After a conversation with a male friend of mine I felt compelled to say a few things on this topic. I know a lot of women are ashamed to say they’re feminists these days. I’m not – because I think that shame comes from a misunderstanding of what feminism is about, what it’s trying to achieve and how equal the societies we live in really are. I hope this doesn’t upset anyone unduly.

Feminism does not say women are, or should be, superior to men.

Man-bashing talk is not feminism. It is bigotry, or misandry, disguised as feminism.

Gender (social construct) and sex (biological reality) are two different things.

No one should be made to feel bad for having a sex drive. Or for not having one.

Feminism rejects the gender binary.

Feminism tells us that gender roles (or stereotypes) trap us all. A man should be allowed to cry if he wants, and stay home and look after the kids if he wants, just like a women should be allowed to get angry if she feels angry, and have a job as a CEO if she wants. Having said that, any man who wants to go chop down a tree, and any women who wants to stay at home and raise their family should be free to do this as well. The point is equality of opportunity, not superiority. Men, as much as women, are victims of the social gender roles that tell us because we have a certain bit of genitalia we should act a certain way.

Of course men can be feminists!

Second wave feminism was not about “chopping men’s bits off” (you’re thinking of The SCUM Manifesto, this is where it gets murky – but I’d argue only Valerie Solanas ever thought “eliminating the male sex” was a serious objective, and she was a statistical outlier). It was about women having the same rights of access to and opportunities in the workplace as men.

We all have privilege. Yes, there is such a thing as women’s privilege, just as there is such a thing as men’s privilege (and white privilege and all sorts of others). The point is being aware of it is so we can do our best not to take undue advantage of it. A lot of women aren’t really too fond of “women’s privilege”, since it tends to amount to something like “I am weak, therefore I should get first dibs”. This is patronising.

This is pretty much the same reason some women don’t like “chivalry” – they find the notion that they can’t do something for themselves a little patronising. This doesn’t make them crazy, just a little sensitive (and maybe for good reason).

Talking divisively never helped anyone. Avoid “us vs them” cliches if you want to talk constructively. I don’t think an “us vs them” attitude helps anyone.

I believe, not that we are exactly the same, but that there is more that unites us, than that which separates us.

I don’t think men’s rights should be ignored or are less important than women’s; men can be victims of abuse too (and in fact, if women often don’t report rapes etc, men almost never do, which means our statistics on these things are inaccurate).

Feminism is fluid; it does not tell you what to believe, it tells you to believe what you want about who you are and what your path should be, independent of gender roles.