sense to me to call it “feminism.”

        But beyond all that, practically speaking, if you start talking “gender equality activism,” you’re likely to end up with a bunch of dudes, who are used to running things and used to people letting them talk loudest, defining what’s important and what’s not. And then the entire movement will devolve into trying to lower the car insurance premiums for dudes under 25, or whatever. I don’t think there’s necessarily something wrong with the words you use, but I do think that other words might cause you to better examine some things that are worth examining, and might ensure that you’re allied with people who are working on these issues in the way that you’ll find most beneficial.

    • Kat says:

      Calling it Feminism keeps men from thinking they know more about it and can take it over, as men have done with social justice movements in the past (and present).

      Although from your tone I’m guessing you already think you know more about it…

  3. Sarah says:

    I got so afraid toward the end that you were going to conclude that we ought to rename feminism, but then you surprised me with your great ending! I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you for standing up for what’s right, even though your friends might not understand or make fun of you, and being brave enough to identify yourself with a woman-centric movement.

  4. I’d like to point readers of this article to a wonderful book by bell hooks if they’ve never read it, and perhaps the most cogent argument for feminism, simply titled: Feminism is for Everybody. The first bit’s available on google books, by the way — it’s a fantastic primer on how Feminism has, in the end, very little interest in anything other than the rights of every person. Great, great stuff in plain, plain language.

  5. joereform says:

    While I fully support equal opportunity for women in the workplace and in civil service, Dan’s supposed “benefits” for men can be summed up thusly: “Feminism gives men the opportunity to be more civil toward women.” Why do I need to embrace feminism in all its forms to accept the fact that I can listen to and learn from women? Why should I accept your pigeon-holing men into two groups (liberal feminists, and those men who make light of rape and who are “trying to fuck every woman they meet”)? As a man, I refuse to allow myself to be stereotyped by feminists such as yourself in such a manner. Your false dichotomies are just that, Dan: false.

    And you play fast and loose with the truth. For example, Dan, 83% of positions in Congress are not reserved for men. This is patently untrue, and I do not think that you are simple-minded enough to believe that yourself. Women have unfettered access to the political process. The men and women who hold seats in the House and in the Senate were put there by both male and female voters. It is also faulty logic to say that “if women and men are equally bright and capable, the way to get the brightest and most capable people in the country in charge would be to have Congress made up of about half and half women and men.” Any woman who is at least 25 years old can run for the House of Representatives just like I can, so claiming that they have a lack of opportunity is yet another lie on your part.

    I do not think you are espousing feminism to get laid, Dan, but I do think it is a symptom of the so-called “enlightened superiority” of the Left, in which liberals think it their place to lecture those lesser Americans on what is good for us. (By the way, Dan, do you know how many of those 17% of women are affiliated with the Tea Party? So much for conservative “good old boy-ism.”)

    And one more factoid, Dan: access to legal, elective abortion does not help you as a man at all if the woman you impregnated decides to carry the fetus to term and raise it. Then that baby will be your “unwanted responsibility” for the next 18 years. Yeah, that sure is Dude-ism, all right. Thanks for making me see the light. 🙂

    • Dan Solomon says:

      Not gonna spend too much time with this one, dude, as I have been on the Internet long enough to know that anyone who starts a disagreement with you by calling you a liar is not someone who is likely to shift from his position during the course of any ensuing discussion. So what’d be the point?

      I did want to clarify, though, for people who find this later, that I’m not claiming the only kinds of men who exist are high-minded liberal dudes and fear-mongering conservative dudes. People who are in the former category, however, are the men I’m talking to here, and people in the latter category are the ones they’re likely to see as their opposite number. I did not intend to say that you, sir, are anything other than the special snowflake you see staring back at you when you look in the mirror.

      • joereform says:

        Not gonna spend too much time with this one, dude, as I have been on the Internet long enough to know that anyone who starts a disagreement with you by calling you a liar is not someone who is likely to shift from his position during the course of any ensuing discussion. So what’d be the point?

        Well, for one, it could be explanatory to the more “flexible-minded” who are also reading your words how you go from the reality of 17% of Congress being female to the conclusion that 83% of positions in the House and Senate are reserved for men. I may not be convinced, but at least it’s not left hanging out there. Your call, though.

      • joy says:

        @joereform – The article didn’t say that 83% of positions [i]are[/i] reserved for men. The parenthetical comment was expressing the [i]idea[/i] that some men might have that they are reserved.
        Pointing out biased thinking is not the same as stating the bias is true.

      • joereform says:

        Joy, that’s not what he wrote. Seriously, do you think there is anyone in 2011, male or female, who runs for any public office thinking that the office is reserved for a male (or for a female, for that matter)?

        This was nothing but Dan promoting wrong conclusions from a statistic. But he obviously didn’t think it was worth clarifying.

      • joy says:

        Joe – Yes, I do believe that there are still people, even now, that think they have a better chance to get a job because of their gender. I also believe someone who thinks like this is as likely to run for public office as to go for any other job.

        The statement “likes the idea of 83% of the jobs being reserved for people like you” is not a factual statement that the jobs are really reserved. It’s really not a point that needs clarifying.

  6. NoAstronomer says:

    I do like the article. However this piece …

    “the way to get the brightest and most capable people in the country in charge would be to have Congress made up of about half and half women and men. ”

    …made me laugh. What on earth makes you think that Congress even remotely contains the brightest and most capable* men or women.

    I cite Rand Paul and Michelle Bachman.


    * Being the most capable of being elected doesn’t count.

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  8. bell hooks wrote a book called “feminism is for everyone.”

    feminism has to do with female empowerment, to an extent, but its truegoal should be the end of sexism.

    women are just as capable as men to be dominating. i’ve been dominated by female supervisors and by male supervisors.

    i think a focus should be put on the manner in which human individuals interact, with a focus on self-reflection with the purpose to interact with each other without forcing our whims on one another.

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  10. dantresomi says:

    LOVE this piece.
    and you are so right.

    High five to Gustavo!

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  12. LOVE this article…thanks dude.

    we wrote a song that kinda sums it up…a call to rename mankind – HumanKind. including all of us… hope you like it. http://www.reidjamieson.com/downloads/HumanKind.mp3
    again…thanks, eh?


  13. Julianne Feller says:


    Who is this man and when can I give him a hug, or maybe I should stick to high-fiving so no one calls him pussywhipped. In comparison to the article about not letting little girls to grow up to be tramps- THIS is what the feminism movement needs. Not a man who wants women rights, but attempts to achieve them by using degrading words, but a man who sees statistics and uses them to make a point and aid a movement. Loved this!

  14. John Burgoon says:

    Nice article and good points. There’s one question of yours that may have been rhetorical, but which I will gladly answer from my personal perspective.

    I don’t talk much about feminism for the same reason that I don’t talk much about other issues in politics or religion. Most of the time, to “discuss” feminism is to make myself the immediate target of negative personal attack. When the women I know are able to vent their frustrations without automagically including me into their generalized model of “maleness”, I’ll have more to say. Discussions almost always degrade to “You men…” this and “You men…” that. Pardon me, but until the accusatory rhetoric subsides, I doubt that what I have to say will have any impact.

    It is not only possible, but tenable and practical, to be pro-feminist without being an activist, and until the shrillness leaves the dialogue, that is what I will be.

    • A good way to get “shrillness” out of the dialogues you engage in could be for you to stop using gendered terms to talk about the tone of women’s voices.

    • Dan Solomon says:

      @John: Actually didn’t mean that one rhetorically — thanks for contributing. I wonder, though, if the “you men” you hear isn’t an inference on your part, rather than an implication on the part of the woman you’re talking to. Speaking from my own experience, I would occasionally hear women make sarcastic comments about men and I’d add an understood “you” to the beginning, which made it hard for me not to take it personally. I realized after a while, though, that I was feeling defensive for things that weren’t aimed at me. If they’re describing a behavior that you don’t exhibit, then they’re not talking about you.

      The better question may well be, “Why do you feel personally called-out by comments that women make about the behavior of other men?” I understand the impulse to feel that way, but — in my case, at least — it was because I was feeling obligated to defend things that were often indefensible. When you stop doing that, it’s much easier to be part of an actual dialogue.

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  16. EB says:

    Great piece, thank you. Love the idea that one could just “change the name” of the movement by some kind of act of will… ignoring centuries of history, all the gains made in the name of feminism! Ha. For what? For your COMFORT??? Are we making you uncomfortable??? Oh noes!

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  18. Dudeist says:

    I am an Ordained Dudeist, some of the claims stated here does not reflect the religion of Dudeism. Feminism and Dudeism are two different things. Although some people don’t take my religion seriously, I do (that is why I’m ordained), and we are currently in a fight with major religions so we can marry in some states. To further confuse people by combining two different movements is an offense and would appreciate an apology. But if you can’t, I wouldn’t be a true Dudeist if I don’t say “If you can’t get around to it, whatever man,” just don’t confuse the two.

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