Men, Feminism, and Rampant Heterosexism

MsCosmic's picture

My Male identified friend, Chris confided in me one night that ey was apprehensive about taking a womyn’s studies course and identifying openly as a feminist, for fear of not only being rendered a “fag” or a “wuss” by eirs male peers, yet also for fear of being wrongfully labeled “the oppressor” or not belonging by eirs female classmates.

Chris’s experience of the fear of identifying as a feminist and or studying the history of womyn is a prime example of how patriarchy and the gender stereotypes condoning that of the gender binary, not only disadvantage and oppress womyn, yet men as well. We see how the unfair pressure placed on men through categorizing themselves with more feminist ideals affects their existence from all realms of the gender spectrum. On one hand, we see how male identified individuals can stigmatize and stereotype male feminists as being “queer” “weak”, or generally pertaining to more “feminine” ideals. On the other hand, we see how certain female identified individuals are also adding to the oppression of male feminists through unjustly labeling all men as misogynistic or oppressive. I am in no way saying that all men, or all womyn will choose to act or behave in such manners, I am instead suggesting that the actions of a powerful few in society are enough to discourage male identified persons from joining forces with the feminist movement.

I was just wondering if any other individuals have experienced this form of heterosexism when attempting to join forces with a movement (feminism or not) that you believe in. I am attempting to write an analysis paper on how heterosexist ideals affect various groups and individuals in social action, so any input would help! Thank you!

Love Peace Equality Revolution,

Lol-taire's picture

Is this satire, love?

Is this satire, love?

jeff's picture


Can't he tell his friends he's doing it to get laid?

Also, I don't think women's studies opposes the gender binary, seeing how it is celebrating half of that binary, no? If you don't think there are "men" and "women," seems like you'd have to not have the class at all.

And, please tell me you mistyped "ey" and "eirs," and that they aren't some genderrific new male pronouns or somesuch. Of course, seeing as you spelled women with a y... I know you think woman shouldn't have a man in it, but a world without women without men in them is the end of the species.

Ironically, your friend is afraid of being perceived as weak, so to avoid that, he doesn't take a stand.


"Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there." -- Josh Billings.

Add me on MySpace!

MsCosmic's picture

In respose

No, it is not satire. And on the comment about not knowing the context of women’s studies, I am, and have been for many years, a womyn’s studies major who is currently seeking eirs masters degree.

What I can tell you is that yes, womyn’s studies does celebrate the presence and existence of women in society, but that conversely, the gender binary is made up of the social “norms” and expectations of what is to be either “male” or “female”. It is my belief, and the belief of many gender scholars such as ¬¬¬Lois Gould, Nancy Henley, and Jo freeman, that the social conditionings of both genders have very little to do with our biology, but rather with the patriarchal and oppressive standards set by the society in question. What I meant by removing the gender binary is for there to be a widespread social understanding that there is no such thing as two perfect and clean cut genders, that it ranges a broader scale of how we identify and perceive ourselves, our gender, and our sexual orientation (among other factors of our existence).

Also, the “eirs” and “ey” that was used in my short post was standard spivak, or gender neutral pronouns. Since I consider myself to be genderqueer and not clearly identifying with either male or female, I myself feel more comfortable using genderless pronouns when writing, speaking, and referring to myself and others.

I understand yr comment on the irony of my friend’s situation, but sadly, this is typical in the type of society in which we live in.

Are not many GLTBQ individuals scared of coming out to friends and family due to homophobia and hate crimes?

Are not many individuals also fearful of truly expressing themselves due to violence and intolerance?

I must state that this post was meant to get people thinking of how heterosexism, racism, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and all of the other “isms” and forms of oppression affect our lives on a daily basis, not just as individuals, but as members of a greater community and society.

I cannot speak for everyone’s experience, but I know that I and many of my family, friends, colleagues, and peers have experienced some sort of oppression and discrimination limiting and suppressing their desires, hopes, and quality of life.

Love, Peace, Equality, Revolution,

jeff's picture


You do realize that to 99.9% of the world, your words are just going to appear as misspellings, and not genderless pronouns?


"Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there." -- Josh Billings.

Add me on MySpace!

MsCosmic's picture

This I am very aware of, but

This I am very aware of, but I still find it important to bring light to these pronouns and ways of life and in some small way "normalize" the way that I and many other individuals around the world view our gender identities. I would rather have my words perceived as misspellings than to condone and play into a gender role that I do not identify with. I feel as though by hiding and pretending that I identify with these terms, I am giving into the silence that has caused us to grow so ashamed of our true selves.

Love Peace Equality Revolution,

fox333's picture

I have question. Im not

I have question. Im not arguing (I really don't have a stand on gender specific pronouns) but wouldn't using genderless pronouns imply that you want socioty to be genderless and therefor are not proud of being a woman but would prefer sameness to femenity?
Also, gay people get killed. I have never heard of a feminest getting killed. But I could be wrong... I usually am.
love the eye picture. its s awesome :D

THE flying turtle

Lol-taire's picture

Not American college

Not American college feminists.
But try it in Afganistan. I wouldn't want to be Malalai Joya for example (she's not been murdered- but women like her risk so much).

MsCosmic's picture

Oh no! I am not ashamed of

Oh no! I am not ashamed of anyway in being biologically female. And for those who identify with the female gender, I say more power to them, express freely how you would wish to be! But for myself, I do not clearly identify with either the male or female gender, so, in gender indentification terms at least, I do not view myself in terms of being a woman or a man.

Love Peace Equality Revolution,

Lol-taire's picture

(I'm not very nice in this message, I'm a bit tired and angry)

You use oppressor as if someone is doing the opressing.

Now I am hideously tired because it's 1.00am and I've only just got home from the extra shift I was roped into doing this evening but you must realise that the mindset you're writing in is so rarified that it's completely and utterly meaningless to almost everyone who isn't a a woman's studies major.

I don't like most artificial manipulation of language- especially when it sounds stupid- because language reflects the society speaking. It seems you've misunderstood the causality by thinking that changing, or trying to change langauge, will change the conciousness of a society. But isolating yourself from the rest of the people speaking around you by talking in your artificial grammar seems to me just one step up from the secret codes children make up.

And I'm not one of those people who disparages intellectuals for using in technical langauge just because I don't understand it, but this isn't what you're doing. You're allegedly promoting a change in linguistics, but in the name of 'inclusiveness' you alienate most people.

So pardon me for speaking bluntly- and I'm sure I'll get told off for not providing a supportive atmosphere- but it's all so up it's own arse. And that's why most people are afraid to align themselves with feminism, because they think it's stupid, wooly minding quibbling about semantics and indenity and gender and other concepts that seem to them invented for students by residents of ivory towers.

And this scares me because in my mind the various movements promoting equality for women over the past century and a half are some the most fascinating and important events in human history. It's just unlike any social change to have happened before and it beggars my belief. And these victories are so fragile and so hard won that to see the intellectual heirs of this movement talk so much bollocks breaks my heart. Especially when there are real revolutions that could be happening for women- and men of course- who don't live in the western or developed worlds.

And etymologically of course 'man' was a genderless pronoun until the middle ages (about 10th century I think but I'm not feeling like looking it up and anyway I've taken the book back to the library).

Also I think desires and hopes and quality of life should all be a little bit supressed. And what does that even mean anyway? Society emerges to supress and to temper. It's just series of compremises between the individual's needs and desires and the needs and desires of others- who are all individuals. It's the origins of virtue blah blah blah, life is not a zero sum game. There's a difference between supression and repression, but no one seems to notice it anymore.

So play your pronoun game but don't get miffed when people feel silly for joining in.

MsCosmic's picture


Miffed? I honestly do not feel miffed in the least and I understand that many people find it uncomfortable or irrelevant in modern day. Seeing as how I did not grow up in the U.S. and how my parents and peers have used gender neutral pronouns for my entire life, I do not find them strange in the least. In Sweden, well the part of Sweden I was raised in, my school, my family, and most of the people around me used these pronouns and I appologize if they offend anyone. My intent is never to alienate my peers, for I find community, connection, and understanding to be the basis of humanity.

"And these victories are so fragile and so hard won that to see the intellectual heirs of this movement talk so much bollocks breaks my heart. Especially when there are real revolutions that could be happening for women- and men of course- who don't live in the western or developed worlds. "

I sincerely hope that you were not implying me as one of these "intellectual heirs" for what you read of my writing does not sum up who I am as a feminist, activist, or humyn being. I am not attempting to defend myself in some trivial format, but I a very active member in the community and I am currently working at planned parenthood as a teen advisor and at the sexual assault resource center to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse. I have also done work for my local chapter of Girls Inc. (which is a fabulous organization to check out!) I think that feminism, or any radical social cause, desires more than simply talk and "silly language" to make a difference. I believe that it takes voices, action, and a surging demand towards a better, more inclusive world in which we are all allowed the opportunity and the resources to not only survive, but throughly thrive in. I agree with you in that we need something radical, something revolutionary, something that will stay and provide the pathways for change. I agree with you in that to do this we must come together and make it happen. I am a strong believer in that what we need is not another "feminist wave", but rather a lasting alteration and ammendment of society at large. This being said, I do not see this as an easy task. But it is attainable, sustainable, and a reality.

Thank you so much for yr comments on my beliefs. There is nothing like a little dialectical conversation via electronic means to get the motors rolling in our brains and question the ways in which we interpret the world. :]

Love Peace Equality Revolution,

BenjaminV's picture

I didn't start the fire!

Hello XX Cosmic,

This is not a flame thing ... I actually admire individuals like yourself who challenge those rigid social systems that most people never question. I admire strong women (and men) who are able to frame their strength and courage with compassion and kindness.

Here are some quotes I like that might relate (or not):
-- “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Steve Biko (1946 – 1972, Black South African civil rights leader beaten to death while in prison)
-- “Power is the ability to define words.” – attributed to Huey Newton

Being male, and an individual, I know I can never personally experience or relate completely to things like women and other people, female or male. It's all so subjective. Isn't that what "solipsism" is all about?

But as a gay man, I know that pronoun labeling has been a problem in the past. I met poet Thom Gunn when I was a kid and I asked him about his earlier poetry and being gay. He said in the context of the times (1950s and 60s) that in his love poetry he had to substitute female pronouns for male pronouns because it would be too disturbing to publishers and the public. How unfortunate that his poetic honesty was tempered by the ever-present crush of society's homophobic grip.

The same I've heard is true with popular music. Openly gay themes is relatively a new thing (if new includes about 25 years). This older man I know was talking about how his generation was always looking for gay subtexts in popular music. Ray Charles's "You Don't Know Me," or Elvis Presley's "She's Not You" were examples he played for me. You couldn't come right out and say "I love him!" so you had to say "I love her."

OK, maybe this doesn't relate to your post at all -- I'm racing here. But wouldn't it be great if the English language had gender neutral pronouns!

Half crazed by lack of sleep,
XY Ben

cynical1inthecorner's picture

Regarding the original post:

Regarding the original post: there are five guys in my History of Women class, and they never had any problems about being associated with feminists. I honestly think a lot of this nonsense about gender binaries and roles is all perception--and made into something that's larger and more "oppressive" than it is. Yeah, people will talk if your androgynous, but the only way to change people's perception is to be out and open. Seems to me your friend's problem is all of his own making--if he honestly wanted to change things, he'd simply join the class, and not care what the fuck people were thinking about him. In the real world, I think gender is becoming less of a binary, and while there are still problems, the only way to erase them is to proceed to be more open.

About the whole social change thing--well, honestly, I sometimes feel like the radical parts of feminism keep it from being accepted as whole, from doing and changing more. Maybe this is just my perception, but it seems to me that feminism has a bad reputation because a lot of it is so radical and nitpicky.

Just look at how feminists tend to alienate people by using such holier-than-thou language. Patriarchy, womyn, heterosexism, heir, yrs--your diction is so specialized, you exclude anyone who is not specifically a supporter of your cause. What's more, you kind of come off (though this is just perception, mind) as someone who thinks they're more evolved because you use gender neutral pronouns and words like patriarchy in everyday posts.

Honestly, I just think its silly to be acting all high and mighty about pronouns of all things when there are a million other things to be fighting for as a feminist. Yeah, we still have gender pronouns--honestly, that's not going to change soon. Why don't you instead work on the problems still relevant here, in the U.S., where women are still fighting for equality in the work force? Or elsewhere in the world, where there is no women equality anywhere, never mind the workforce?

I dunno--I'm just a silly high school girl, probably suppressed by my male dominated world and all that.

(And Lol-taire, I adore you. Seriously. You take the words right out of my mouth, and phrase it all so nicely too. That intellectual heirs thing is brilliant!)

Ginger's picture

"My Male identified friend,

"My Male identified friend, Chris confided in me one night that ey was apprehensive about taking a womyn’s studies course and identifying openly as a feminist, for fear of not only being rendered a “fag” or a “wuss” by eirs male peers, yet also for fear of being wrongfully labeled “the oppressor” or not belonging by eirs female classmates."

Not to step on anyone's toes, but it seems as though your friend is the one connecting these labels to a man taking a womyns studies class. Honestly, thats just something that he's going to have to learn to get over. It really doesnt seem to be to be a significant issue.

Also, I would like to say that I'm not pulling these opinions out of nowhere. I do have a friend (well, the husband of a friend, but that's irrelevant) who does/did/ have problems with this... but they werent internal.

For the eight years that he has been teaching at a college in the deep south, every year his yard and mailbox gets trashed. Mostly for various reasons such as his views on racism, etc. Out of those eight his favorite featured (amongst other destruction of private property) "Schantz is a feminist!" scrawled in pink paint all over his house and one large one that covered the better part of the road in front of his house and his neighbors.

He took pictures of it, framed them, and hung them proudly by his college diplomas.

1stTeeka's picture


well, i'm takeing a class where there is only one other guy in the class besides me, its called great women writers. i just laughed in my friends faces when they said "isnt that class for girls?"

**Far from a saint, not quite a sinner**