Can men really be feminists?

So one thing feminism is about, and has been about, is questioning what it is to be a man, which obviously affects men pretty directly. Women are the main victims of misogyny, because women are inescapably associated with femininity. But other people can suffer, too. Gay men, for example, are stereotypically seen as feminine, weak, frivolous, and helpless: “A pansy has no iron in his bones,” to quote the author Raymond Chandler in one of his more misogynistic and homophobic moments. Similarly, femininity is often seen as fake or inauthentic—a trope that is especially damaging for trans women and men, whose gender identities are often seen as unmanly, false, fake, or performed.

Nor do straight men escape criticism. Heterosexual guys get many advantages from misogyny; they’re perceived as the least feminine kind of person, and as a result, they are seen as the most valuable and worthy of respect. But that position is always precarious, always threatened by the creeping threat of femininity. As just one iconic example, in Sixteen Candles, the high school hierarchy is enforced through rampant misogyny against men. The geeks are constantly called “faggots” and pushed around by burlier, manlier jocks. Meanwhile, the character Long Duk Dong—a vicious Chinese stereotype—is “comically” paired with a larger, stronger woman to emphasize his ridiculous unmanliness. Men who are not white, who don’t play sports, who are interested in video games, or who, like me, do a lot of child care—if they can be construed as feminine in any way, they become targets of ridicule and, sometimes, violence.