Feminists: Man Up?


The word ‘feminism’ has all but lost its meaning for many in today’s world. And for many more it only triggers images of bra-burning, man-hating scary butch types. This article attempts to look at a snapshot of the expansive field of feminism, and asks: does society need to be more accepting of feminism, or do feminists simply need to ‘man up’?

Despite the bad press that Feminism has received over the years, it is undeniable that many of the rights women ‘enjoy’ (I use speech marks because I believe these rights should be guaranteed, not granted) have arisen from feminist campaigners. Below is a selection of just a few of key feminist achievements:


This radical rewriting of the world to better incorporate women has led to a common belief that feminism has now achieved what it set out to do; ignoring the fact that many women are still held at a lower status than men throughout the world. In England and Wales alone, a reported 85,000 women are raped every year, and amazingly, in Saudi Arabia women still aren’t allowed to drive. Of course it is not always true that these extreme occurrences are equated with sexual inequality, but even a monkey on Google can see the sheer quantity of sites dedicated to exposing acts of ‘everyday’ sexism, such as club-groping and wolf whistling.

Due to this staggering amount of evidence (albeit sometimes anecdotal), it seems clear that the world is still in need of some egalitarian campaigning body – but this is not to say that feminists should fill those shoes. Rightly or wrongly, feminism today is widely derided and perceived as hypocritical, aggressive, and anti-men. Hold on to your decorative hats girls, here comes an attack on feminism…

feminism 5

Although I’ve already established that Feminism has been crucial in the promotion of women’s rights and quality of life, nowadays I believe that it is an outdated and flawed concept. For one thing, although I do not completely agree, I can totally empathise with those who think feminists possess double standards.

After all, how can women think it is their right to dress provocatively and yet at the same time expect not to be found sexually attractive?! What’s more, I find it slightly ironic that feminists have to beg permission for political equality from the very patriarchal society that first established the need for female subjugation.

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In this way, it is plausible that feminism may  even be damaging to the struggle for gender equality. For example –whether rightly or wrongly – the very mention of the word causes politicians, and even a large proportion of public opinion to immediately judge and marginalize the associated campaign. In some ways, it’s hard not to empathise with this viewpoint.

Although it shouldn’t be taken for the majority, some feminist groups actively attack and criticise men and the patriarchal system, so it’s no small wonder feminist ideas are largely derided! Furthermore,  feminism inadvertently segregates women as a group fundamentally different to (and sometimes opposed to) men. How can we expect total equality if we are always separated from the ‘dominant’ sex?

Taking this into view, it may seem more natural for us to dispose of feminism all together, and look for other strategies for achieving gender equality. But having said this, maybe we should first  ask whether we should change feminism, or whether society should in fact change to be more tolerant of bodies which challenge it. I make no pretences that  I can even attempt to answer this question, but it is something that we should at the very least consider; we shouldn’t dismiss feminism just because it is uncomfortable for some to acknowledge.

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Perhaps we should now look towards a ‘deeper’ form of change; instead of moving towards political change, we should focus on rewriting the very ideologies which underpin the patriarchal ethos  that constitutes society. It’s the possibility of radical restructurings such as this, that makes the future of feminism a blurry and uncertain one.

Maybe in the future, we will accept the impossibility of total sexual equality, and move towards degendering instead: breaking down the barriers of gender so that everyone is considered of one equal gender. Although this future presents the potential for a level gender playing field, feminists would nevertheless lose their right to celebrate femininity as a defining feature of who we are.

Overall, one of the underlying questions provoked by the barriers that feminism now faces seems to ask whether we should adjust our behaviours for a ‘quiet life’, or whether we should demand society to change in order to accept us. If you ask me, the pop concept of ‘old school’ feminism seems to have grown redundant , and all though I’m in no way advocating giving up fighting for sexual equality, I think it’s time we moved above and beyond feminism.

Thanks for all you’ve done, feminism, but it’s time to move over and let a new wave of egalitarians step in.

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Discussion31 Comments

  1. avatar

    From my experience of feminists, they have entirely lived up to the aggressive stereotype.

    I’m a woman, and if you’re female and say you don’t consider yourself a feminist, you are often met with anger. It’s this precisely which makes me unable to identify with feminism! I’ve even experienced aggression directly within SUSU’s very own femsoc! Whilst welcoming on the whole, if you disagree in the slightest you’re met with scorn and disgust.

    Sorry ladies, but having a different opinion is no excuse to direct your anger at others!

    • avatar
      Kerry Sclater

      Well said Anon, I think the whole point of what feminism should stand for is equality, and welcoming new and different beliefs.

  2. avatar
    Proud Feminist

    I can’t help but think that the author has never actually met a feminist, and is instead using the Daily Mail as a guide to what feminism is and why you should hate it. Yes there are radical man-hating feminists, but they are in the minority, and today many feminist groups actively try and include men. Feminism is a movement for equality between the genders, most feminists don’t believe that women are somehow ‘better’ than men or want to punish men, they just want to be able to vote, work, get divorced, and many other everyday rights that we often take for granted.

    For me, ‘After all, how can women think it is their right to dress provocatively and yet at the same time expect not to be found sexually attractive?!’ is the most ridiculous sentence I’ve read in a while. I don’t mind someone finding me sexually attractive whatever I’m wearing, and if you want to, go ahead and chat me up. What I have a problem with is when a man squeezes my breasts as I walk past him, shouts something very sexually aggressive at me, or follows me out of a club and sexually assaults me on the way home (which has happened to me). Sexually assaulting someone is not the same as finding someone attractive

    • avatar
      Kerry Sclater

      Hi there, thanks for your feedback, as this is an Opinion piece, its great to hear other people’s views- in no way do I consider my opinion to be the only or correct one. Firstly, I never said that I believe that the majority of feminists are radical and man hating, I just think that unfortunately, a large majority of people do. Secondly, I am truly sorry to hear about your experiences, and as I said in the article, I don’t think we should ever stop fighting against horrific acts such as this, or for gender equality in general, I just happen to think that feminism is not the way to achieve this any more- whether this be due to flaws of feminism, or a society that is simply intolerant of their views. If you wanted it would be great to hear a follow up article from you, or anyone else with a different viewpoint. After all, for me that’s what feminism should be- tolerance and equality of views.

    • avatar

      The “we encourage men too” argument supporting feminism would get a lot more respect if they changed the name away from “feminism” implying the females deserve different treatment. I’m all for gender equality, so I say “I’m all for gender equality.”

      You comment regarding you being assaulted is sad – sorry you had to experience it. I’m a man. I’ve never sexually assaulted someone. Women rape men, men rape men, women rape women.
      In fact, I can think of more than one occasion where I’ve been groped and kissed against my consent by a woman – so if I follow your logic, Proud Feminist, I should become a proud Man..i…mist(?)

      A large proportion of suicide bombers class themselves as Muslims. So should we hate on all Muslims? NO! Because in the scale of things, virtually no Muslims are suicide bombers, and not all men are rapists. Rapists are rapists. Don’t insult a gender and lump them in with men.

  3. avatar

    I am a feminist. Yes I am hairy. Yes I am butch. Yes I wear jeans. Yes I get frustrated by the level of bigotry present in society. Yes I am of the bizarre notion that both men and women are people. Yes I am of the even crazier notion that everybody deserves the same rights and opportunities regardless of genitalia. If you agree with these ravings of a mad-person, then you are a feminist, if you disagree then please feel free to put your insecurities aside and grow-up.

    I am also male.

  4. avatar

    Feminism IS the fight for equality for both women and men. It is not women saying “we are better than men”, it is human beings acknowledging that a person’s sex shouldn’t have any effect on how that person is treated.

    Saying “I am a feminist” means “I believe in equality for all human beings”. A feminist IS an egalitarian. So someone saying they aren’t a feminist is frankly, worrying.

    People constantly misunderstand feminism, I believe due to the “femi” part of the word, and think that it is a female crusade against men. That is NOT the case and frankly just highlights the fact that we are so far from equality because people don’t want to even be associated with something they, incorrectly, think is all to do with women.

    Please, stop being so ignorant.

    Also, regarding the provocative clothing statement, you are just perpetuating the “victim blaming” issue we have in society. Most women would acknowledge wanting to be seen as sexually attractive – HOWEVER that is NOT the same thing as thinking it is ok to be groped by strangers in public. e.g. You can look, and you can like, but you cannot touch without my permission. Frankly your statement shocks me – are you the sort of person who asks, when hearing about a sexual assault, “well what was she wearing?” That is a whole other horrific issue. I suggest looking up the Everyday Sexism project and educating yourself.

    I find this article horrific. If I come across as mean I do apologise but when writing on a public platform, one that represents our university, you should really make an attempt to fully educate yourself about a topic before blindly stating things as you have done.

    • avatar
      Kerry Sclater

      Hi Lacey, once again thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d firstly like to say that in the article I’ve not tried to define or dispute what feminism ‘IS’, I’ve just remarked that in my opinion, it is not as effective today due to how people perceive it.
      Secondly to equate feminism and egalitarianism is in my view a little reductionist, as they are both such expansive and un-fixed, ever changing concepts. In regards to you calling me ignorant, I take slight offense. I make no pretense that I hold some superior knowledge of feminism- not one person can hope to ‘know’ it completely, as it means different things to so many people. Also, it is an opinion, not factual piece, for which I tried to take an open and considered approach. In some ways, it may seem ignorant that you would just immediately dismiss my views, simply because you do not agree (although of course I’m not suggesting you should).
      Moving on to the provocative clothing statement, perhaps this statement came out a little more ambiguous then I hoped. I am totally against victim blaming, and am very familiar with the Everyday Sexism project, but it is also interesting to consider that some women also act sexually inappropriately towards men.
      Finally, although this is a University newspaper, I have made it very clear that these are my personal views, and they do not represent the university. Its comments like these that do help me educate myself on the topic, so thanks for showing how I may not be right- but then again I still have a right to my opinion.

    • avatar

      Hi Lacey I think that the article was written for the author to express her opinion and you should either write an article in response to what she wrote and comment only on how the article was written. Comments like ‘don’t be so ignorant’ are unnecessary and if that was your ‘opinion’ then mine is that you’re a very nasty person. If I come across as mean, I do apologise.

    • avatar

      Lacey, you’re really living up to the stereotype that feminists are aggressive. Instead of saying why you disagree, you began to throw in personal insults towards the author, such as calling her ignorant. Sorry but you haven’t done a very good job of convincing ME why I would want to associate with feminism.

      I stand by my original comment.

  5. avatar

    Many thanks Kerry for writing this article but I can’t help feeling like you’ve never really talked to contemporary feminists (both male and female) about what modern day feminism represents to millions of people across the globe.

    What could have been a really thought provoking and insightful piece seems lost and bogged down in generalizations and lack of research and facts.

    You claim that feminism is redundant and has ‘all but lost its meaning’ but if that was the case would you have written this piece? Would sites like the Everyday Sexism project be as popular? Would journalists continue to ask the ‘are you a feminist?’ to well know female figures (from the likes of Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon and Lena Dunham to name but a few in recent press) and use their responses as the main focus of their articles?

    I’m not trying to criticize or discourage you, but having shared similar views a few years ago when I believed that I understood what feminism was, that it was okay for guys (and girls) to refer to each other as bitches or sluts, and to remain quiet about such common issues associated with these terms and beyond, I can see that you have a way to go in understanding how powerful, important and life-changing contemporary feminism can be.

    It’s not a set of values or a movement that is solely for women, or for females that are strong ‘male-haters’, or sexually attractive or victimized. It’s for everyone in the world who has ever experienced the feeling of being told that they are inferior, whether in body or mind, (whether it’s because one should act like a ‘lady’ or a man should define his masculinity through his ability to ‘man up’).
    Feminism exists because of people feeling like society has invisible social markers that say these sexist viewpoints are correct.

    On another note, I’m really keen to know why you called this article ‘Feminists: Man Up’ as it contradicts your very spot on idea of the potential for a world where gender ideologies does not divide people.

    If Feminism can’t help to make the world a better place by giving it more choice and less restrictions,(take the amazing work of Wendy Davies the other week for example), then what are these ‘other strategies’ that can?

    I would love to see a ‘Part Two’ of this article that strips down those ‘images of bra burning’ (a myth formed around the Miss America Protest of 1968) and butch feminists (personally, never met one) and tries to help explain the ideology and well meaning flaws of feminism that can help change both male and female perceptions of what equality can be.

    Feminism ain’t perfect but it still makes a change, everyday.
    It stills inspires people to speak out about issues that affect both themselves and a wider community in a selfless fashion, and that to me, is worth keeping around.

    • avatar
      Kerry Sclater

      Hi Natalie, thanks for your in-depth response- it has raised many interesting points to my attention, and thank you for replying with respect. I completely agree that feminism can be empowering and life-changing, but in the long run, for radical change, I think that perceptions such as bra-burners and man haters stacked against it (which I don’t personally believe to be true) are stopping it from being the catalyst it seeks to be.
      I think the main real flaw of feminism is that it relies on the patriarchal society to deign to allow the changes it seeks: feminists fight at the authorities mercy to grant changes such as the vote, equal pay etc. In this way I find ideas such as Bem’s androgyny and Judith Butler’s theory of the performativity of gender more interesting in terms of what I termed as ‘radical restructurings’ and a true gender equality.
      The headline was an attempt at a tongue-in-cheek parody of what a significant amount of people may think associated with feminist stereotypes (although mostly myths). I realise that I have barely scratched the surface on this expansive field, so thanks for your feedback, and who knows- maybe in a few years my opinion will have changed, but for now, although I have immense respect for it, I just think feminism needs an update.

    • avatar

      How anyone can take a cause that fights for the rights and interests of women and women alone, and call it egalitarian, is a mystery to me.

      We actually already have a word for egalitarianism.
      It’s called egalitarianism.

      • avatar
        Kerry Sclater

        That’s one of the flaws of feminism I was trying to highlight. By turning to ideas such as degendering and androgynous societies, we can achieve true egalitarianism- if there is no differentiating gender, there is no gender inequality.

        • avatar

          I’ve found you’re comments on the concept of removing gender identity altogether being a possible solution and interesting take on things.

          However, I actually think a really important step towards equality of opportunity and position in society being to identify the inherent inequalities.

          I feel that to be successful we have to understand that men and women are biologically different in a number of ways, and at times a one size fits all approach does not always work.

          If you take the example of the gender pay gap the problems are more deeply routed in how work and society is structures than it can first appear.

          Up until having a child myself and my wife were equal in our ability to work. We then had a child. Due to her physically having to carry the child, and our access to maternity pay (with poor access for men) she took around a year out of work. As we’re the same age this puts her 1 year behind me in her career.

          We then get to a year old we put our child in nursery, at £500 per month for just 3 days a week (which is relatively cheap!) we can’t afford to have us both working 5 days a week, as I had greater earnings and greater potential for career development, and in response to financial pressures I become the 5 days a week worker, and my wife 2 days. This also acts to accelerate my experience gains, and potential for career development, further entrenching the potential pay gap.

          If we had greater access to cheaper child care we perhaps could make different decisions, but in the current set up these are tough to make. We also live in a society where over working is praised and expected, with part time working being looked down upon.

          It tough to solve, but I think understanding that there are differences, and setting up societal structure which take into account these differences to even out opportunity would go a long way to solving many of these problems,

      • avatar

        Also, as a man, I would like to know what feminism is doing about:

        1. The lack of support given to male victims of domestic abuse worldwide.
        2. The legal definition of rape in the UK, which defines rape as only possible through penetration, presumably on the (completely false) grounds that no man can achieve an erection against his will.
        3. The fact that a woman in the US can list any man on a birth certificate as the father of a child, without proof, making him liable for child support payments.
        4. The increasingly apparent numbers of false rape accusations made against men, particularly in the Western world, not to mention the huge disparity in severity of punishment between men and women for such a crime.

        I could go on but I imagine I will be accused of mansplaining and spouting MRA nonsense.

        • avatar

          1. Feminists have been a driving force behind domestic violence being taken seriously per se. No feminist thinks that women should be allowed to beat men, or that men should not be supported in such cases.
          2. Feminsts have been a driving force behind sexual violence being taken seriously per se. No feminist thinks that women should be allowed to sexually assault men.
          3. Feminists have been a driving force behind childcare equality per se. No feminist thinks that women should be allowed to fraudulently extort money from men.
          4. Feminists have been a driving force behind ensuring the police investigate and prosecute rape claims seriously. No feminist thinks that rape claims should not be investigated fairly, and no feminist thinks an act of sexual violence is any less serious when committed by a woman.

          Hope that helps.

        • avatar

          A few women make false claims of rape, which is abhorrent and I’ve never come across any feminist who advocates false rape claims. Bling feminism for a failure of the legal system (dominated by men at the top) is ridiculous.

          Your other issues have similar responses – failure by a system still dominated by men at the very top. Feminists want to change that system to make it more equitable for women and men, not make it worse for men

      • avatar

        Because when were talking about historical, pervasive, deep seated structural oppression, it’s very often the case that you need to focus specifically on particular oppressed groups and bring about their equality in targeted, proactive ways. Striving for basic (typically legal) equality is very rarely enough to bring about substantive equality, regrettable as this may be.

  6. avatar

    “how can women think it is their right to dress provocatively and yet at the same time expect not to be found sexually attractive?!”

    I think the point is rather that one ought to be able to dress how one pleases without being assaulted or intimidated. Just as someone ought to be able to dress as a boxer without being punched in the face by passers-by.

    “some feminist groups actively attack and criticise men and the patriarchal system, so it’s no small wonder feminist ideas are largely derided!”

    You praise women in section 1 for attacking the patriarchal system, so it seems odd to deride them for doing the same today. Presumably there are cases where minority groups quite properly attack established power structures, even in an aggressive way? Further, it seems odder still to treat a movement’s being met with derision or hostility as evidence for the wrongness of its ideas. I’m pretty sure Gandhi had something to say about that.

    “Perhaps we should now look towards a ‘deeper’ form of change; instead of moving towards political change, we should focus on rewriting the very ideologies which underpin the patriarchal ethos that constitutes society.”

    That’s not an argument against feminism. That is feminism!

    Seriously, 90% of this article is spot on. Feminism has done a hell of a lot for equality – check. There’s still loads to do to reach equality – check. To do this we need to challenge patriarchal structures, – check. Treating men and women as fixed and homogeneous groups is often unhelpful – check. I just don’t see why you’ve framed it as a critique of feminism. It’s a defence!

    • avatar
      Kerry Sclater

      Hi Male Feminist, thanks for the response, it’s good to know the article is provoking thought and consideration.
      In response to the provocative clothing statement, what I was more trying to get at was that by accentuating our femaleness through clothing, we are forever setting ourselves up as ‘different’ and ‘other’ to men. Although I in no way think it should connote inferiority to express femininity, as previously mentioned I think that a more realistic way of achieving true gender equality would be degendering, or an androgynous society, rather than emphasising our sexual dimorphism.

      I do praise people for questioning the patriarchal society, but the more outright attacks (whether founded on truth or myth) towards men and their domination certainly doesn’t do feminism any favours. As I tried to imply in the article, I don’t necessarily think it’s right that feminism is sometimes met with hostility, but it is simply a fact- regardless of how ‘correct’ feminist ideas are.

      I agree that feminism shares the same goals as the ‘deeper form of change’, but I just think it is not our best bet for achieving it. I’ve tried not to frame it as just a critique of feminism, but my opinion of an overview of just some of its strengths, weaknesses, and alternatives. I hope this came across.

      • avatar

        Hi Kerry,

        With the clothing thing (and more generally) I’m not convinced that one need advocate androgenity or then settle for gender inequality. It seems to me that the idea that people might be different but that this shouldn’t matter one iota in terms of their rights or prospects is eminently achievable (as you note, we’ve come along way already). And to me, allowing for people to express themselves however they wish whilst maintaining equal rights seems a far more desirable outcome than equality through homogeneity.

        And I don’t really get the point that because feminists are criticised for attacking sites of power, we ought to try something else. Every oppressed group is criticised, ridiculed and sneered at by the powers it is attacking! Should the anti-apartheid campaigners in South Africa have given up on their ideals because they were sneered at by those in power? What about the gay rights movement, which was met with hostility for decades? That was surely a battle worth sticking with wasn’t it? In general, a movement that doesn’t inspire hostility or ridicule from the powers that be is a movement that doesn’t stand for anything. Every bit of justice and fairness ever achieved has been done with those pushing for it being attacked and disparaged along the way. Let’s not use this fact as something which stops us calling out injustice when we see it.

        • avatar
          Kerry Sclater

          Hi Rich, thanks for the comment, some of your points have really made me think. I certainly agree that homogeneity is not the most desirable outcome in terms of how we express our identities, I just think we need a more homogenous outlook on those who are different: realising that fundamentally we are all humans and all deserve the same rights. I have never said that women should dress less provocatively or androgynously, I just said I can empathise with why some people may take issue with this.

          Your second point is very true, some of the most important changes to human rights have arisen from campaigns met with hostility and derision. Yet I think although feminism has- and continues- to achieve life changing feats, next to strategies which aim to change rather than fight the system (as I have mentioned in other comments) it is less effective. At the end of the day, I have the same interests and goals as any ‘typical’ feminist (whatever that it is), I just envisage different ways of achieving them.

  7. avatar

    Here’s a topical question for all you feminists.. Explain to me why men and women (now) get paid the same for winning Wimbledon and the reasoning behind the equality fight that happened for that to happen?

    If I did 3hrs 9 mins work, I’d expect and rightly so to be paid more than someone who did the same work but only did it for 1hr 21 mins to use this year’s finals durations as an example.

    • avatar
      Proud Feminist

      Well done for finding one of the few examples where women get paid more than men and making it seem like the norm. For every £1 a man makes, a woman will only earn about 80p (similar figures in the USA). There is no reason for this other than gender, as across the generations men get paid more than women, although there have been signs of change.

      The trouble with the Wimbledon prize money is that tennis doesn’t take a fixed time – it is possible (I believe – I’m not an expert in tennis) that the women could play a longer match than the men, although I know there’s the issue of number of sets.

      But as you mention sport, why is only 3% of sports coverage given to women’s sport?

        • avatar

          That’s not really a correct appraisal at all. What you’re actually advocating is a per minute rate for tennis players earning, not sure if that would be different depending on the stage.

          It is possible for a woman to win Wimbledon and have played more minutes of tennis than a male winner.

          It’s also frustrating for there to be so much inequality in society and to have attempts to change it derailed by these sorts of arguments.

  8. avatar

    I really think that you should have researched feminism more thoroughly before writing this. Correct me if I’m wrong but this sounds like you’re attacking the stereotype of feminism, rather than looking at the modern feminist movement: the stereotype of man-haters selfishly looking out to elevate women over men is, as you suggest, not one that could take on the fight for gender equality – but that’s not what modern day feminism is, at all, I’m sorry.

    And I don’t think any more needs to be said on how short sighted your comment on provocative clothing was, but for my part I was deeply shocked when I came across that particular snippet.

    Perhaps this article has served its purpose in terms of starting a debate, but I was disappointed by this piece and I wouldn’t even classify myself as any kind of an expert in this field at all.

    • avatar
      Kerry Sclater

      Hi Anna, thanks for the comment, I think the fact that there can be so many different and opposing viewpoints really highlights the expansiveness and diversity of feminism- as well as the fact that perhaps there is no definition of what it is, as it is different for everybody.

      I have attempted to conduct thorough research into the field, and it is something that I have always been interested in. True, I may have focused more on outdated stereotypes of feminism, but that is only because that is what I feel it is seen as in a large proportion of the public eye.

      I’m sorry you are disappointed by the piece, and no- I certainly wouldn’t classify myself as an expert either, I’m simply someone sharing their opinion on what they think is the relevance of feminism today. I am glad the article has started a debate, as it has caused people to think and interact with the concept- although that was not the purpose of the article.
      As I’ve said before, anyone who is willing to write a responsive article is more than welcome to, I believe that only in sharing as many contrasting views as possible can we help to better understand and engage with the topic.

      • avatar

        Is it possibly a little chicken and egg, the article is focusing on the problems with the public image of feminism by analysing what is in the “public eye” saying that due to this image perhaps feminism is not a viable way forward, and yet publishing this article serves to perpetuate these topics and images.

        I would however applaud you for putting the effort in to writing this article, and for responding to all the comments with thoughtful answers.

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