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Do Men Belong in the Women's Movement?

What role do men have in fighting for gender equality?

When Dan Wald, 24, began his matriculation at Ithaca College, he wasn’t thinking much about women’s issues. But then the biochemistry major from greater Boston began to hear stories about sexual assault from friends and something clicked. 

His big realization was that he should work with campus groups on sexual assault prevention not in spite of the fact that he is a guy, but precisely because he is one. Wald spent the rest of college bringing men in on the discussion of sexual violence and harassment and today he sits on the board of Students Active for Ending Rape.

“My whole life, rape had been framed as something you talk to your daughters about, and not your sons, but it is a men’s issue too,” Wald said.

After decades of feminism that was by women and for women, more and more men, like Wald, are coming around to the idea that men and feminism might just be good for one another.

Today there are more men than ever immersed in women’s issues and fighting for gender equality. They are taking women’s studies classes, contributing to feminist publications, attending conferences dedicated to men working on women’s issues, and advocating against sexual violence and for reproductive choice. And they are working with women who are realizing that gender equality might be better achieved with the participation of both sexes.

“We are now seeing that men can be allies to women, that they are being allies to women, and that men should be allies to women because it is in our own interest,” said Michael Kimmel, sociologist and co-author of the recently released The Guy’s Guide to Feminism  from Seal Press.

The book, written with educator and writer Michael Kaufman, is a primer for young men curious as to why gender equality should matter to them. It provides accessible descriptions of things like sex, body image and birth control, and pithily explains how they affect men’s lives as well.

Masculinity Crisis?

Some of the interest in feminism from men is a result of the perceived "masculinity crisis." The success of women in certain academic and professional spheres has led some guys to the proverbial, and retrograde, man cave, while others have seen it as an opportunity to do a little soul searching about masculinity.

The rise of gay activism over the past decade has also drawn more men to the women’s movement, due to the overlap of issues and objectives. Then there are those, in a direct manifestation of the personal is the political, who were raised by feminist mothers or are dating feminist women. And even if they don’t hear about it in their personal lives, the changing face of women over the past four decades has changed the way men think.

Tomas Matlack started  The Good Men Project because he found himself dissatisfied in his late 40s after spending decades as a breadwinner. He knew that women had gone through a communal soul-searching about work-life balance and thought men in similar circumstances would benefit from a similar discussion. His web magazine tackles “a lot of 'feminist' issues,” even though it is within the framework of a conversation on masculinity. The magazine, which aims to provide an alternative vision of masculinity from the alpha version found in glossy magazines, features pieces on topics like pornography, fatherhood, race, and aging. 

“We had women trying to get out of the house, and now we have men trying to get back in the house, and the whole world is trying to figure it out, and it is kind of a mess,” Matlack said.

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