...feminism must also supply some ways of changing the world and the people in it such that more and more of them understand it. Comparatively, whether or not you think alpha males exist, whether you think men ought to be aggressive or you think men ought to be assertive (in their feminism, too!), being and doing these things isn't a simple thing, if you want to hold to feminist ideals.
So, even given that 'alpha male' is a problematic concept--to the point of being useless, some think--examining why it's problematic, especially in the context of men who are feminists, can teach us a lot, I think. Or at least, doing so has taught me quite a bit, without settling for simple statements that boil down to 'just be a feminist!'.
And I say this not to end discussion, but like bringing up alpha male feminism in the first place, to begin and continue discussion.
I ought to have weighed in on this sooner, and I ought to be linking to Feminist Allies more often. Jeff, Malachi, and other contributors have some good things going over there. Check them out!
I agree completely that those of us who describe ourselves as feminist or pro-feminist men do need to have this discussion. What is our role as advocates? Is it primarily as auxiliaries to women in the movement, acting to assist when needed but never to lead? We are rightly concerned about replicating society's male-dominated power structures within the feminist movement, but to what extent does that exclude capable, passionate, competent feminist men from taking leadership roles? Should our primary goal be, as I have often asserted, to "witness" about feminism to other men, showing them through our words and our behavior that masculine identity and feminist politics can be blended seamlessly?
There's certainly a stereotype of feminist/pro-feminist men as non-assertive and apologetic. To use the language of the dominant culture, feminist men tend to be perceived as wimps. (Or wolves in sheep's clothing, or filled with self-loathing, or deeply closeted, or somehow all of these at once.) Some of that perception of wimpiness derives from a conscious decision on the part of many pro-feminist men to avoid using male privilege. Most men in this movement become aware, at some point or another, that the cultural imperative for males to prove themselves through leadership and domination is problematic. One of the oldest (and most effective strategies) for denying women access to power is by insisting (against all evidence) that women don't really want power the way that men do, and that it is "right" and "natural" for men to assert themselves and for women to follow. Thus part of living a feminist life as a man is making conscious decisions not to live out the life prescribed by the culture; it also means being acutely aware of how male privilege can have a silencing effect on women. It's not surprising, in light of this, that so many feminist men are ambivalent (at best) about their own assertiveness and/or aggressiveness!
And then there's the other obvious issue, one which Jeff and others have addressed, of personality differences. Not all feminist men are the same! To use Myers-Briggs language, those of us who are Es (extroverts, I'm ENFP) are going to meet challenges differently than I's (introverts). I doubt anyone has done a typology of feminist men to discover if those of us active in the movement have personality characteristics different from the population at large! I'm certain, and indeed, I know from experience that feminist men have widely varying degrees of comfort with issues like public speaking, leadership, and confrontation.
(Parenthetically, this reminds me of an argument I had with a pro-feminist male friend of mine who took strong issue with my newfound fascination with boxing. "I think it's very dangerous for you to enjoy hitting things so much", he said. I pointed out that there was a colossal difference between hitting things (like hanging bags) and hitting people. I have lots of aggression for which I won't apologize; I enjoy whaling away on inanimate objects. For me, boxing doesn't compromise either my feminist or my Christian pacifist commitments; my friend thinks I'm a hypocrite who needs to examine the issue more closely.)
Jeff is right that there's more to being a pro-feminist than simply believing that "women are people." Somehow, feminist men have to be committed to putting that belief into action. But the actions we take, particularly in our relationships with others, are going to be largely congruent not only with our politics but with our personalities. Though I try to be irenic on this blog, every once in a while I enjoy a good public confrontation. I'm not shy, and sometimes, I delight in the adrenaline rush that comes from getting in the face of someone who has just made a truly asinine remark. Mind you, I have to be careful; justified anger is a drug as strong as any I've ever known. Properly channeled, it can be prophetic and powerful -- misused, it quickly turns into loathsome self-righteousness that alienates all within earshot. It's akin to the line between aggression and assertiveness. The former seeks to dominate in order to validate the ego; the latter seeks to challenge in order to transform. In practice, it's a tricky line to walk!
Of course, y'all know I'm not going to finish this post without dragging in some Scripture! Almost everyone knows the Lord's words in Matthew 10:16: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. I may not get much agreement on this from my secular male allies, but I think that this passage applies as much to how to live as a feminist man as it does to how to witness to the Good News. (Um, just so we're all clear, lads: the "wolves" refers to the dominant masculine culture, not to our feminist sisters!) The wisdom of the serpent, I imagine, is the wisdom of knowing when to lie low and knowing when to strike -- in practical terms, developing a discernment for when and how to challenge cultural and individual manifestations of sexism.
Feminist men must avoid several temptations: the temptation to passivity as well as the temptation to play the role of the "white knight" chief among them! Based on personality traits, some men will find it difficult to summon the courage to speak out; others will find it difficult not to fall into traditional masculine roles like that of the Hero or the Rescuer. Most of us will make mistakes along the way, but learning to be as gentle and harmless as doves -- while retaining "serpent wisdom" -- is a good place to start.