Because it’s been on my mind recently.
1. I don’t tend to think of myself as a feminist — which is to say that I tend to think of people who do see themselves as feminists as people who have spent a more-than-trivial amount of time studying the movement and its various social, political and economic theories. I would be willing to suggest I know more about these topics than the average guy, but I also know that what I know is little enough that opening my mouth on the subject would largely serve to point out how large the gaps in my knowledge are. To be blunt, I don’t know enough to be comfortable labeling myself as a feminist, as I see the word being most commonly used.
2. I am a feminist in the most general sense of believing that women are entitled to the same rights and privileges as men, with everything that implies in terms of access to education, economic opportunity and personal liberty. However, as far as I know most people don’t use the term “feminism” in this most broad of definitions, either positively or negatively. This is another reason I don’t tend to use the term to apply to myself.
3. A third reason I don’t apply the term feminist to myself is that, again to be blunt about it, I don’t think I deserve to. I know myself well enough to know where I fall down on the subject. On a very superficial level, I’m wary of touting myself as a feminist and then doing something that shows my ass on the subject in a very public way. Best not to set myself up for such a fall.
On a slightly deeper level, I know the personal journey I’m taking in terms of my relationships with women, individually and generally. I’ve always tried to be a good person to women in my life, and to women in general, but there have been times I’ve fallen short of those goals, through ignorance or through being (for lack of a better term) a dick. I work at these things. I keep working at them.
4. There’s a category of dude out there who likes to a call me a feminist as a way to insult me or to suggest in some way that I am somehow less of a man; this is why, I imagine, there is a high correlation between the sort of dude who calls me a feminist, and who calls me a “beta male.” Some fellows in this category also appear to believe I write on women-related topics as a way of supplicating myself to my matriarchical rulers and/or insinuating myself, quisling-like, into the feminist camp, to be rewarded with cookies and hugs. I am delighted to annoy this category of status-anxious, woman-fearing moron.
5. However, there are also a number of people, including a fair number of women, who are frustrated that when I write about topics relating to women that I often have a farther reach online then women often do. They are frustrated, I suspect, not only just because it’s a classic example of a guy being paid attention to, but also because, per points one through three above, the filter through which my own thoughts and opinions go is a male, not-entirely-on-point-to-feminism one.
This I get and understand, and is yet another reason why I tend not to label myself as a feminist. I do not speak for anyone but me. I have no ambition to try to mansplain women’s issues to them or to anyone else, nor any interesting in being a “white knight,” stepping into a discussion to shield women from men. I write about what I write about because it’s of interest to me. I apply my own perspective to them. I will miss some things important to women and feminists and will misunderstand others. Occasionally I will talk from the inside of my own ass.
6. I have explained the various reasons why I tend not to call myself a feminist, but I want to make it clear that I don’t mind if others people say I am one, if that’s what I look like to them. The men who do it to insult me are failing; I’m not in the least bit insulted (I don’t really care if you call me a “beta male” either. Sorry, dudes). Most everyone else, I suspect, means it positively. I appreciate that.
Update, 12/29/14: I amend this statement.