Feminism is a movement with a very odd sort of reputation. It has a long, rich history – some of it great and important, some of it somewhat exclusionary. I’ve heard some women of colour say that they don’t feel comfortable identifying as a feminist, due to the fact that much of the movement’s history was primarily concerned with the issues of white women – and while I understand that, I’m also a firm believer that modern feminism should represent women of all types, whether that be women of colour, trans-women, queer women, whatever. As a matter of fact, I personally believe that everyone should be a feminist, but the group of people that I find to be most resistant to the movement are men.
And I understand why – that sole white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, neurotypical, wealthy (etc.) man who seems to run all of media has gone out of his way to depict feminists as man-haters, and who wants to align themselves with a group that (supposedly) hates you for the way you were born? And while I won’t deny that there are some less than savoury women in the world, feminism is not to blame for that (more on that a little later). In fact, I personally believe that the men of the world have much more to gain by joining the feminist movement than they have to lose, and to prove that, I’ve compiled the top three reasons here.
1. By definition, all feminism refers to is a belief in gender equality
That’s right. No man-hating. No attempts to create an entirely matriarchal society. Just good, old-fashioned women-are-as-good-as-men-who-are-both-as-good-as-transpeople-and-every-other-gender-one-might-identify-as.
By saying you’re feminist, all that you’re really saying is “I believe we should all have equal rights”, and that is something that any kind-hearted, caring person would believe.
Now, if you want to get technical, there are many different kinds of feminism, all with their own agendas and their own varying degrees of radicalism. Some feminisms focus specifically on financial equality, some on racial equality, etc., but that leads me down a whole other path that I don’t know if you’re ready for me to discuss yet. The point is, feminism is a huge movement, filled with many contrasting ideas all aiming for the same goal of equality. And the great thing about that is, if there’s one side that stresses something you don’t believe in, you don’t have to buy into it. There have been times when the feminist movement has said things that I don’t believe in, but that doesn’t mean I disregard the movement altogether. I still believe in gender equality, I just don’t believe in that one particular argument.
By being a feminist, you aren’t condoning everything that feminism has ever done. You are simply aiming for gender equality.
2. The patriarchy harms men too
There’s been a lot of focus in the feminism movement on how the patriarchy harms women, and that’s true. It completely does, but they are not the only people getting the short end of the stick here. Men are too.
For those of you who aren’t completely clear on the definition of the patriarchy, let me explain it briefly: this refers to a strict system of gender roles. Men are expected to be dominating, strong, masculine, etc., and women are expected to be submissive, passive, and soft. And any human being in this world, regardless of gender, can see right off the bat what’s wrong with that.
Women aren’t objects. They have emotions, passions, reactions. They can’t just passively sit around, waiting for men to do things for them.
And, similarly, men aren’t rocks. They have emotions, weaknesses, quirks. The patriarchy demands that all men be emotionally strong and stable, and when they can’t be (because nobody can be strong on a constant basis), they’re disregarded as being ‘too feminine’. And that isn’t okay.
Men should be allowed to have their emotions, because when they aren’t, too often this results in men who are emotionally stunted. Or, in some cases, male emotions simply aren’t taken as seriously as female emotions. This happens often between parents – mothers are often seen as having more of a claim on the child simply because they’re women. They have the maternal instinct that it takes to raise a child properly. Men (according to the patriarchy) are too manly and unemotional to care for a child, and so they rarely receive equal treatment.
Men should be allowed to be weak. Too often, men who have found themselves in vulnerable positions are either not believed (because men can’t be weak), or flat out laughed at. This puts men in very dangerous situations when they face something like an abusive relationship or rape. Men have a difficult time coming forth in scenarios such as these, and if they do, they rarely find the support that women do when they come forth (not that women receive much support either, but that’s another subject altogether).
And what about men who have feminine interests? What about a totally straight, cis-gendered man who wants to wear make-up, or dress up in women’s clothing? Should he not be allowed to do so without being laughed at, or without feeling like there’s something wrong in what he is doing? Men should be allowed to explore their femininity without being judged. It is the patriarchy (not women) who restricts them from being able to do so.
3. Men should care about women’s issues
So far, I’ve focused on how feminism can help men in particular, and it most certainly can, but that isn’t the only reason why men should care about gender equality.
Men should just care about women. Period, end of story.
And I mean care without having to relate it to themselves somehow.
Men should be able to look at a woman who has been violently raped and they should feel sorry for her without saying “I can’t imagine if that was my sister/mother/aunt/wife/daughter.” She isn’t your sister/mother/aunt/wife/daughter. She is a woman. She is a person who has faced injustice. You should fight for her.
I mean, hell, I’m never going to get prostate cancer, but you don’t hear me whining every Movember, or saying that it’s only worthy of my attention because “what if my brother/father/husband/son/gerbil got prostate cancer”.
In the long run, gender equality is something that can only help everyone, regardless of what gender you identify as. Feminism is not the hatred of men – it is the attempt to make us all equal, in as many ways as possible.