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Pro-feminism refers to support of the cause of feminism without implying that the supporter is a member of the feminist movement. The term is most often used in reference to men who are actively supportive of feminism and of efforts to bring about gender equality. A number of pro-feminist men are involved in political activism, most often in the areas of women's rights and violence against women.

As feminist theory found support among a number of men who formed consciousness-raising groups in the 1960s, these groups were differentiated by preferences for particular feminisms and political approaches. However, the inclusion of men's voices as "feminists" presented issues for some. For a number of women and men, the word "feminism" was reserved for women, whom they viewed as the subjects who experienced the inequality and oppression that feminism sought to address. In response to this objection, other terms like antisexism and pro-feminism, were coined and defended by various groups.[1]

There are pro-feminist men's groups in most nations in the Western world. The activities of pro-feminist men's groups include anti-violence work with boys and young men in schools, offering sexual harassment workshops in workplaces, running community education campaigns, and counseling male perpetrators of violence.

Pro-feminist men also are involved in men's health, men's studies, the development of gender equity curricula in schools, and many other areas. Pro-feminist men who support anti-pornography feminists participate in activism against pornography including anti-pornography legislation.

This work is sometimes in collaboration with feminists and women's services, such as domestic violence and rape crisis centers.

The term "pro-feminist" is also sometimes used by people who hold feminist beliefs or who advocate on behalf of feminist causes, but who do not consider themselves to be feminists, per se. It is also used by those who do not identify with, or wish for others to identify them with, the feminist movement. Some activists of both genders will not refer to men as "feminists" at all, and will refer to all pro-feminist men as "pro-feminists", even if the men in question refer to themselves as "feminists". There is also criticism from the 'other side' against "pro-feminist" men who refuse to identify as feminist. Most major feminist groups, most notably the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation, refer to male activists as feminists rather than as pro-feminists.


Pro-feminist men

Pro-feminist men are considered by some to be a stream of the modern men's movement sympathetic towards feminism. Pro-feminist men seek to add male voices to feminism and advocate change by both women as well as men in their gender relations and social, political and institutional structures.

Issues on which pro-feminists usually campaign include violence against women, sexism[2], inequalities in pay and promotion at work, sex trafficking, and women's rights to birth control. Marge Piercy (1969) argued that liberal male politicians will sometimes espouse feminist claims to gain votes, despite dubious backgrounds and actions.[3] Pro-feminist men who support anti-pornography feminists also campaign against pornography.

As there is no centralized "movement" the motivation and goals of pro-feminist men are various:

  • a sympathy for feminism revolving around a simple acceptance that men and women are equal and should thus be treated equally, that is, women should have the access to jobs and areas of public life as men do.
  • a passionate and profound commitment that has changed every corner of their lives.
  • "...a radical questioning of traditional Western models of thought, of the ways in which these privilege masculine ways of being and knowing."[4]

Core beliefs

Early writings and assumptions

Pro-feminist men are sympathetic to feminist understandings of society and are often social activists like August Bebel[5] or writers with a sense of social justice like Shakespeare[6].

Early writings from the Pro-feminist men's movement in the U.S. include Jon Snodgrass's A Book of Readings for Men against Sexism, Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner's collection of essays, Men's Lives, and Joseph Pleck's The Myth of Masculinity. Three basic assumptions of these early texts included the distinction between sex and gender, the treatment of gender as a social construct, and the position that men are harmed by proscriptive gender roles. Building on this last assumption, early Pro-feminist men's texts assumed a corollary that if men were made aware of these conditions, they would relinquish their social privileges. [1]

They believe that:

  • women suffer inequalities and injustices in society, while men receive various forms of power and privilege.
  • the current, dominant model of manhood or masculinity is oppressive to women, as well as limiting for men themselves. Pro-feminists believe that men must take responsibility for their own behaviours and attitudes and work to change those of men in general.
  • both personal and social change are vital.

Just as there is substantial diversity and disagreement within feminism, there is diversity among pro-feminist men. For example, the extent to which men are also limited or harmed by societal gender relations is an area of disagreement. Some men emphasize the privilege received by virtue of being men in a patriarchal or male-dominated society, while others emphasise the ways in which the gender roles laid down by patriarchal society constrict both men and women.

Some pro-feminist men argue that those who emphasize the latter, or who even claim that, like women, men too are "oppressed", are not really pro-feminist or are not pro-feminist enough. Others make a distinction between "radical pro-feminist" and "liberal pro-feminist" men, and emphasize their shared commitments and similarities.

Pro-feminist men typically also recognize the importance of other forms of injustice and other kinds of social relations. Pro-feminists assume that class, race, sexuality, age and other such things are important influences on the relations between and among men and women.

Pro-feminist men who are politically active have tended to concentrate on a number of specific issues, such as men's violence.

Pro-feminism compared to feminism

Some feminists and pro-feminists believe that it is inappropriate for men to call themselves "feminists". This argument takes a variety of forms, including the following: Feminism is a movement and a body of ideas developed by, for, and about women. Men can never fully know what it is like to be a woman. By calling themselves feminists, men could preempt and take over the feminist movement, thus stifling women's concerns and voices. There is also internal disagreement within this "movement", for example with pro-feminist me-wing and socialist movements, anti-racist struggles, and so on. Those who claim that "feminist" can apply equally to men and women often point out that the arguments made by advocates of the term "pro-feminist" are based in notions of biological determinism and essentialism, and are actually contrary to feminist principles. A clear distinction between "feminist" and "pro-feminist" is also troubled by transsexual and transgender people, whose bodies and performance of a gendered body (in the sense that Judith Butler defines performance) make even the most basic biological distinction between categories of men and women a difficult task.

Pro-feminists claim to be anti-sexist, and anti-patriarchal, but they argue that they are not anti-male. Some pro-feminist men believe that men have potential for good and believe that there is a potential for "backlash" within the men's movement, a potential for the movement to turn towards the defence of what they see as men's privilege and position, and some would say that this has already occurred.[7] While all pro-feminist men assume that men must act to dismantle gender injustice, some argue that a men's movement is not the way to do this.[8] They advocate instead that pro-feminists build alliances and coalitions with other progressive groups and movements (such as feminism, gay and lesbian liberation, left-wing and socialist movements, anti-racist struggles, and so on).


Some men, such as Warren Farrell and Glenn Sacks who are associated with men's rights state that they were previously pro-feminist, and heavily involved in feminist organisations. Such men have criticised the pro-feminist approach as failing to recognise real issues affecting men and not having effective strategies to help men both address their own issues or to support women and children.

See also

Significant pro-feminist writers


  1. ^ a b Clatterbaugh, Kenneth (Spring 2000). "Literature of the U.S. Men's Movement". Signs 25 (3): 883–894. doi:10.1086/495485. Retrieved 2007-12-31.  
  2. ^ The Origins and Causes of Misogyny, retrieved on May 31st 2007.
  3. ^ The Grand Coolie Damn, retrieved on May 31st 2007.
  4. ^ Flood, Michael (2002-01-30). "Frequently asked questions about pro-feminist men and pro-feminist men's politics". XYOnline. XYOnline. Retrieved 2009-05-01.  
  5. ^ The Recovery of August Bebel, retrieved on May 31st 2007.
  6. ^ Feminism in Shakespeare, retrieved on May 31st 2007.
  7. ^ Flood, M. (1998). Men’s Movements. Community Quarterly (Special Issue: Masculinities) 46.
  8. ^ Flood, M. (1998). Men’s Movements. Community Quarterly (Special Issue: Masculinities) 46.

External links

  • Achilles Heel, magazine of pro-feminist, radical men
  • XY magazine, a web site featuring articles illustrating various pro-feminist perspectives and issues and links to other pro-feminist men's sites
  • NOMAS, a web site for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism. Analysis focuses on the interaction of opressions: sexism, heterosexism, racism, class, and so on


  • Brittan, Arthur 1989 Masculinity and power, Oxford: Basil Blackwell
  • Clatterbaugh, Kenneth 1990 Contemporary perspectives on masculinity: men, women, and politics in modern society, Colorado & Oxford: Westview Press
  • Connell, R.W. 1987 Gender and power: society, the person and sexual politics, Sydney: Allen & Unwin
  • Connell, R.W. 1995 Masculinities, Sydney: Allen & Unwin
  • Cooper, Mick and Baker, Peter 1996 The MANual: the complete man's guide to life, London: Thorsons
  • Edley, Nigel and Wetherell, Margaret 1995 Men in perspective: practice, power and identity, London: Prentice-Hall
  • Edwards, Tim 1993 Erotics and politics: gay male sexuality, masculinity, and feminism, New York: Routledge
  • Haddad, Tony (ed) 1993 Men and masculinities: a critical anthology, Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press
  • Kaufman, Michael (ed) 1987 Beyond patriarchy: essays by men on pleasure, power and change, New York: Oxford University Press
  • Kaufman, Michael 1993 Cracking the armour: power, pain and tstview Press
  • Segal, Lynne 1990 Slow motion: changing masculinities, changing men, London: Virago pro-feminist men respond to the mythopoetic men's movement (and the mythopoetic leaders answer), Philadelphia: Temple University Press
  • Kimmel, Michael and Messner, Michael (eds) 1992 Men's lives, New York/Toronto: Macmillan/Maxwell (2nd edition)
  • Mac an Ghaill, Mairtin (ed) 1996 Understanding masculinities: Social relations and cultural arenas, Buckingham & Philadelphia: Open University Press
  • May, Larry and Robert Strikwerda (eds) 1992 Rethinking masculinity: philosophical explorations in light of feminism, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield
  • McLean, Chris, Carey, Maggie and White, Cheryl (eds) 1996 Men's ways of being, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press
  • Segal, Lynne 1990 Slow motion: changing masculinities, changing men, London: Virago
  • Snodgrass, Jon (ed) 1977 A book of readings: for men against sexism, Albion CA: Times Change Press
  • Stoltenberg, John 1990 Refusing to be a man: essays on sex and justice, CA & Suffolk: Fontana/Collins
  • Stoltenberg, John 1998 The end of manhood: a book for men of conscience, New York: Dutton

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