In these campaigns, the masculine mystique is still very present, albeit a kinder, gentler version. By flattering men’s strength and asking them to use it to protect women, we once again place men in the driver’s seat of culture, asking for them to renounce violence and be less vile guardians.
Common to all these messages is that men CAN rape, hurt, buy women, catcall or what-have-you, but they SHOULDN’T. Men, we are told, shouldn’t hurt women, not because of any intrinsic rights women may have, but because other men might do it to THEIR women, and that would be awful.
Male privilege is re-defined, but not negated, in a way that leaves masculinity unchallenged and still dominant. The wonderful, complex, and multi-faceted language of generations of queer, trans, intersectionalist and sex-positive feminism and human-rights dialogues is thrown aside completely in favor of a request that straight, cis-gendered men join the rest of the world at the big-kids table.
Again, this isn’t to say that these campaigns haven’t done good, but rather, that they should go farther. There is certainly something to be said about using the language of the patriarchy to subvert the patriarchy, or of using privilege to end privilege, but it’s not clear that’s what’s being done. Rather, it looks as if men are given a privileged place in the feminist movement, one where they are praised for simply not being terrible and their much-vaunted power remains intact.