There are a lot of common misunderstandings around feminism, and it can be easy to assume that feminism is all about empowering women and taking something away from men. Buttrue feminism is all about equality, no matter the gender involved, and men can be empowered by this reconsideration of gender roles too.
So, writing from the point of view of a man myself, here are just a few of the reasons why I think men should be feminists too.
Because feminism means equality
Don’t believe the anti-feminist propaganda – feminism isn’t about taking rights away from men, or about making women the “superior” sex. Feminism just means equality, for all genders, and men have nothing to be afraid of here. Recognising male privilege doesn’t have to be scary, and it doesn’t mean that we have to spend our lives apologising for everything we do (as some men might assume it does). Instead, it’s about acknowledging the unavoidable privilege we have benefited from, and supporting the vision of a more equal society.
It’s important to note here that male privilege does not mean we don’t have any problems of our own to contend with. Far from it – men have a host of difficulties to deal with in the 21st century, from forging a career to getting on the property ladder. You may feel that you, as an individual man, have not benefited from any kind of patriarchal advantage in life – you may be struggling to support your family, for example, and resent any implication that you’re an elite. And this is all fair enough – these are problems that need to be addressed by society too.
But feminism is not about an individual situation, but collective society as a whole. Believe it or not, women have an even greater series of obstacles they need to overcome – as well as the existing societal problems that men have to contend with, women have to deal with sexism on top of everything else. From unequal pay and everyday sexism, to domestic abuse andperiod poverty, women have a lot to deal with.
Men have it tough in many ways, but women have an extra load to bear. Male privilege does not mean that men live in mansions made of gold – perhaps the word “privilege” has too many unhelpful connotations here. But it does mean that men have the “privilege” of not having to deal with the ingrained, systemic sexism that still has a dramatic affect on women’s lives.
New gender roles are a good thing for men, too
Although there are enough reasons for men to be feminists without taking self-interest into account – we should all want equality for all, no matter their gender – there are other positives for men that are often forgotten about. Let’s take gender roles as an example.
Many anti-feminists fear the erosion of traditional gender roles – they might subscribe to the idea of “separate spheres”; with the man’s sphere commonly associated with work and the woman’s sphere being associated with homemaking. Many mistakenly associate the separation of gender roles with the success of society, and fear change. But one counterfactual they should consider here is what about all the women who didn’t have the chance to pursue their own fields of professional interest in the past? The potential cost to society is unknown, and undoubtedly dramatic. For most of human history, we have been neglecting the intellects of half of our species. We’re only just catching up now.
Men can be liberated by the dissolution of such strict, traditional gender roles too. Toxic masculinity is a real issue – and as a man, I know how ingrained this is in society. Almost subconsciously, I have felt the pressure to “be a man” – to be strong, and suppress my emotions. It hardly needs saying that this is a disaster formen’s mental health.
You’ll undoubtedly be familiar with the grim statistics by now. Men are less likely to open up about their mental health – we bottle up our emotions, perhaps because we’re afraid of appearing weak and vulnerable, and so dedicated to maintaining the traditional idea of a “strong man”. But emotions don’t simply disappear, and if they’re bottled up without release this can cause significant damage to our mental health.
Men need to open up about their vulnerability more. Instead of seeing this as a weakness, we need to recognise that opening up about our vulnerability actually takes a great amount of strength, bravery, and honesty. There is no reason to be ashamed – and ironically, in order to be the strong male figure we are all programmed to model ourselves on, we need to address our vulnerabilities rather than repress them. We can’t be there for other people if we’re not there for ourselves.
Men should be feminists because feminism frees us, too. It frees us from the choking hold of a damaging identity that has been forced onto us for generations. It’s time to break free, and be ourselves – in a society that treats everyone equally, no matter their gender.