I am a man and I am a feminist.
I strongly believe that the way our gender system works even in our ‘enlightened’ era is messed up, and that we should all, men included, be doing something to change it. I don’t agree with the notion that feminism should be a women’s only endeavour for two obvious reasons: one, there are women in my life that I care about, and the prospect of them suffering because of their gender galls me. Two, gender roles are damaging to men too.
As to the first point, the simple fact that your loved ones are liable to be harassed because they’re female should be enough to move you. A glance at the website everydaysexism says a lot about what many women suffer. It’s a reminder that we have not yet reached equality. The women in these stories (of which there are a sickening number) could be your mother, sister, niece, aunt, friend, partner or daughter. The spectrum of harassment reads as unpleasant and demeaning: from wolf-whistling and aggressive come-ons, to stories of women whose rapes were dismissed because of the way they dressed. It’s horrifying. Many of the stories are from under-16s. Some of them are from men, being harassed for not being masculine enough, or by women, that seem to believe that since all men only think with their dicks, any attention should be welcomed.
Which brings me onto my second point, a world without feminism can be pretty crap for men too. Granted, you get the advantages that a male dominated world brings, but only if you fit the pre-supposed definition of masculinity. Those who do not fit the norm suffer. If you have long hair, if you’re not strong, if you’re anything other than aggressively heterosexual with many sexual partners, that makes you lesser than other, ‘real’ men. These issues may seem ultimately inconsequential, but the consequences of such attitudes can be very real.
Suicide disproportionally affects men. In many countries, the UK included, significantly more men die from suicide than women with the most commonly proposed reason being the expectations of masculinity and individualism placed upon men. It’s not manly to feel depressed, let alone seek help. You should just ‘toughen up’ and deal with it. But toughening up isn’t a viable cure to a mood disorder, and many men can’t deal with it.
There are many misconceptions about feminism. One is that it’s about women being better than men, but this is reactionary drivel. Feminism seeks to, among other things, break gender roles. To object to the notion that women have to stay at home to cook and clean equally fights the expectation that men have to be workers and wage-earners. The idea that women should be dainty and ‘feminine’ for lack of a better word also quashes the stereotype that men have to be tough and ‘masculine’.
Young women and men are being harassed and treated as nothing more than sex on legs. We’ve all seen it in the pubs and clubs of Nottingham and even on the street. Many will have experienced it. Let’s change it; let’s make a culture in which that is unacceptable.
Don’t be a lad. Be a feminist.