Let’s start with a basic idea: of course you can be both a feminist and a man.
A feminist, as defined in Beyonce’s epic ‘Flawless’, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is nothing except, “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”. Seems reasonable, and these guys think so too.
In a 1991 interview with NME, Cobain said, “Rape is one of the most terrible crimes on Earth and it happens every few minutes. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there”.
Having witnessed his father physically abuse his mother as a child, Stewart gave a riveting speech about his experiences of domestic violence for Amnesty International UK in 2009.
“I know what it feels like to be on the very edge of losing control towards another person, towards a woman. I never actually did lose control, but I know what it feels like… But violence is a choice. And it’s a choice that a man makes. We can choose to stop it.”
“I’m joining many people all across the planet in a hope to end the rape culture”, said the Perks of Being a Wallflower star at the One Billion Rising march, which aims to call attention to violence against women. “One in three women in the world will experience domestic violence or rape in the course of their lifetime. To me, I grew up in a house full of women. I feel like all revolutionary causes should start with addressing misogyny”.
The Feminist Ryan Gosling tumblr (and spin-off books) have become hugely famous, but turns out Gosling cares about women’s issues in real life. After his film Blue Valentine was given an NC-17 rating because of a scene where a woman receives oral sex, he said:
“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film”.
Styles has been an enthusiastic advocate for HeForShe and isn’t afraid to call others out for saying things he finds derogatory. After saying that Stifler,‘objectifies women’, in another interview, Styles was asked if there was a dibs system in place in case he and his bandmates liked the same girl. Styles replied, “We feel like that objectifies women, and that’s not really what we’re about.”
When asked why he let his daughter, Willow, cut off all of her hair in a May 2012 interview with Parade, Smith said:
“When you have a little girl, it’s like, how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself”.
The Vampire Diaries star is outspoken about his support of women’s issues, and is the organiser of the Girls Impact the World film festival. “We have made it acceptable that women are spoken for and that needs to change now. When we men learn to celebrate the true and irrefutable power of women, we can then truly celebrate the progress of men”.
His advice on how to be a good feminist, of any gender, is to “Surround yourself with empowering people that reinforce your skills and talents, regardless of the expectations of conventional society”.
McPherson is a former NFL and CFL quarterback who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Since retiring from football he’s founded several outreach and mentoring programs, and says that the standard construction of masculinity limits men’s emotions and well-being as well as contributing to domestic violence, stalking, and rape. He speaks on panels for the UN about feminism and says that, “In order for the violence to end, we as men have to be a part of the dialogue, and have to be a part of the solution”.
Watch this brilliant video where he talks about these issues. He often asks men what was the worst insult a boy could hear in primary school, which was usually, ‘You look like a girl’. He says, “We don’t raise boys to be men, we raise boys not to be women. Because we don’t tell boys what it means to be a whole person. It’s saying that women and girls are less than, and as long as you’re in the group of guys and you don’t side with women then you’re okay… Men have been damaged by patriarchy. If we want men and boys to stop violence we have to address the way they’re being socialised”
He’s optimistic about the future. “Heterosexism is being challenged in an open forum in social media and media outlets… it feels like a big switch because the people who were previously voiceless now have a voice and they have allies”.
Legend, a nine-time Grammy winning artist, organised a concert in 2014 to support Chime for Change, with Beyonce as the headlining act. Chime for Change promotes education, healthcare and legal protection for girls and women around the world, and Legend is a passionate supporter.
“All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered – it leads to a better society.”
A favourite with many for his brutal comedy, C.K. began to investigate feminism after an incident where a fellow comedian made a joke about men raping a heckler. “I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that have made me enlightened to things I didn’t know,” he told Jon Stewart in an interview. “This woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives … That’s part of me now that wasn’t before.”
Hamm has starred in internationally acclaimed series Mad Men for the past eight years, playing the ruthless, womanising Don Draper. In real life, Hamm cares deeply for the rights of women and girls, and has appeared several times on Rookie’s Ask A Grown Man segment.
When describing the social landscape of the early 60’s in which Mad Men is set, Hamm says, “Working wives were a rarity, because their place was in the home, bringing up the kids. The women who did work were treated as second class citizens, because it was a male-dominated society. That was a fact of life then. But it wouldn’t be tolerated today, and that’s quite right in my book … People look back on those days through a thick veil of nostalgia, but life was hard if you were anything other than a rich, powerful, white male.”
The blockbuster Bond for the 21st century, Craig says of his latest feature, Spectre, “Hopefully my Bond is not as sexist and misogynistic as [earlier incarnations]. The world has changed”. In 2011 Craig cross-dressed in a video for the WeAreEquals campaign:
Dench narrates the video as M, asking, “We’re equals, aren’t we 007? Yet it is 2011 and a man is still likely to earn more money than a woman, even one doing the same job… women are responsible for two thirds of the work done worldwide yet earn only ten percent of the total income and own one per cent of the property… and every year 70 million girls are deprived of even a basic education and a staggering 60 million are sexually assaulted on the way to school.” The two minute film concludes: “So are we equals? Until the answer is yes we must never stop asking.”
Foley is a four-time world wrestling champion, having won three WWE championships and one TNA World Heavyweight Championship and a list of endless wins that have seen him wearing many big, sparkly belts.
Throughout his life Foley has been a huge Tori Amos fan, and used to listen to her songs before matches to give him confidence. When he met her he decided to investigate the sexual violence support charity she had co-founded, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). He was struck by the need for support and since 1994 has worked as a dedicated volunteer on their online hotline service. During a 15-month period ending in April 2011, Foley logged more than 550 hours talking to victims online.
“So many survivors choose to suffer in silence, so that their stories may not often be heard by the males in their lives, husbands, sons, friends. But the psychological trauma of rape is so severe, and the incidents so frequent, that I believe every man knows somebody who has been a victim, whether they realise it or not. I probably seem like an unlikely advocate for survivors, but I think we could make real progress on this issue if more unlikely advocates got involved.”
[Editor’s note: Mick Foley is also the author of Tietam Brown, a wonderful book that you should read.]
There’s a lot of movement to engage men in the dialogue around feminism including the UN’s HeForShe campaign, for which Emma Watson is the ambassador, which saw many male celebrities rising to give support through words and actions. The final quote for this piece goes to legendary actor Forest Whitaker, who says, “The true wealth of a community is measured by how carefully it listens to its women and how sincerely it values their wisdom. Empowering women empowers us all”.