Men, do you identify as a feminist?
If the answer is yes, good on you. If the answer is no, I’m going to try to change your mind right now.
But first, let’s just all take a moment to get on the same page about what feminism is and what it isn’t. Feminism is advocacy for equality between the sexes, plain and simple. Feminism is not advocating to elevate women above men, it’s not giving women rights at the expense of men’s rights, nor is it promoting matriarchy as a replacement for patriarchy.
Feminism does not work for the benefit of just women, it inherently works for the benefit of men too.
To understand what I mean, I’m going to break it down into some charts…
In most modern societies, being feminine– regardless of whether you identify as a woman or man or something else –is less accepted than being masculine. That’s what makes a society patriarchal.
Patriarchal society isn’t just oppressive to women, it’s oppressive to femininity. And that’s a problem because femininity is not exclusive to women, and masculinity is not exclusive to men.
This is the solution feminism has to the patriarchal status quo:
If you find yourself nodding in agreement with the above diagram, you are a feminist.
If you’re still balking at identifying as a feminist, that’s probably because this is all just theoretical–– so let’s talk about how patriarchy hurts men and how feminism in practice is actually helping men.
Gender Stereotypes Hurt Men Too
“People tend to think that sexism is just a “women thing”, but it is not. Sexism and “machismo” do affect men as well. They shape the way we think and behave, subtly saying to us what we should do (and not do) to be truly “masculine”.
For example, we grow up with the idea that “real men never cry!” – and even now that I realised how stupid this assumption is, I still find very hard to cry, even if nobody is watching, and even if I really want to!
In a similar way, also homophobia sneaks into our mind and habits, telling us for example that, in order to avoid looking too “effeminate”, we shouldn’t cross our legs in a certain way, we should express our love for our male pals in a certain way, and so on…
We need to become aware of all these unconscious behaviours, and then act freely, without any embarrassment.”
-–Giovanni Gaetani, Humanists International Growth & Development Officer
These are words from a male feminist, an outspoken Italian Humanist, and also my dear friend– Giovanni.
The fear of the feminine has ironically gripped masculinity by the balls for centuries.
Strength, aggression, stoicism, breadwinning, dominance–– these are all stereotypically male qualities that are accepted in our patriarchal society.
Domestic work, showing emotions, caregiving, vulnerability, submissiveness, asking for help–– these are all feminine stereotypes that men are shamed for if they take on.
I’d even say an effeminate man is treated with more discrimination for his gender expression than a masculine woman.
I also want to take a moment to say that women can be guilty of perpetuating male gender stereotypes. For example, mothers who won’t let their young sons play with dolls because they’re “for girls” or don’t approve of their son being gay. Or women that tease or shame men for not being “manly enough.” So just so we’re clear, it’s not just men who enforce gender stereotypes. Some women also buy into the traditional gender roles.
Machoism Causes Emotional Repression and Stunted Emotional Growth
There’s a reason women generally mature faster than men. Men are not taught to be in touch with their emotions–– they are taught to hide them. As Giovanni said, we were all taught growing up that “real men don’t cry.”
And we’re taught that men who can’t handle their feelings on their own are somehow weak, yet we give men very little support or space and few resources to work through emotions.
Humans are meant to cry! Let the tears flow, my dudes. Being emotionally healthy is empowering.
Men Have Much Higher Suicide Rates
Studies show that men make up about 78% of all the suicides in the US. Since women get more social acceptance in talking about their emotions, men are seriously deserving of more support in caring for their mental health.
Fathers and Stay-at-Home Dads Are Not Taken as Seriously as Parents
The worst thing is when you hear people say the dad is at home “babysitting” his child. Look, if it’s his child, he ain’t babysitting. He’s being a parent.
Nobody should be downgrading fatherhood to babysitting. Women in the US barely get a maternity leave, but men certainly deserve a paternity leave too.
In the US, there used to be a presumption that the child always goes with the mother in custody arrangements. Most custody arrangements still show bias to the mother as the primary caregiver. This needs to change if women and men are to have equal rights.
A Deeper Fear of the Feminine Causes Homophobia and Transphobia
It’s definitely more socially acceptable for a woman to kiss another woman than it is for a man to kiss another man. This masculine homophobia is rooted in a fear of the feminine.
Think about the cultures with the worst homophobia–– the reason why the homophobia is so extreme is because being gay is equated with being “made a woman.” Sexual submission is seen as only for women.
This is why feminism is aligned so closely with LGBTQ+.
Men Are Also Affected by Rape Culture and Violence
Did you know that until recently the FBI’s definition of rape didn’t include men? Recent as in, FBI Director Robert Mueller approved the change (2012). Ya know, the same Robert Mueller whose name is associated with slowly dismantling the Trump campaign for illegal, immoral, and treasonous activities. A feminist organization was at the forefront of this change too.
Rape culture and violence toward the feminine are displays of unchecked masculine aggression. Look, everyone has masculine and feminine in them, and we all have aggression within us (ever been in a car when I’m driving?). But the general acceptance and desensitization of rape mean that men also suffer from is toxic aggression.
Men in the prison system experience this cultural acceptance of rape and violence first hand. And then male survivors of sexual assault are often disregarded or even mocked.
And not to mention nearly every mass shooting in the US is carried out by a male shooter.
The toxic aggression manifests itself in horrifying ways, particularly in the US.
So men, what if I told you that you don’t have to be the breadwinner to be a man?
What if I told you that you don’t have to hold back your emotions, you can cry, you can be vulnerable and still be just as of a man?
…that you can cross your legs, you can wear makeup, you can wear whatever you like, you can carry a purse and still be a man?
…that you can have space to talk about being sexually assaulted, you can have space to talk about mental health issues, you can ask for help, you don’t have to be competitive, you don’t have to be dominant or rigid or aggressive to be a man?
…that you don’t have to always be the initiator in dating scenarios to be accepted by society?
This is why feminism is for men. No more gender stereotypes– for women or men. Men should be free to express themselves however they please and be encouraged to take non-traditionally male roles.
Also, feminist men are sexy.
So men– are you a feminist?
If you still say no, I’d love to know why!