An Open Letter to Men Who Claim They Are Feminists, Yet Freak Out When Other Men Are Revealed to be Kinda Sexist

Dear Passionate Feminist:

Dude – Feminism requires more than labeling yourself. I see you’re unaware of observations of sexist positions that famous men like Bernie Sanders may have, that most men have; even good, but not perfect, men. This is an example of how difficult it can be to be male and truly and deeply empathetic. That’s why we need more than a self-affixed label. We need to listen objectively, without critical regard as a default, especially to writers and speakers who can advocate and articulate feminist issues.

Then we need non-defensive self-examination that looks behind the ego. This begs the question: can you be a “passionate feminist” and also patronizing? (hint: No.) How can you tell if, in spite of what you perceive as your intent, you’re patronizing? There can be clues in the way one speaks and writes. Do you have problems with a woman’s tone? Do you believe her mood is friable, mercurial, cyclic? Do you think some of women’s moods can be reasoned with, and others can’t? That you should talk with a woman when “she’s in a better mood?” By talk, do you mean “correct?” Do you think that your “valuing” a woman is appreciated or necessary validation that she belongs in, or draped on the arm of, society? Do you subconsciously think of “society” as a male dominated domain? Picture powerful people. What’s your picture look like?

Here’s a patronization test: If you write to a woman and use the words “tone, mood, value, interesting, and/or passionate,” then your letter and attitude are patronizing. If that ruffles your feathers, maybe we can talk about your tone when you’re in a better mood.

Given your likely test score the word “feminist” was not used correctly.


Stephen Sadler is an award-winning poet from Northern California who lately is writing essays, editorials, poetry, and recipes from his current home in North Carolina. He is a semi-practicing Buddhist, biochemist, classical musician, and psychologist.

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