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Of course feminism needs men. But you know what it doesn't need?

Emma Watson at the UN.

By MIA FREEDMAN

Take a deep breath because there’s a small, yet loud handful of women who are angry with anyone who thinks feminism could benefit from the support of men.

Last month, while the world was enthusiastically taking Emma Watsons brilliant UN speech on this topic viral, these same women were rushing to castigate her.

And this week, Wendy Squires has been copping it for writing a terrific column praising the men who call themselves feminists and who give their time, their money, their power and their influence to help advance women.

The response has been as predictable as it’s been maddening. And it’s prompted me to write about something I’ve been thinking for a long time now.

There is a type of feminist who is doing – in my opinion – more damage than good for the cause. And because they are so loud on social media, the volume at which their argument rages around the internet is disproportionate to how many agree with it.

Here’s one way of looking at feminism: it’s an exclusive club convened in a small room. A very small room. On the street outside, there are bouncers holding a phonebook-sized book called The Rules of Feminism. The book is authored by some women on Twitter. If you wish to enter the room, you must first answer dozens of questions about your qualifications and credentials. You must not have ever ‘broken’ any one of The Rules Of Feminism at any time in your adult life.

Even once inside, your words, thoughts and actions are tightly and relentlessly policed. More bouncers circulate the small room eagerly looking for transgressions. If someone – anyone – in the tiny, tiny room misinterprets or takes offence to something you say? You’re out. You’ll be frog-marched to the exit and kicked to the curb for the smallest slip of the tongue while those inside jeer and clap you out the door.

Here’s another way of looking at feminism: it’s a huge dinner party held in a massive warehouse. Everyone who genuinely wants to come is invited. The more the merrier. Like any big gathering of people, there are lots of different views among the crowd. Not everyone agrees about everything. Why would they? How could they?

Some people are angry and active, others are more relaxed but still enthusiastic and excited to be there. Some know the hosts intimately. Others don’t know much about the hosts but they’ve heard about the party and it sounded like somewhere they wanted to be. Beyonce is performing in front of her big FEMINIST sign.

Wendy Squires

Everyone at this giant dinner party knows that the real problems and enemies are outside the party so they spend more time talking about that instead of bitching about the other guests.

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The warehouse is alive with interesting debates and discussions happening at tables, on the dance-floor and in the queue for the loo. These debates are respectful even when they’re passionate. Even when no consensus can be reached.

But one thing everybody does agree on is this very simple and obvious idea: women should be in charge of their own bodies and their own lives. And that the world should be equal for women and men.

So where would you prefer to be? Small room with 1000 rules or giant dinner party with engaging conversations? Me, I’m at the dinner party.

I’ve always seen feminism like this and the very essence of the Mamamia Digital Network and all our websites is based on this idea. I was raised by a feminist mother and we’ve both always railed against the idea that feminism is an exclusionary movement, aggressively policed by a handful of self-appointed gatekeepers.

Because the result of that rigidity is very bad for feminism. Very bad. Every day I see it: women are quickly becoming afraid to say or write anything about feminism because they know they will be abused, mocked and castigated viciously – not by sexist men or misogynist trolls but by other feminists.

These feminists appear intent on silencing all the voices with which they disagree. And there are so very many of those. All of us pretty much. They do this swiftly and effectively by piling on and in many cases being personally abusive. It’s a lynching mentality. They argue the woman not the point.

How can we then be surprised and anguished when women decide feminism isn’t something they want to be part of? Is it any wonder so many choose to reject the word outright?

Social media and the internet has given more women a public voice to help balance the traditional media which is still massively dominated by male voices. This is an excellent thing.

But it’s also given rise to a nasty type of Mean Girl Feminism that jumps at every opportunity to mock, ridicule and eviscerate well-meaning people whose feminist hearts are in the right place. They relish every ‘gotcha’ moment where they can humiliate someone for not being the ‘right’ type of feminist. They are so focussed on kicking people out of their exclusive Proper Feminist Club that they tarnish the very word itself.

If every time a woman – or a man – tries to do something in support of women and the broad aims of feminism they are shouted down by the self-appointed Gatekeepers of Feminism, fewer and fewer people will want to call themselves feminists and the movement’s power base will shrink until it’s utterly impotent.

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Like the Democrats. Remember them?

You don’t have to be gay to be an active supporter of gay rights.

To be effective and achieve social and legislative change, every movement needs numbers. And champions. People on the front line, yes, but also troops in the supporting ranks and behind the scenes. It needs people in positions of power and YES it needs men. Desperately.

Of course it does!

If I’m straight can I not be part of the movement for marriage equality?  If I am white can I not rail against racism? Can I not support the movement to close the gap between white people and our indigenous community? Do I have to be a refugee to campaign on their behalf? Must I be Muslim to defend the right of my sisters to wear hijab without being abused in the street?

I’m not suggesting in a million years that feminism needs to be dumbed down or neutralised into a vanilla, kumbaya , happy-clappy love-in. I’m just calling for it to be more inclusive. Less Mean Girls. And for those Twitter feminists who feel so passionately about it to remember who the true enemies of feminism are.

Debate is important. Discussing and challenging ideas about feminism is crucial.  But abuse, mocking and this endless reflexive, reactionary aggression towards those TRYING to embrace feminism is destructive. This obsession with who is and isn’t allowed to join the party and call themselves a feminist serves only to be silencing and oppressive. OF WOMEN.

I want more women and girls and MEN to stand up and call themselves feminists. And yet when Fairfax columnist Wendy Squires wrote a brilliant column this week calling for more men to join the party, she was predictably abused on Twitter – by women who call themselves feminists. Because she was DOING FEMINISM WRONG.

In the most part, this was not reasonable debate about the role of men in the feminist movement. It was angry, abusive and condescending towards Wendy and the men in the column she name-checked as feminists. Men who are committed to furthering the cause of women even though they have nothing to personally gain from it.

When men stand up and identify with a movement that benefits women, how can we possibly be pissed off about that? How? What arrogance to think that feminism does not need people in positions of power and influence to help advance the cause. What naivitity. The more people who identify as feminists and who work towards goals like closing the pay gap, ending violence towards women and eliminating sexism the better. No matter their gender.

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