Shira Tarrant is the author of Men and Feminism (Seal Press), When Sex Became Gender (Routledge) and editor of the anthology Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power (Routledge). Her most recent book, Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style, with Marjorie Jolles, was published in 2012 (SUNY Press). A second edition of Men Speak Out is forthcoming in 2013 from Routledge and New Views on Pornography will be released in 2014 (Praeger, co-edited with Lynn Comella).
Within Tarrant’s Men and Feminism, the first chapter titled “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” introduces the issues of modern feminism, its growing inclusivity and relevance to male identified people (described from this point on as men). The chapter prefaces the book by defining feminism as “a movement for ending all forms of oppression, including gender based oppression” and explains the fundamental principles of the movement which include the necessity of confronting patriarchal, racist and binary thinking. While emphasizing how feminism applies to men (as the system of patriarchy also restricts men’s roles), it highlights how by accepting and working within the framework of feminism, men can use their own gender privilege to stand up and better the lives of those oppressed in our current societal system. Relying on quotes and anecdotes, the first chapter of Men and Feminism provides insight to a growing demographic of men who consider egalitarian views and social responsibility to be common sense in today’s world and persuades the reader to ponder “what men can offer feminism and what feminism can offer men”.
In true third wave feminism style, the chapter does not offer one single avenue for which the movement is driven by but instead discusses the multiple ways in which all men can commit to acting as proponents for equality. The examples range from deconstructing traditional gender roles to calling out racist or sexist jokes, ultimately stressing the importance of “examining our own place in various systems of domination - how we benefit and how we’re held back” in order to generate social and political transformation. The chapter also introduces key aspects of feminism such as the importance of understanding intersectionality and refuting essentialism, effectively laying down the ground rules that are required when learning to think critically about all forms of oppression and the perspectives needed when working to mitigate them. By recognizing the fact that some forms of feminism have been unwelcoming of men’s engagement within the movement historically, chapter one also proves that there is room for men today and invites them to be “comrades in struggle”. Furthermore, while the chapter acknowledges the politics inherent in labeling oneself a feminist, it recommends that men need not fear the term and emphasizes that the success of an effective and well received ally ultimately depends on their actions and level of commitment.
In addition to providing real life examples of men working through the lens of feminism and acknowledging opportunities for progress in daily life, the book is written in a clear and straightforward style, making it accessible to not only academics but also the target audience of young males. Overall, Tarrant’s “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” provides an informative overview of the movement’s evolution and brings the reader to understand that in true bell hooks fashion, feminism is indeed for everybody.
Tarrant's writing has appeared in Bitch, Bust, Ms. blog, and other mainstream and academic outlets. She is currently at work on the book The Sex Wars: Pole Dancing, Porn and Other Things That Freak People Out.
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