Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

I'm a male feminist. No, seriously

By John Brougher, Special to CNN
updated 9:48 AM EDT, Tue October 8, 2013
Jimmy Carter has spent much of his time post-presidency as a human rights activist and author. The rights of women was high on the agenda during his <a href='http://www.cartercenter.org/news/features/p/human_rights/2013-policy-forum-remarks.html' target='_blank'>speech in May at the Carter Center conference</a> and now the former U.S. president wants to write a book on the treatment of women. In his book proposal, as <a href='http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/business/media/jimmy-carter-seeks-to-write-book-on-treatment-of-women.html?_r=1&amp;' target='_blank'>reported by The New York Times</a>, he wrote: "I am convinced that discrimination against women and girls is one of the world's most serious, all-pervasive and largely ignored violations of basic human rights." Jimmy Carter has spent much of his time post-presidency as a human rights activist and author. The rights of women was high on the agenda during his speech in May at the Carter Center conference and now the former U.S. president wants to write a book on the treatment of women. In his book proposal, as reported by The New York Times, he wrote: "I am convinced that discrimination against women and girls is one of the world's most serious, all-pervasive and largely ignored violations of basic human rights."
HIDE CAPTION
Famous men who are feminists
David Cameron
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Muhtar Kent
Warren Buffett
John Legend
Dalai Lama
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Male feminist John Brougher says feminism conjures images of radical ideology
  • Brougher identifies as a male feminist and often has to defend his position
  • Men have a crucial role to play in quashing sexism, says Brougher

Editor's note: John Brougher is the founder of MaleFeminists.com and the VP of marketing and nonprofit community at NGP VAN, a technology company. Follow him on Twitter. Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time. Each month, we meet two women at the top of their field, exploring their careers, lives and ideas.

(CNN) -- Feminism's gotten a bad rap lately. For many, even just the word itself conjures up images of radical ideology.

Pop music star Taylor Swift and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, to cite two famous examples, asserted that they're pro-equality, but won't identify as feminists.

Explaining her position in February of this year, Mayer noted that she didn't have the "militant drive" or "chip on her shoulder" that comes with feminism.

I'm not particularly militant, nor do I have a chip on my shoulder (I hope), but I get my share of weird reactions nonetheless. See, not only am I feminist, I'm a male feminist. People aren't always sure what to do with that.

"You're a man. Isn't that a contradiction?"

"Wait, are men allowed to be feminists?"

"Are you even a man at all?"

As far as I know, men are absolutely allowed to be feminists. And when I declare that I'm a feminist, I should explain what that word means to me.

Sexism doesn't just hurt women, it breaks our very humanity."
John Brougher

My feminism is a simple belief in equality. I'm a feminist because I believe that men and women are and should be equal, but we're not treated equally right now.

Read: Calls for action as female journalists get Twitter bomb threats

We see it in a distorted conception of female beauty, we see it in dehumanizing portrayals of women in film and on television, and we see it when the response to rape all too often isn't support, but consists of loud cries of "she was asking for it!" and "her skirt was really short!"

The basic sexism undergirding our world is so pervasive that I (and others) have grown up with it and see it at every stage of our lives.

From the much-discussed pay gap to constant street harassment to denying of basic rights to women and girls, we see it everywhere.

I'll never forget the meeting I was in a few years ago because the visitors to our office never made eye contact with my female manager.

I'll wager that they thought, perhaps unconsciously, that because I was a man, I was the boss. As an incredibly junior staffer, that was a wildly inaccurate assumption.

Some counter that men and women used to be unequal, but we're passed that.

A few even foolishly assert that this increasing focus on equalizing the playing field has spelled the "end of men."

And there's no doubt that we've made progress: in area after area, in country after country, we can point to some concrete signs that with advocacy and hard work, we're slowly getting closer to gender equality.

Read: Has 'sexist' Tony Abbott sunk 'gender war'?

But for many women, this progress doesn't mean that sexism's gone, it just means that it's different.

As E.J. Graff, writing for "The American Prospect," describes, for a lot of folks, sexism isn't a "deadly cancer [anymore]; rather, it's a steady low-grade fever that wears you down by degrees."

Women deserve to be treated as equal human beings, and it hurts every single one of us when that's not the case."
John Brougher

It's the hostile work environment that makes you feel unwelcome, it's the strange sports metaphors that don't resonate with everyone equally, it's the deferral to men as "authoritative" while women must still walk the line to avoid both being viewed as "passive" while not crossing over into "bossy" territory.

And even though sexism doesn't always cry out at the shrill pitch it once did, even though attacks on women can be increasingly subtle, men still have a crucial role to play.

Not only do we help create the inequality, gender norms, and messages that hurt and objectify women, but critically, we suffer from its barbs as well.

In a world that blames victims of rape, not rapists, our societies fundamentally don't value the humanity of half of us.

In a world that pays women far less than men for the same work (or denies women the opportunity to work at all), we ignore the possible contributions of countless leaders and entrepreneurs.

Hell, in a world that valorizes men who sleep around while shaming and seeking to control female sexual power, relationships of all kinds are stunted by false, inhuman understandings of who and what men and women are.

Sexism doesn't just hurt women, it breaks our very humanity.

And ultimately, that's why I'm a feminist. Because women deserve to be treated as equal human beings, and it hurts every single one of us when that's not the case.

And until we get a more equal world, I'll claim that title of "feminist" proudly and shout it from the rooftops.

I'll try not to get a chip on my shoulder, though.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Brougher.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
In 2006 she sold her business to Estée Lauder in a reported multi-million dollar deal, five years later she started a brand new company.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from women, though like so many inventors their names are lost in the pages of history.
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Leading Women hosted a Twitter Chat celebrating girls in science with guests including race car drivers, software developers and coders.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
There's a fine science to running a billion dollar company. Rosalind Brewer should know -- she used to study chemistry.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Join our twitter chat @CNNIwomen on October 9 at 5pm GMT/12pm EST and look for #CNNwomen #IDG14.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
STEM experts from Marissa Mayer to Weili Dai share their thoughts to celebrate International Day of the Girl.
updated 6:32 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
When it comes to buildings, they don't come much different than a mosque and a nightclub.
updated 9:20 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen -- or so the saying goes.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
These 12 fashion experts have millions of followers, but who is the most social woman in fashion?
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mindy Grossman has been the driving force behind making the Home Shopping Network both hip and profitable, but she still makes time for herself.
updated 9:18 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Nelly Ben Hayoun speaking at NASA Ames research center
Nelly Ben Hayoun is on a mission to convince the world to take threats such as asteroid strikes more seriously.
updated 10:33 PM EDT, Sun August 24, 2014
Shenan Chuang turned Ogilvy China into the world's third biggest ad agency, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout asks how she did it.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT