We Need A Better Term For Male Feminists


You could call me a feminist, if indeed you agree with certain proponents of feminist ideology, but labeling men “feminists” might be the worst kind of misnomer, as many others have pointed out.

A basic premise of feminism considers women’s experiences to be both valid and authoritative. Theological feminismspecifically, refers to the unique perspectives that the group of mostly white, middle-class women bring to God-talk.  The term simply does not apply to men. We can support and celebrate feminist theology, but to pretend that we can produce or participate in feminist theological discussion is to perpetuate some of the problems that various feminist movements oppose in the first place.

And there are other terms beside feminist: “womanist” refers to the theological perspectives of black women and “mujerista” to those of Hispanic women.

Men-feminists are sometimes called “feminist thinkers.”

Except that’s a horrible term. For a few reasons. First, there are very prolific (female) feminists who we rightly call “feminist thinkers”, just as we call prolific Christians “Christian thinkers.” Second, “feminist thinker” seems to convey the notion that men can only think about addressing the patriarchy. I get the idea that men can think about feminist theology, not actually do it, but “feminist thinker” is far from positively describing egalitarian masculinism.

And calling us “feminist doers” won’t work… for obvious reasons.

I propose a new term to describe those men who seek to subvert the patriarchy and sympathize with the ideas of the theological feminisms.

Call us “subpatrists” (subverting patriarchy).

It sounds like sub-pay-trist with the b and p mashed together. Really catchy, I know. If there is already an alternative term out there, or you’ve got a better idea, I would love to hear it.

Good things get co-opted by external forces all too often and I’m afraid that calling men “feminists” both co-opts the experiences of women and prevents men from developing their own perspectives. Theological feminism deserves to be listened to, read, and celebrated as a contextual theology (hey, isn’t all theology contextual?), but not co-opted.

Men should be asking/answering their own set of questions, such as “what is it like to be a Christian male and disagree with patriarchy?“, and becoming more self-aware in the process.

Precisely how men can subvert cultural and ecclesial patriarchy will feature in several future posts. If you care to share some of your ideas in the comments, I’ll be sure to include them.

For now, I’m calling myself a subpatrist.

Important Note:  each time I talk about gender, I’m inclined to point out that traditional binary conceptions aren’t always helpful.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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  • I like subpatrist, but am also fine applying the term feminist to men. To me, the term has less to do with lived experience than guiding principles.

    • I’ve heard this quite a bit from feminists in general, as opposed to specifically theological feminists. In either case, I suppose men should be a whole lot more active against sexism. I’m just discouraged to hear male-feminist-speak that ranges from mere platitude to simply another way of invalidating women (especially in church circles).