Five reasons Matt McGorry’s ‘feminism’ isn’t helping

Matt McGorry

As evidenced by the embarrassing level of swooning coming from American liberal media, Matt McGorry has hereby been crowned King of Feminism… And he’s not too humble to accept the throne. But before the parade, let’s consider his message.

1) No, “feminism” is not “gender equality,” “feminism” is “feminism.”

Last year, the actor not only discovered the dictionary, but also discovered that he, too, was entitled to our movement. #grateful

Matt McGorry

The following year, on International Women’s Day, he received an inordinate amount of media coverage and accolades for a t-shirt he’d designed in order to raise money for NARAL. Now, fundraising for women’s reproductive rights is all fine and good, but in the process is it really necessary to mansplain “feminism” out of “feminism?”

At the same time that McGorry is working to turn our radical movement into milquetoast, he’s claiming he plans to “shake people’s definition up of feminism.” Like, how? By explaining that feminism is not actually for women, but for men?

“It’s a very simple word but a lot of people misunderstand,” he says. Ya. Because celebrities keep making the most simplistic, empty statements they can muster, effectively erasing the words “patriarchy,” “women’s liberation,” and “male violence” from the conversation — all the things that are actually central to the movement.

Claiming that “feminism” is actually about “gender equality” is exactly what allows MRAs to pretend “reverse sexism” is real and to pretend our movement is just as much about men’s rights as women’s. The reason we name “women” in feminism is because women are the class oppressed by men. And we aren’t seeking equality with men, we are seeking an end to male power and to gender, in and of itself.

If a dude really wants to “shake things up” I suggest he speak out about something a little more specific, like, say, men’s dicks and the things men do with their dicks.

2) Liberal media loves his message because he’s literally not saying anything.

McGorry has mastered the art of not saying anything at all, which is, of course, the best way for celebrities (especially male celebrities) to be applauded for brave acts such as:

– Saying the word “feminist”

– Saying the word “equality”

– Supporting women’s “choice” to self-objectify

Everything is ok and I don’t really have a opinion on anything anyway my hope is really just to say things people will applaud and not to piss anyone off therefore my analysis is: Sometimes women make choices about things! Feminism!

Is the best approach to feminism really to explain to women that however other women “choose” to accept and embrace their role as Fuckable Thing is unequivocally Good and that women who disagree with this need to get with the program or shut up?

And here we have Bustle’s rave review of emptiness:

“First, let’s give the actor a huge round of applause for shining a positive light on feminism. Sadly, when the word ‘feminist’ is uttered, many people associate negative thoughts with the term, which, funnily enough, doesn’t mean anything bad. It’s all about people (both women and men) believing in gender equality. What’s so scary and awful about that? Thankfully, we have people like McGorry taking a stand and giving real talk about a topic that is extremely important.”

NEVER BEFORE HAS A PERSON EXPLAINED FEMINISM LIKE THIS MAN WHO JUST LEARNED THE WORD “FEMINISM.”

Like, oooooh thanks! Finally! Someone “shines a positive light on feminism,” not like those nutso ladies who keep fucking up the movement. Thanks brah.

We don’t need a PR campaign led by some male celebrity. We have been doing this ourselves since forever and if you want to support us, great, but don’t do it by trying to deradicalize our movement for us.

Step off before we barf on you. #realtalk

3) He thinks women are too stupid to tell which dudes are faking feminism to get laid.

When Cosmo asked McGorry how women can “discern between” men who say they are feminist on Tinder just to get laid and those who are actually “who are actually committed to feminism,” he responded:

I haven’t quite tested this in theory, but I think it’s a pretty good theory: Look at how intersectional their feminism is. So if you’re going on this date, ask about his issues. If all he’s talking about is women, and he’s not talking about trans people or has no knowledge or interest in that or the spectrum of gender, that’s telling… If your feminism stops at women — and when we say women, we say default ‘white women’ — and the man has no interest in trying to parse apart what it might mean to be a woman of color versus a white woman or a trans woman or a trans woman of color, I’d say that’s a pretty big red flag. It is probably about getting praise.”

Here’s what I’ve learned, Matty — men who go around saying words like “intersectional” and “spectrum of gender” and who start explanations of feminism by trying to erase the word “women” from the conversation are big, fat fakers. Men who are actually feminist take a “show don’t tell” approach. They don’t spout off at women about how unimportant women are in feminism and throw jargony words at them in order to prove their intersectional cred. Any dude who announced to me that he was either feminist or intersectional would pull up a red flag for me, tbh.

…So, bad news, that’d be you, bro.

Matt McGorry

And, like, honestly — where do you get off telling women what real feminism is and how to “decipher” which dudes are legit or not?

Talking about “gender spectrums” instead of the way in which women are socialized into subordination via femininity and the way in which masculinity normalizes male violence, aggression, and rape culture all sounds very progressive, but all it really says is “I just started college and have a lot of interest in cookies and little interest in holding me and my male friends to account.” Gender: It’s a spectrum tells me you have zero clues about the actual, literal impact of the gender hierarchy on women and the fact that the people at the top of that hierarchy are men and the people at the bottom are women. Your pleasant-sounding “spectrum” isn’t helping because gender isn’t just a feeling or an idea — it’s a social construct invented to reinforce male domination.

Also, telling women that men who center women “too much” in their efforts to be allies are “red flags” is probably the most fucked up approach to allyship I’ve ever heard. Yes, feminism must understand the way in which marginalized women are particularly impacted under patriarchy, but one does not succeed in doing that by erasing women from feminism.

Wanna be an ally? Maybe STFU for a sec and do some listening/reading/learning first. We aren’t dumb, you are.

4) And about that “woman” thing…

Even in his definition of “feminism” McGorry manages to avoid saying the word “men” or “women,” telling Mic that “feminism” is “people who want social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

Sorrynotsorry, but if you are a man who wants to be a feminist ally, the very first thing you should understand is that feminism is about women.

Language is important. If you can’t name the problem, if you can’t name the perpetrators of violence or the source of oppression, and if you can’t name the victims of said oppression and violence, you will never be able to address it.

5) This whole “empowerment for sale” thing we’ve been talking about for years over here was recently discovered by liberals and they still don’t get that they are part of the problem.

These efforts to convince men that they, too, are “feminists” just because they say so, whether or not they invest any energy into challenging ideas like masculinity, pushing back against the objectification of women, questioning a heteronormative and male-centered view of sex and sexuality, or calling out other men who, say, go to strip clubs or pay for sex, are not helpful.

Any man can say he believes women should be paid as much as men are for doing the same job. That takes literally no thought or effort. The thing that men don’t often do, when claiming to be “feminist,” is to change their own behaviour or to take controversial stands — like the ones women get shit on day in and day out for taking.

A feminist isn’t simply anyone who claims the label — the word actually means something. And the ongoing efforts of liberal feminists to pressure anyone and everyone to call themselves “feminist” without actually doing anything beyond putting the word on a t-shirt does not actually work towards women’s liberation.

This party the media is throwing for Matt McGorry: America’s Next Top Feminist should tell Matt McGorry a little something about the kind of “feminism” he’s putting forth — the kind that doesn’t confront systems of power, that is void of radical aims and messaging, and the kind that is male-centered.

Feminism doesn’t have male leaders — we have male allies. And the fact that McGorry is being positioned as an expert on our movement, despite his cluelessness, is patriarchy.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • This guy has always, always rubbed me the wrong was and now I feel vindicated. It’s sad when people are literally trying to take away “females” from feminism. Like how greedy do you have to be to try to turn this into yet another movement that benefits men? And he’s getting praised for it… ugh.

  • We don’t actually have male allies though. Just men who hang around saying the right things secretly hoping they’ll end up getting to have sex with us. In my more naive youth, I accepted male allies at their word, because I wanted so hard to believe there was a man out there who wasn’t a total shit. Now I know better. Male allies will stick a knife in your back the first chance they get if you ever cross them.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I think we do have male allies… They just don’t go around talking about being male allies and, instead, support our causes and our movement by speaking out against prostitution and whatnot…

      • Yisheng Qingwa

        Talk is cheap. Male talk is the cheapest of all.

    • Miep O’Brien

      I agree with Meghan on this one. But any guy who tries to impress me or any woman upfront by calling himself feminist or an ally is immediately suspect. When people try to get you to believe intangibles about themselves by insisting you do so, big warning sign. Show it, don’t tell it.

      I find men in the left widely disturbing but there are a few here and there who do good work. But they don’t try to use it to use it as social currency, they just do it. I don’t blame you for being cynical about men at all, though. Very few seem to inclined to examine their own gender conditioning and how it works to privilege them. They NAMALT at you as if that changes the fact that predatory men are often very smooth liars. It’s an insult to one’s intelligence. The ones who want to help leave us alone and look to their own houses.

  • Meghan Murphy

    He’s an actor from Orange is the New Black! No need to know that, of course… 🙂

  • Miep O’Brien

    I wish people were better at understanding that narcissism isn’t activism, and that saying a social justice resistance movement is for everyone and doesn’t have to constitute a threat to anyone’s power is a contradiction in terms.

  • Morag999

    Good stuff, Meghan!

    For goodness’ sake, his beard hasn’t yet fully come in, but he knows the deal: if it’s for women only, it ain’t worth much, so he’d better insert himself into it. He’s still wet behind the ears, and yet he’s the King of Feminism. Ha!

    My “version of empowerment” is telling McGorry — whoever the hell he is — to stick a sock in it. What a load of twittery.

  • calabasa

    Great article, Meghan. Ooh, so men have :discovered” feminism? It must really exist now!

    Great job underlining the most salient points–his erasure of what feminism is about (women), his pseudo-academic doublespeak about how women should know which men really ARE feminist or not (I agree that what we need to do is focus on actions, NOT words; actions which will usually quickly, quickly reveal themselves, if we are paying attention), his erasure of feminism as a political movement which names the problem–of a gender hierarchy in which men are on top and women are on bottom–a movement which will require men to do a LOT of things they will not like too much, right now (like have a care where they stick their penises, and actually see women as full people and not extensions of their egos, there to meet their needs and otherwise inferior). Oh, and also give up their atrocious habit of violent domination.

    On that note, my ex-boyfriend is now posting pictures of himself on his unblockable, bragging “writer’s page” he created when I blocked him (I think at first it was to impress me, when he wanted to get back together, before I finally called him out on his sexual assault on me after we broke up), saying things directly aimed at me and now posting pictures of himself with a hammer and nails and whiskey and cigarettes and now a picture of himself burning a copy of what may be a poem I wrote for him with an extremely angry look on his face and his new girlfriend in the background holding a hammer. Meanwhile he is still cyberstalking my friends on social media, and I have disabled all of my own social media accounts.

    I don’t WANT to look at his page, or think about him at all, anymore (this would be a victory for him, as what he wants is to control me or for him to in some way matter to me at all, which is why he did what he did). But I also want to know if he is escalating. I have no idea how much of this is just trying to scare me, or if he will actually try to hurt me. After all, men murder their ex-girlfriends all the time, especially abusive men, especially abusive men who have been called out on their abuse and had reports filed against them. I hate this guy for ruining my life right now and I hate how scared I am all the time. Why are men so angry and violent when they can’t have ownership of women?

    I wrote a short story about this. It’s an actual story–it takes place in a restaurant, is written in third person but includes first-person interludes in response to a police inquiry, and flashbacks and forwards within the story; so it’s a story-within-a-story; I think it illustrates a lot of these issues pretty clearly (the problem with masculinity, as well as with femininity; male sexual and emotional terrorism and the need for ownership; and academic men who present themselves as feminists and claim to be anti-sexual violence while committing it). I put some effort into it, and have been told it’s powerfully written; and as it’s a story told with the devices of fiction (and prose poetry, in the first-person scenes) I think it’s a lot better than any rant I have ever written about this guy; much more entertaining to read, and a lot more powerful. If anyone cares to read it. I might try to edit it and get it published. (I am much better at creative than academic or persuasive writing; I spend a lot more time on it). Anyway, I know this is self-promoting, but I really do think this is pretty good and hope somebody will check this piece out, if they want. https://writingdowntheworld.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/synecdoche/

    I am thinking it is time I quit sweeping this shit under the rug, blaming myself, forgiving men, and hoping to find the next good one. That should not be my aim anymore. My aim should be to help myself, as a woman, and to help other women. I think it’s time I tried to become an activist. How can I do that?

    I was thinking one thing I could do, after I quit hiding from this guy and have had a few months of therapy for my issues finally (which I am doing right now and which is helpful) I would start by creating an all-women’s creative writing workshop. I have an MFA from a multi-genre program and experience with the craft and analytical elements of various genres, and would be good at it, and it would be a safe space for women to share their writing, without getting talked over by men, intimidated into silence, or having their pieces get short shrift; and they could feel safe writing about this kind of stuff, too, as I have in my story. I’m going to begin teaching writing at the community college here in the fall, so I might try doing it then. IN the meantime I need to hide out, and heal (though my friends have told me when I am ready they will support me in going places with me so I am not alone if I run into him). I am going to ignore this guy–he is like a little kid who needs attention, any attention, even negative attention–and not look at the show he is putting on anymore; I just seriously hope he drops it and doesn’t try to hurt me.

    Some “feminist man.” I feel like I am SICK AND TIRED of this and need to step up for the cause–like you do so amazingly, Meghan. If I had my Facebook account active I would share this article. It’s really good, on point, and exactly what needs saying about those people out there who would reclaim and rename the feminist movement in order to obfuscate it, and make themselves look good in the process.

  • fragglerock

    “Last year, the actor not only discovered the dictionary, but also discovered that he, too, was entitled to our movement. #grateful”
    Hahaha, I’m so grossed out. Just look at his yucky, self-satisfied grin. He probably smells like old hot dog water.

  • Laura

    This whole situation is so nuts. Honestly I’d feel embarrassed for him, like going out there and proudly telling everyone how far he’s missed the point by…but he gets praised for it!! It’s almost reassuring to know that this is nothing new, just business as usual under patriarchy.

    • Morag999

      “Honestly I’d feel embarrassed for him, like going out there and proudly telling everyone how far he’s missed the point by…but he gets praised for it!!”

      Me, too, Laura. At first, I was tempted to feel forgiving and sorry for him for getting it wrong, but with such an earnestness. But, then, you can see that all the praise has puffed him up, and that he’s proud to be doling out advice to young women on how to recognize a real man-feminist — such as himself!

      Nah.

      • Laura

        it just drives it home that even men who are total goobers can still do harm to women

  • Meghan Murphy

    Yeah the idea that men aren’t real allies if they center women in feminism really got to me too… Like, get the fuck off tumblr and read a book, man. Or, idk, go talk to some actual women in the movement. It felt like he was bullying women into to shrinking themselves even further and clearly knows zilch about the history of the movement and who is working at the grassroots level today.

    • Maria Wdub

      Also, this “intersectional” word that once had real meaning in noticing multiple oppressions now is thrown around like a stupid meaningless sack. I hate that WOC are always thrown into the intersectional side. Feminism has always been about the liberation of all women (that too means woc, as there are lots) I resent the fact that “intersectional” frauds wrongfully dismisses feminism as “white”. Trying to create a divide.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Right. Some white guy erasing woc from the movement and, as you say, creating a divide, is totally offensive, inaccurate, and unhelpful.

      • Radek Piskorski

        But there WAS a problem of whitewashing in early stages of women’s lib!

        • Meghan Murphy

          You aren’t responding to Maria’s argument. Also, Maria *is* a radical woman of colour, who is on the front lines and very active in this movement, so I really don’t think you need to explain whitewashing to her, thx.

  • Sara Marie

    What this man is doing is pissing me off for so many reasons. For one, as Meghan has said, just calling oneself a feminist doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t challenge power. Just as, if we all went around calling ourselves Marxists and saying, “Communism is for everyone, rich and poor, owners and workers. As long as you believe in sharing, you should call yourself a communist.” Yes, that’s a simplification, but I feel like almost no other movement gets reduced to just the word.

    It’s true that the word “feminist” is looked down upon–and worse–by some people. That’s because it’s associated with women. Feminism is supposed to be the women’s liberation movement, so to say if someone is sticking to talking about women, they’re not a feminist, is a bunch of bull. It should be clear that discussing men’s oppression of women absolutely involves looking at race, capitalism, heterosexuality, and on and on and on. And I find Matt’s statement that a feminism that is just about “women” is primarily or only about white women patently offensive. Maybe that’s how *he* thinks, but the majority of the world’s population are women of color. I bet activist women in the so-called global south would think this man’s words, as seen in this post, are the biggest joke.

    Pro-feminist men should be focusing on men and *their* choices, not spending their time on twitter saying feminism is all about choice.

    There are women who put time and effort into their work on behalf of women, and all they get is shit upon. A man spouting quotes from a feminist 101 blog, which are what his tweets read as, hardly deserves accolades. Of course, I think it’s better for a man to identify with feminism than not. But that’s setting the bar mighty low, don’t ya think?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes to all of this! Thank you!

    • will

      Yes, many people have a negative reaction to the word or the idea of feminism. That’s because it a movement for social change that seeks to disrupt the existing hierarchy. It threatens peoples unearned advantages and poses a very real prospect of change – and that is very scary to those who benefit from the existing normalized injustice. In the current climate one of the best ways to suppress a group is though negative PR, hence the prude-shaming and faux-feminism we see permitting the left and celebrated through the claptrap of twinks like this guy. What he is doing is anti-feminism.

  • lk

    Piers Morgan is incredibly annoying but his response to Matt on twitter was dead on: Yes @MattMcGorry, I do believe in gender equality. But your brand of feminism here is utter, mind-boggling claptrap.

    I’ll Matt props for at least attempting to use his fame to do some good, but I don’t get why he is getting so much praise.

    Personally, I think the writers of feminist current should send him some radical feminist texts.

  • Tired

    I have no idea who this dude is, and I’m probably to old to care but seriously???

    ‘So if you’re going on this date, ask about his issues. If all he’s talking about is women, and he’s not talking about trans people or has no knowledge or interest in that or the spectrum of gender, that’s telling’
    A man telling women how to do dating? A man telling women how to judge men? Ask about his issues??????? yep, cos feminism is all about asking men about their issues. This is MRA mansplaining under the guise of feminism. The trans add on is not unexpected but the really telling thing here is that women (as feminists) are supposed to check what men’s issues are as a default. Cos women’s issues don’t count especially when you are doing feminism (sigh)
    If he had any idea at all, he would be giving advice about how you check whether the menz care about your issues as women.
    Like Matt, here’s some advice you could give young women ‘does he listen to you or does he just talk about HIS issues’ ‘If he just talks about HIS issues – whatever they are – he’s probably not the man for you and is a self centred prick to boot’. “Relationships that work have input from both sides and what either partner says is respected, even if you don’t agree – you need to listen first so you understand what you are disagreeing with if you decide to disagree’ etc etc etc.
    He sounds like he’s about 12 years old and has limited experience with how relationships really work (and I’m trying to be kind here)

  • Melissa Cutler

    Yes! So true.

  • radwonka

    and?

  • radwonka

    he sure looks really dumb with that smug look on his face

    and when will all these “sex pozzie intersectional male feminists” die???
    I can’t tell the difference between a MRA and a male feminist tbh

  • Misanthropia

    Just another man who doesn’t know that his job is to listen and not talk. Being a male ally involves listening more and talking less, since you don’t really already know how the other half of the planet sees things.

  • Refael Fishzon

    Feminism doesn’t have male leaders — we have male allies.

    ^This, so much

  • Tired

    Yeah well the problem with a 1990’s dictionary is that it fell between the cracks at that time.
    And you know, it was all written and edited by men.
    Suggest you go a little earlier and check out Women’s Liberation. The 1990’s watered down version was trying to make it more palatable for men. Women’s Liberation was a thing since the 1920’s and earlier, Check it out

  • Meghan Murphy

    I know plenty of feminist men. They do basic stuff like show up at anti-prostitution/violence against women protests, hold other men accountable, speak out against masculinity and rape and porn culture, raise money for rape crisis shelters, etc. They don’t put themselves in the spotlight in order to tell women that feminism isn’t actually about women… There is lots men can do and do do. But Matt McGorry is promoting liberalism, not feminism.

  • Radek Piskorski

    Not really, that was merely an attempt to uncover someone PRETENDING to be a feminist. The man in that scenario doesn’t care about women at all, he hasn’t even “started at women”, but is pretending to be an ally to bed a hypothetical woman. McGorry is saying that if the man is only pretending, he won’t think to pretend to carry about other issues. And McGorry said it’s just a theory he hasn’t tested. And he was openly asked about this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Matt McGorry appears to be the one pretending to be a feminist, tho, all the while shitting on *actual* feminism/feminists and trying to marginalize WOMEN within the WOMEN’S MOVEMENT.

  • Gorb

    This guy is David Brent-ian in his profound lack of self-awareness.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Feminism is about liberating women from male oppression. It isn’t a country club.

  • Meghan Murphy

    What is a ‘nonbinary’ person? What is a ‘binary’ person?

  • Meghan Murphy

    I don’t fit into a specific gender. Gender was imposed on me. Am I ‘nonbinary’?