I have a handful of straight male friends I consider to be feminists. They know when to speak up on behalf of a female friend or colleague, and they know when to sit down, shut up, and listen. They’re working through their issues about women without foisting them upon the women in their lives. They gently explain feminism to other men in the woman-bashing conversations that happen behind even the most progressive closed doors. And they would all sooner die than call themselves feminists.
I can’t say I blame them. There’s something suspicious about anyone eager to identify with the oppressed. Many men seem to reach for the “feminist” label first to shore up their sensitive-dude bona fides and, second, to get a little female validation. (It works. Think of the praise lavished on Joseph Gordon-Levitt simply for saying what women have been saying all along: “There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole.”) And although we can all agreemen should care about feminism, the professional male feminist is a singularly ignoble creature in today’s media and politics landscape. Pasadena City College professor Hugo Schwyzer might have established the archetype when he wrote a poorly received column for Jezebel ("He Wants to Jizz on Your Face, But Not Why You Think" was a memorable entry), even as he was revealed to be a student-shtupping, suicidal-homicidal alcoholic who couldn’t handle his haters (but especially when they were women of color).