Men’s experiences as agents of feminist change

What role do men have in the work of challenging gender inequalities and building gender justice? This chapter examines the experiences of men as deliberate agents of a feminist masculinity politics, exploring key challenges in men’s efforts to take up profeminism. This first challenge is overcoming one’s own sexist and violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours. Men may be disinterested in or resistant to efforts to involve them in progressive change because of widespread sexist and violence-supportive attitudes and relations. Second is the challenge of addressing one’s own perpetration or perpetuation of sexism and violence. It is tempting and comforting for men to believe that the perpetrators are only ‘other’ men, or indeed to offer the defensive protest that it is ‘not all men’. A third challenge is to live gender-equitably. Men’s anti-sexist work takes for granted a ‘prefigurative’ politics, in which men must ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’, but male allies’ and advocates’ actual practice shows both anti-patriarchal change and sexist complicity. The fourth challenge is to resist everyday privilege. Men are routinely invited into everyday sexism, whether by male peers or the wider culture, and sexist gender relations also shape ostensibly progressive political spaces. Profeminist men must navigate what is a delicate politics of male allyship, negotiating both disproportionate praise and feminist distrust. Beyond all this, there is the overarching challenge of making change in the structures and systems of patriarchy.

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Citation: Flood, M., and D. Ertel. (2020) “Concluding critical commentary: Men’s experiences as agents of feminist change.” In Masculine Power and Gender Equality: Masculinities as Change Agents, Eds. Russell Luyt and Kathleen Starck, Springer (pp. 181-199).