Challenging cultural norms

Forums show that feminist values
can be of concern to both genders
Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:38 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Feminism is a word — and movement — usually associated with women.

Some men are tired of continuing to define things based on gender. They are tired of most men never considering themselves feminists, of being part of a culture that perpetuates inequality in gender.

So they started the conversation.

This semester, Nick Taylor and John Parker started a men’s discussion series through the MU Women’s Center titled “Men and Feminism.” Taylor defines male feminism as a constant process of critical self-reflection concerning one’s perpetuation of male supremacy, and changing based on those reflections.

The series may have started the conversation, but both men realize they have a long way to go. There were three discussions this semester: one in February, one in March and the final one last week. The topics ranged from general discussions about the restrictions of gender to specific topics such as using nonsexist language. “I like the idea a lot because so many men don’t realize that feminism includes them,” said Colan Holmes, an MU sophomore who attended the last discussion.

Parker wants a regular discussion group so people can reflect on the issues and come back with deeper questions.

“Forums like these let people know it’s OK to be white and male and still challenge our culture,” he said.

Taylor, who has worked at the Women’s Center since last fall, wanted to get involved in something that felt worthwhile. The influence of his late mother, who was a feminist, made the movement important to him from an early age.

“There’s never been any question in my mind that feminism was something that made sense,” he said.

Despite Taylor’s hopes for advancing the cause of feminism, the discussion series has yet to find its audience. The first night 10 people came, and about five came to each of the two subsequent meetings.

Taylor said they posted fliers and sent out e-mails, but he feels men’s hesitance to get involved with “women’s issues” might be keeping them away.

“To most men, feminism is for women and secondary to whatever they interpret as the real struggle,” he said.

Taylor said he hopes to continue the discussion series with a more consistent crowd next fall. He also wants to conduct more outreach programs, such as discussing the topic with different organizations like freshman interest groups.

One of his main goals is to show men that many of them already have feminist values.

“I feel like it’s a matter of taking the politics people already have and showing them how aspects of feminism are consistent with their political ideals,” Taylor said. For example, Taylor knows men who believe in things like reproductive choice and sexual equality, but don’t want to be labeled as feminists.

“Men are concerned over using the word feminist because of how it has been represented, but if they would identify with it more we could dispel some of the myths,” he said. “Like that feminists hate men. Obviously they don’t, because I am one.”

Farrah Littlepage, an MU sophomore, attended the last discussion and said she saw the value in men and women talking about feminism.

“It’s nice because it is a safe space for men to talk about their relationship to feminism and for women to realize that relationship is there,” she said.

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