The Blog

I'm a Feminist and I Love Men

As feminist content floods the media in the run-up to the Feminism in London conference this weekend, the backlash from offended men, and strangely some women, accelerates.

I have never understood why one group fighting for their rights should be seen as an attack on another group that already has those rights.

I'm a feminist and I love men. I love my boyfriend, father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, friends. I am blessed to have wonderful men in my life, many of whom are feminist allies.

So when I complain about the crimes of men against women, I'm not talking about all those men, or you, if you're a nice man.

If you're not a rapist, misogynist or sleazebag, I'm not talking to you when I complain about rape culture, workplace sexism, or patriarchy.

If you're a nice man, why does it make you angry when I complain about those things?

Maybe this isn't about you.

This is about knowing that 85,000 women are raped every year in the UK and only a fraction of those cases end in prosecution. The fact that 12,000 men are raped too shouldn't mean we should shut up about the fact that we, as women, have a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted in our lifetime.

It's about being frightened because two women are killed every week in the UK by a former or current male partner. Yes, I know men get beaten up and killed by partners too, but not at anything like the same rate and rarely by women.

It's about being tired of earning 79p for every pound a man earns, whether we've taken time out to raise children or not. Being passed over for jobs or promotions in case we get pregnant at some point in our four or five working decades. Being dismissed for being too pretty and a potential distraction to the men in the office, or too ugly by not conforming to patriarchal beauty standards. Even getting the job and being told to take it as a compliment when a key client opens a meeting with a line that amounts to sexual harassment.

It's about wanting to end a culture that commodifies and prostitutes women and girls, calling the sex trade empowering for women, despite the horrific abuse they suffer. That photographs them naked in tacky magazines next to lines like "Win your girlfriend a boob job; help her to improve herself."

It's about street harassment, which we have been enduring since girlhood; intimidating shouts from groups of builders, van drivers, sexual touching on public transport and in nightclubs. Being told we're overreacting if we complain or clobber a man who's just sexually assaulted us.

To the men who stand with me against all this; thank you. I appreciate, respect and admire you for that. I'm not going to give you a gold star every day for doing the right thing, but it does mean a lot to have you on my side.

To those branding me a man-hater for raising these points, why is it offensive to you that I'm speaking out?

It's been said before that women are the only oppressed group expected to love their oppressor.

Many of us are feminists, yet how can we hate you when we're living with you, sleeping with you and bearing your children? There's a good chance the woman who bore you is a feminist and I doubt she hates you.

Yes, I know feminists who hate men. And I don't really blame them. Considering the stories I have heard and the things I have seen, I don't blame certain women for wanting to live completely apart from men.

And there are an awful lot of men who hate women.

For me, women's liberation, when it finally happens, will mean being able to choose to love and live with and raise children with men without fear or oppression. To fully participate in society at all levels. Or to choose our own way if that's what we want.

For my lesbian sisters, it's a different picture. They want to live their lives without having to justify their sexual preferences. Without living under the threat of "corrective rape". Without being written off as someone whose opinion doesn't matter because men don't stand a chance with them, so many don't bother to be nice to them.

We all have our priorities. Maybe you're a man who wants to raise awareness of issues affecting men that you don't feel are sufficiently addressed. Great! Power to you!

But let me go my way and fight for myself and my sisters, in the knowledge that I don't begrudge you anything.

It would be great if you could do me the same courtesy.