Author Ben Law at a cafe in Spring Hill Brisbane.
In her book How to Be a Woman, British writer Caitlin Moran offers a neat, simple test to determine whether you're a feminist or not:
So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hands in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina?
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said "yes" to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.
Sadly I didn't pass the test. I read Moran's book on my iPad while putting my hand down my pants (note: if you're borrowing my iPad, you might want to douse it in metho and pass it through an open flame first) – and lo and behold: no vag; no dice. Still, Moran's test is partly a joke: anyone who's read her book knows she's more targeting a generation of young women who no longer identify with the terms "feminist" and "feminism", and winning them over with her brains and bawdiness.
Even though I'm a dude, I identify as a feminist for a broad sweep of reasons. Why wouldn't I? I was raised by a single mother, flanked by three sisters and am surrounded by hot, capable women every day of my life. If I was to do a head count, I'd probably find the majority of my closest friends have vaginas. My role models growing up were women. I adore Hunter S. Thompson, but prefer Joan Didion. As much as I like de Niro and Day-Lewis, I worship at the twin alters of Streep and Blanchett. As a teenager, I would've preferred to have been PJ Harvey or Bjork, rather than Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley, and not just because they're dead.
Another fundamental reason I attribute to identifying as a feminist, I think, is because I'm a card-carrying homosexual. And while being gay doesn't automatically and magically transform any man into a feminist (poof!), I am strongly of the camp that all gay men should be feminists. There are three reasons why.
1. We're natural allies
Sure, gay men don't know what it's like to be a woman or vice-versa, but we share similar fights. In some super non-fun countries, both homosexuals and women are regularly stoned/flogged/chained/detained/executed for consensual sexual acts. In many "developed" countries, both women and gay men are denied legal or financial entitlements within their relationships. Most gay men and women know what it's like to be yelled at from a moving vehicle, and to have shitful remarks passed off as a harmless joke in the workplace. (Someone making wisecracks about your period because you got angry in a meeting? Hilarious. Your boss gyrating his crotch near your butt and saying, "Ooh, I bet you'd like that!"? Good times.) Sometimes there's nothing better than the solidarity women and gay men find during a shared, boozy bitchfest, recapping each other's battles with the various sexist and homophobic douchebags they've encountered during the day. It's comforting. It's homely.
2. Gay men can be sexist too
It's not a comfortable thing to raise, but because so many gay men experience abuse or harassment, some assume they've got a jail-out-of-free card when it comes to other forms of bigotry. "Oh I can't be racist, because I'm homosexual!" says the gay guy who logs onto Grindr with a bio that says "No Asians" (i.e. I am the sexual equivalent of Pauline Hanson/a KKK Grand Wizard). "Oh I can't be ageist, because I'm homosexual!" says the gay guy who makes vocally makes fun of elderly and senior gents in gay venues. "Oh I can't be sexist, because I'm a homosexual!" says the gay guy who viciously bitches about Supre sluts and recoils at the very mention of vaginas, as female genitalia is apparently and uniformly revolting/smelly/gross/similar to various compost bins they've encountered, etc.*
Plenty of gay men – from stand-up comedians to Perez Hilton – happily label scantily-dressed women "whores" and "sluts", never once connecting the dots with those other dickheads who associate all gay men with disease, and all gay sex with poo, and think it's all a jolly riot. All these people would do well with a robust hardback volume of feminist polemic, either read quietly at their desk, or thrown directly at their skulls with great force.
3. Because you're a goddamn human being
The best response to why gay men should be feminists come from women themselves. When writer Tara Moss recently asked around whether people thought men in general could be feminists, fellow writer Emily Maguire responded with: "Of course. And I find it quite difficult to be close with men who aren't." And my friend Rowena Grant-Frost offered this: "Gay men, despite their wings and gills, are human beings. And every human being should be a goddamn feminist." To that, I would like to snap my fingers around my face rapidly and say, "Amen, sister".
*Here is a bit of trivia re: gay men with vulva-phobia that I quite enjoy. On the set of the sexually explicit film Shortbus, US director John Cameron Mitchell had actors perform actual penetrative group sex for the cameras. During the shoot, one of the actors told Mitchell, "If we have to go there, you should try something [new too]." A gay man, Mitchell had never had sex with a woman before, and was encouraged to go down on a female actor for one shot. "It didn't get me hard," he later said, "but it was delicious. It was better than the catering that we had. Sometimes you have to dine out at a different restaurant, you know?" With that kind of attitude, I feel John Cameron Mitchell should be every gay man's role model.