Being a feminist: an analysis of male and female Sociology students’ perceptions of who can be a feminist and what it means to be a feminist
This thesis explores Sociology students’ perspectives on the extent to which being a woman is a necessary prerequisite to being a feminist. Feminism has historically emerged out of women’s oppression, and, as such, feminism has predominantly been directed at women. However, as research into masculinities continues to expose the extent to which gender expectations can be harmful to men, the need for feminism to combat not only women’s oppression, but also men’s oppression has become more central. A constructionist, phenomenological standpoint provides a detailed account of participants lived experiences of feminism and gender experiences. This research was conducted with four female and four male Sociology students whose unique perspectives are not only informed by their personal gender experiences, but also academic gender debate. Through conducting semi-structured interviews, this project unveils that the notion that a person must have experienced the world as a woman in order to claim a feminist identity is decreasing, as the awareness that men also face oppression as a result of gendered expectations has increased. As such, the findings reveal that there is space for men within contemporary feminisms as men’s involvement in feminism is framed as a necessary means of realising greater gender equality.