Feminism doesn’t have the best of reputations, especially among men. Many think that it’s an issue that just doesn’t affect us, that it is a woman’s issue, something for them to worry about. Many are quite hostile to it, seeing it as an ideology that is fundamentally anti-men, that seeks to raise women by pulling men down. That some Feminists just hate men and see men as evil and the source all the problems in the world. Gender issues are often seen as a zero sum, that each side can only gain if the other side loses.
Yet Feminism can make society a much better place and improve the lives of all of us. Obviously, women stand to gain the most as they are worse off. It is good enough to improve society even if I don’t directly benefit and I could fill a blog post on how the many ways in which treating women as equals benefits us all (and I probably will in another post). However, I think it’s worth focusing on the ways in which Feminism can benefit men, especially because most men are completely unaware of them.
At its heart, Feminism is about treating people equally regardless of gender and removing gender stereotypes and double standards. Essentially, it wants for people to feel free to do as they wish and express themselves without fear of gender barriers. What many don’t realise is that men too are blocked by barriers. Growing up I was keenly aware the huge amount of rules that seemed to control everything I did. There was a huge list of things that men don’t do. Men don’t wear pink shirts, men don’t cross their legs, men don’t listen to certain types of music or like certain types of TV shows. Even having too many female friends was unmanly.
Instead there were things that you had to do, regardless of whether you wanted to. Men had to play sports, had to be tough, had to fight. Drinking was manly, so the more you drank, the more of a man you were. Several times I’ve had to jump between men about to fight over literally nothing, because they felt that if someone even slightly disrespected them, they had to fight. If you didn’t fit this image of what a man was supposed to be, you were mocked, ridiculed, bullied. If you didn’t do these things you were a girl and/or gay (the two were considered the same thing). The strange thing was that these rules were enforced by other men, we built our own prison. Women were much less likely to subscribe to the stereotypes, which made them seem all the stranger to us, they just didn’t get why these things were important.
One of the biggest barrier was around emotion. Men don’t show emotion. It was like some unwritten rule that we were all sworn to. The only exception is anger, men are allowed get angry, it is even encouraged. But no man can ever cry, no matter what situation. Even at funerals, men hide their tears as if it was something to be ashamed of. Even friendship is supposed to be left unspoken. I have great friends I’ve known for years, without either one of us saying a nice thing about the other. Complimenting each other just isn’t something that men do. No man is allowed to be afraid. Even in relationships with people they care deeply about, be it friends, family or girlfriends, men feel deeply restricted in expressing how they feel. It is more socially acceptable for a man to deal with their problems by getting blind drunk than by talking about them.
The only emotion men are allowed express towards women is lust, as if that is the only thing we care about women. Caring about a woman’s feelings and personality is a sign that you are “whipped”, a “pussy”. Real men have sex with women, only losers have conversations with them. This inability to express emotion leaves lads unable to deal with rejection. I’ve seen many cases (both online and in real life) of lads who got rejected by women and became bitter and resentful as a result. They felt they couldn’t admit weakness so the problem was all the women’s fault. The women were sluts or bitches or heartless. The only way the lads felt comfortable publically expressing their emotion was through anger and you can find countless examples of this online.
There are jobs that are supposedly not for men, or at least not for “real” men. Men aren’t supposed to be hairdressers, nurses, dancers. Jobs that involve caring are dominated by women, as if men are unable to care for anyone. Instead they are supposed to want “manly” jobs like construction, manual and military jobs, jobs based on physical strength and killing people, those are the characteristics of men.
Some people known as Men’s Rights activists are strongly anti-feminist arguing that men are not as privileged as claimed and suffer from discrimination. For example, they point to the fact that men have a far higher suicide rate than women or that in custody disputes, the courts tend to side with the woman over the man. They point out that men are often portrayed as incapable of doing household chores or as violent animals. Discussions of rape often imply that men simply can’t help themselves. Men are also the victims of rape and domestic violence yet this is rarely reported and people are more likely to laugh at the men than offer support.
Yet the Men’s Rights activists don’t realise that this is exactly why we need Feminism. By breaking down gender stereotypes and removing the image of women as helpless victims and men as violent attackers, we can solve the gender problems that both Feminists and Men’s Rights activists oppose. Challenging the stereotype that men must always be tough will allow men to talk about their feelings and mental health and is the best way to tackle suicide. Ditching the stereotype of men as violent will help victims of rape and domestic violence get help. Women are favoured in custody battles because of the old fashioned view that raising children is a woman’s job while the man should be out working. Feminists are the main people challenging these stereotypes.
But don’t Feminists hate men? Aren’t they overly sensitive and complain that everything, no matter how trivial is sexism? Don’t they want to censor debate and get men to shut up? Don’t they claim that everything triggers them and want to hide in a safe space?
I could go on and on, and we all have heard outrageous and crazy stories. But every ideology has its extremists and its stereotypes that opponents love to use. If you create a movement of millions of people, you are bound to have a few extremists. For example, if I said I am left wing, someone might stereotype me as believing that capitalism is the root of all evil, we should line the rich up against a wall and the lazy will steal from the hard working. Now I’m sure you could find a tiny minority that actually agrees with this (just as I’m sure you could find Feminists who actually hate men if you look hard enough) but you shouldn’t judge a movement based on its most extreme part. Opponents love to do this as it makes them feel smug and superior, but it’s unfair and dishonest.
It’s easy to caricature an ideology and you can do it for any belief. You can stereotype conservatives as hating the poor and trigger happy racists. Irish nationalists are stereotyped as ignorant muck savages who want to murder all British people. Anti-nationalists are in turned stereotyped as cowardly boot lickers and “West Brit” servants of the Queen of England. Social liberals are immoral degenerates who want us all to have sex with men, women and dogs and will scream that you are a bigot if you don’t agree. Social conservatives are ignorant hicks living in the Stone Age who hate everyone different. Trade unions are corrupt and lazy who make a living from extorting the rest of society. Capitalists are greedy blood suckers who would sell their own mother if the price was right.
Even among anti-feminists there are plenty of people I could use to smear the whole movement. There are people who think women shouldn’t vote, that their brains are not as rational as men’s or that they are little more than dogs. If you don’t believe me, check out “The Red Pill“. I’m sure there will be people who respond to this article by saying “but the Feminists really are that crazy, they really do want to treat men as inferiors, the extremists are the majority” yet would be offended if I suggested that anti-feminists hate women or wanted to keep them as inferiors. Some people want to judge their side based on the best examples and their opponents based on the worst examples.
And on and on it goes. For any ideology I could find someone, somewhere who actually holds that view. After all, the Western English speaking world is huge with a population of a couple hundred million or so. Even if only a tiny fraction of 1% of people actually hold this view, that’s still thousands and thousands of people. In fact there are plenty of websites devoted solely to recording every crazy statement that someone with a different ideology has, even if that person has absolutely no influence or power. A lot of the time the statement is taken out of context or sensationalised to give it a meaning it never had.
When I was younger, I thought Feminism was an ideology that at best offered nothing to men like me and at worst was outright hostile. It’s only recently that I’ve realised how much us men can gain from Feminism.