Not so long ago, Ludo Gabriele – a New York-based French entrepreneur – was in denial about the way he perceived women.
He was, he says, stuck inside a “man box” of a culturally defined and ridged set of “manly” behaviours.
“Like many men, I was not comfortable with my feminine side,” Gabriele writes, in his groundbreaking blog post Coming Out As A Male Feminist. “I buried it so deep inside myself because my environment made it dangerous for me to be sensitive.”
It was the birth of Gabriele’s second child and first girl, Sofia, earlier this year (he was already a dad to six-year-old Enzo) that prompted him to identify as a proud feminist.
And ever since, he’s been on a mission to shatter the concept of tough, emotionally resilient men on his website Woke Daddy.
“It took deep introspection and painful audit of my behavior to realize that I was not the man I wanted to be,” he says.
Many men, he says, have a biased understanding of feminism: “They don't see feminism as advocating for equal rights and opportunities for both genders”.
But he firmly believes, “You can still be a feminist and be a man. Pinky swear.”
In his mission statement for becoming a feminist, Gabriele delivers an on-point recap of the issues faced by women in modern society.
“All I want, at the end of the day is my daughter and my son to have the same opportunities,” he writes.
“I want my daughter to be able to dress the way she wants, not to please the sexual appetites of society. I want her to be noticed by the value of her heart, her brain, her accomplishments, and not because of the way she looks.
“I want her to be able to be athletic if she wants to be, without being ashamed for being muscular. I want her to be able to walk on the street without suffering the burden to being catcalled every single day. Most of all, I want my daughter to feel safe amongst men.”
Gabriele’s feminist father campaign, however, has not been without its viciously personal – and sometimes violently opposed – critics.
“I get a lot of negativity from insecure men,” the Woke Daddy blogger told Broadly this week. “But it does not bother me, I was expecting it. If I manage to plant the seed and instill a spark of critical thinking, my job is done.”
“I am not looking for validation. I just feel that this is my responsibility to speak out and challenge the status quo,” he adds.
In fact, much of the hyperbolic trolling Gabriele confronts illuminates exactly the kind of “toxic masculinity” he is trying to tackle.
One person termed him “a cuck for life” and accused him of starting “a man hating victimhood movement meant to demonize men”.
Gabriele also faces virulent opposition from alt right platforms in the States, whom he says has “initiated a trolling campaign against me resulting in countless attacks and insults from their audience targeting me and my family. Messages and comments are ranging from the nastiest insults to near death”.
While Gabriele remains unbowed in the face of cyber-bullying, he admits the “speed and intensity” of it had “caught me off guard”.
“This whole experience perfectly displays the toxic side of masculinity which I believe to be the roots of many evil in the world,” he writes on Facebook. “Some comments aiming to explain what a real man should be and how he should be behaving with women are really disturbing.
“So fathers, parents, please teach your boys right. Tell them that they do not have to be violent to be protective. That they don't have to be tough and dominant at all time. Allow them to be sensitive. Give them permission to express their feelings, and their emotions. This will be a great contribution to humanity. For both genders.”