Let us start by looking back at the classical world of Homer’s Odyssey in which women were supposed to be beautiful – Helen’s was “the face that launched a thousand ships – and men were the ones sailing those ships, going on adventures, fighting the wars. Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus, stayed home and waited for her husband for 20 years.
And Circe, that early woman warrior, defended her island domain, and her own honor, by using her “feminine wiles” to tempt the men of Odysseus, drug them, and turn them into pigs!
Okay, she was a woman warrior, but was she a feminist? Certainly not in the modern sense: her world, the world of Homer was totally polarized with men as the actors, women as the acted upon. If a woman went against this scheme, she had to be a man-hater, and she had to be aggressive.
A remarkable number of people perceive this division, this war, everywhere they look.
But this is not how the modern feminist thinks. Gloria Steinem, original editor of Ms. Magazine and key to the feminist movement, or Filipina feminists Dr. Sylvia Claudio, or Aida Santos, or Dr. Margie Holmes might simply say Feminist Heaven will come when women and men have equal rights, equal respect, and equal understanding of their personhood, and their rights to actualize themselves. It will come when no one says “girls can’t do that” – or, when no one says “boys shouldn’t cry” or “Be a man!” It will come when there is respect for all gender preferences, when marriage can involve two men, two women, or one man and one woman. And when men do not try to dominate women, by physical force or emotional blackmail, and women do not try to dominate men by coquettishness, emotional blackmail, or any other method.
And the male feminist is a man who believes in this sort of equality, who accepts women as co-equals. In this as yet non-equal real world, he may be a person who fights for better reproductive health care for women, better health care for young children and adolescents. Or he may fight for the legal rights of women to be seen as equal partners within a marriage, or for the rights of girls to be accepted into scientific fields of study. He may choose to fight violence against women, or bullying of young people on the basis of gender preference.
Or he may not fight for anything; he may just go along his way quietly treating all people as equal.
He may be old, young, straight, gay, black, brown, or white.
He will not be a man who feels threatened by the Feminist Struggle, or by the very idea of marriage equality. He simply will not hold this polarized, confrontational world view. Of course he will see the injustices of the world, and he may see that he is in many ways personally advantaged. But he will not cling to male privilege. He will not be after power to wield over other people.
I have known many feminist men in my lifetime, so I know they do exist. I know many in Puerto Princesa, starting with the academic community and also the non-profit community: I would point to Ugat ng Kalusugan as having several male feminist staff members. They are real.
As a final note I’d like to say most feminists are quite fond of men. Many are in lively, happy relationships with men, while many have moved on to different types of relationships. And none of these relationships are a threat to anyone else.