First off, it is presumptuous; who am I to say that I behave as a feminist should? Whenever pressed on the ‘greatest of all time’ question, Roger Federer (#yum) dodges it and says ‘that’s not for me to say’. There are a gazillion things I do, a gazillion I have done, that make me cringe and think that the label ‘feminist’ would be a lie. I grew up in patriarchy, I am of patriarchy. Just because I am (or claim to be) ‘woke’ doesn’t make me a feminist. [See the last paragraph of this post for more on this]
Secondly, beyond my personal aesthetic preferences, I think the whole label of “being a feminist” is a dead end for men, based on an idea of mis-placed concreteness. Being a male supporter of feminism is not a property of an individual, like your height, eye colour, love of Mozart or whatever. It is a series of actions, based on thoughts and reflections and open-ness to criticism and the myriad ways that your privileges imbricate with your experiences and outlooks. It’s not a destination, where you get to sit on a pile of accrued good-guy tokens, it’s a never-ending journey, made up of lots of bumps and scrapes and mis-steps.
So what is my alternative? Well, I think the slightly (!) clumsier formulation “man who is trying (and probably failing most of the time) to behave in accordance with the basic propositions of feminism” – [ i.e. that is, ‘a movement to end sexism’ (h/t bell hooks). It doesn’t roll of the tongue, does it? But it does capture that behavioural aspect, that this isn’t a property that someone arrives at after the accumulation of a certain number of good guy tokens and can then relax. It isn’t a thing, it’s a process, and – as such – one that is going to need constant input and thought.
The counter-argument to this is that I am just claiming I am not a good feminist in order to extract ‘no, you’re a great ally’ comments from women to boost my pathetic ego. At least as far as I can know – I am not.