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There’s something I hear a lot from men when gender inequality issues are being spoken about. They’ll leave off from commenting, or preface their comments, with ‘I’m just a stupid man who doesn’t know anything’. The idea is that men should stay out of feminist conversations because “ignorant males,” or whatever variation we’re working with today, aren’t capable of understanding.

It’s a passive aggressive tactic. Men who say this kind of thing don’t really think they’re incapable, they’re speaking to a strawfeminism they see as positioning them that way. It’s a fearful response to a changing world order in which basing expression of a male gender identity on aggressively lording it over everyone else is shortly going to be over. It’s an attempt to escape the responsibility to pursue knowledge and to participate in making the world better.

The thing is, it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more – are more than that. Feminism says that men are better than that, can change, are capable of learning, and have the capacity to be decent and wonderful people.

It would be wonderful if more men wouldn’t try to twist their way out of engaging with ideas that threaten their unfairly gained place in the world, and just went for it. If you’re a person, you have the ability to become a better one. Personhood is one thing on which one should definitely not chicken out.

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