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Meet the Male Feminist: Academic Dr Max Halupka
Q & A:
It seems our series on Meet the Male Feminist has ruffled a few peacock feathers! So can men call themselves Feminists? And what does that mean?
We began this series with a terrific Q&A down the blower from Finland, when Finnish Greens Leader Ville Niinisto MP eagerly answered our questions. Then it was up to Parliament House for a chat with Fairfax National Affairs Editor, Mark Kenny.
Today we're lurking the corridors of academia with Dr Max Halupka. Its been a fascinating chat - here's the edited version!
Q. Can men be feminists, or is it perhaps not a term men are entitled to appropriate?
A. Certainly. I see no reason why men, or non-binary individuals, can’t be feminists. With that said however, I wonder whether some individuals deserve to be classified as a feminist. That is, can you be a feminist by merely proclaiming as such, or is the title rooted more in actions - in the pursuit of feminist ideology and agenda? But, I don’t believe, regardless of how the term is employed, that the theory, underlying notions, nor resulting purist, is gender exclusive.
I like to think that I am a feminist, but I’m not sure I deserve the title.
Q. If asked publicly whether or not you call yourself a feminist, what would you say? And why?
A. I don’t know. I certainly believe in the fundamental tenets of feminist ideology, and recognise the strangling impact of institutionalised patriarchal systems. However, I’m not sure I deserve to be called a feminist. A part of me believes that the feminist title must be earnt, or at least worked at. And to call oneself a feminist without actions to support it seems to marginalise those individuals who dedicate their lives, or even a portion of their day, to being feminists. I like to think that I am a feminist, but I’m not sure I deserve the title.
Even feminism privileges men!
Q. What does it mean to be a male feminist?
A. This is a tricky question. It seems to me that many men have the wrong idea about feminism, or what it means to be a feminist. For many, it comes down to ‘treating everybody the same’, or some tenuous connection to equality. But to me, this just sounds like being a decent person. The bar for what a man must do to be considered a feminist is so much lower than where that bar is placed for women. And it’s a sad sort of funny that this practice promotes patriarchal power inside the very system which looks to usurp inherent privilege. Even feminism privileges men!
To me, a male feminist is one who goes beyond the tokenistic gestures of equality- of being a decent person. They are an individual who is reflexive about their role in society, and in this way, looks to incorporate feminist ideals into their lived experience. Moreover, a male feminist cannot be content in their position, in their label. It must be continuous process of reflection and revaluation. To me, the label of ‘male feminist’ should be earnt, and not an expected reward, a ‘good-boy’ cookie for doing the chores. And this is not easy, but that’s the point.
It could be said that this very process of mass adoption is, in and of itself, a positive, in that it normalises the term
Q. In 2015 both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader declared themselves ‘feminists’. Is male feminism newly fashionable?
A. As I said earlier, the feminist label has become a safe haven of sorts - a title that you must adorn if you are to be seen as in favour of the very general idea of women’s rights. And in this way, it makes sense why they would declare themselves feminists. However, there is a difference between how you label yourself, and the actions that you take. I’m not sure if the label has become ‘fashionable’, or simply a haven. This certainly speaks to my earlier concern about the exploitation of the term. It could be said that this very process of mass adoption is, in and of itself, a positive, in that it normalises the term, and in this way, reaches a wider audience. However, there is a significant difference between the label, and the reality.
Q Why do you think a significant cohort of young women refuse to use the term ‘feminist’ about themselves, and yet ascribe to all tenets of feminism?
A. I’m not sure I agree with the initial contention, to be honest. The proliferation of online spaces and resulting social media networks has seen, as least from my relative position, the idea, and term, of feminism spread further than ever before.
However, I think that it is a different style or approach to feminism than has been pursued or adopted in the past. These are the everyday people who, through an engagement with social networks, happen across the feminist narrative, in whatever form it takes.
From its basis in social and professional, and political equality, through to storytelling and collaborative recognition of inequality, everyday person discovers an element of the ideology, a fragment of the broader whole, and takes into themselves; into their everyday conversations, and online engagements, and often, into their construction and perception of self.
An academic appreciation of feminist literature, or even founding notions, is not necessary here. Rather, it is the tenets of feminism that are important - the articulation of inequalities as expressed through engagement with the everyday. Literally, the actuation of the second wave feminist phrase: ‘the personal is political’. It is a more casual association with feminism, though no less important.