The Struggle of Men and Feminism

Every man I know fits into one of the following categories:

  • “Sure I think women should have equal rights, but I’m not a feminist.”
  • “I’m a feminist, but don’t say that so loudly, OK?”
  • “I’m not a feminist, and don’t even get me started on how women suck.”
  • “I believe women should be treated like the beautiful starfish that they are — except for that bitch Hillary.”
  • “I’m a feminist! Let me tell you what being a feminist means.”
  • “I’m a feminist, even though I only read books, listen to music, and watch movies that were created by men and don’t voice any concern for POC and trans feminism and intersectionality as a whole.”

The seventh category is reserved for an elite few, a group of men so small that I know that I could count them off on one hand. It’s for the men who are actually feminists and do it right.

Every single man should aim for the seventh category, but like so many things in life, it feels like women put in the work — and oftentimes, put in the work for men. In this post I’m going to break down each of those categories. If you’re a man reading this and feel uncomfortable, that’s OK. Perfection is not what I expect, I just need men to try with the same thought and intention they put towards playing Fortnite or crafting a tweet about the NBA finals. I encourage anyone who feels uncomfortable to fully think about why they feel that way, and to use it as a tool for reflection and growth.

“Women should have equal rights, but I’m not a feminist.”

^Look at that above definition. Look at it until you finally have the message through your brain. If you think women should have equal rights to men, then you are a feminist.

Why are so many men (and women) afraid of that label? I hear men oftentimes so quickly assert that they’re not feminists in the same way that they would assure someone they’re not a racist. You should be a feminist. You should own that label with pride. You should want women to have the same rights as men. You should accept that women’s equality will inevitably cause some discomfort to you, but you should be ready to help make that happen regardless.

“I’m a feminist, but don’t say that so loudly, OK?”

This is the category where I feel most men fit in. They respect their girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, female coworkers, bosses, etc. They meet the base level of expectation of not being creepy to females, which is as basic as it is nonetheless appreciated. They think yeah, I’m a feminist. I treat females well but are really only able to say those words to the women they’re close to and the people they trust.

I do get it. As hard as it is to be a female, I often think in the day-to-day, non-political aspect of life, it’s harder to be a man. Toxic masculinity is horrible, but the only way we break through is by normalizing respect for women. We absolutely need more people to speak up, especially those with the privilege of being taken more seriously.

And for the record, being a feminist woman is far from being easy. I had family members tell me on a number of occasions not to be so vocal about being feminist because I would scare away men from dating me. To which I still say GOOD. Toxic masculinity is all about being a strong, manly man (whatever that means). It often overlooks the fact that true courage is what makes someone strong. Saying the right thing and standing up to others is really what speaks to someone’s character.

Real quick, that goes for women too. In 2019 we all need to be advocating for women’s rights — and not just white women. But since research shows my opinion doesn’t matter as much as a white man saying the same things, here are some white men saying the same things:

via Canadian Women’s Foundation

“Don’t even get me started on how women suck.”

Therapy, therapy, therapy, go to therapy. I swear you’ll feel better. Also, go to therapy.

“Women should be treated with respect. Except for that bitch Hillary.”

Maaaaaan this is a much more common viewpoint than I had previously thought. Moving out west from liberal Madison has been a blessed (and scary) eye opener.

If you went on a restaurant date with someone and they were super nice to you, but incredibly rude to the server, wouldn’t that rub you the wrong way? People who are selective about the types of people who deserve to be treated with kindness are dangerous, and I mean that with full offense. It’s like Trump imprisoning thousands of immigrants and separating countless children from their families while making provisions for his staff who are also immigrants. Anyone who calls certain women the b-word, comments negatively on their body, or makes rude remarks that they would only direct towards a woman does not fully respect women.

“I’m a feminist! Let me tell you what being a feminist means.”

Bb. Sweet bb. Sweet angel bb. Go ahead and assume we already know.

If you had questions about the legal system, you’d consult a lawyer or legal website. If you had medical questions, you’d listen to a doctor or at the very least, go to WebMD. If you needed to fix something on your car, you’d listen to a mechanic. WHEN YOU NEED TO FIX THE PATRIARCHY (which also hurts you, btw), YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO A WOMAN. Not comment or talk, but truly listen, and truly believe.

“I’m a feminist, even though I only read books, listen to music, and watch movies that were created by men and don’t voice any concern for POC and trans feminism and intersectionality as a whole.”

If you’re a man, imagine growing up and most TV shows and movies had all-female casts. Imagine seeing men as secondary characters, or seeing them represented and thinking “that doesn’t seem right at all.” Imagine every book you read was basically version after slightly different version of “Dear Diary, It’s Me, Margaret.” Imagine some of the best movies of all time have literally zero speaking roles for men. Imagine that’s all you see at the box office.

If this sounds stifling, boring, or overwhelming, welcome to the world as seen by women. Representation matters. It’s important that everyone exposes themselves to different viewpoints, just as it’s important to give voice and support to female creators. It is — and I cannot stress this enough — the most important thing that every single person takes the time to read books from POC female and/or queer authors. Feminism is not at all just for white women. If you want equality for women, you need to understand the challenges faced by those experiencing intersectionality (look it up if you don’t already know), and you need to listen to other voices than what’s mainstream or conventional. We can only grow if we challenge ourselves and our perspectives.

Fighting for women’s rights, POC rights, LGBTQ rights, disability rights — it’s OK if you don’t do everything perfectly. If you still use plastic on occasion, even though you’re worried about climate change, you’re not a monster. But as long as you’re trying and do the little things wherever you can, it makes a difference.

Level Up Your Feminism By…

  • Reading a book by Toni Morrison, Roxane Gay, Jesmyn Ward, Sandra Cisneros, or other authors of color.
  • Making space in meetings for women to talk.
  • Acknowledging that men (yourself included, if you self-identify as such) will never know as much about feminism or women’s struggles as you might think.
  • Trying to learn as much as you can anyways.
  • Calling out men for anti-feminist language or thoughts (i.e. “I don’t like you referring to _____ as a bitch” or “Talking about ______’s weight is not appropriate”).
  • Asking women questions, but also recognizing that it’s not their job to explain their experience as a woman to you. You need to find outside sources as well (but again, the majority of those sources should be women).
  • Listening to female artists, and not just white pop conventional singers.
    • Listening to female rappers — especially if you like rap but you only listen to male rappers, you’re ignoring some of the most important voices in the industry and not giving space for their craft to grow. Women have had to listen to catchy music with derogatory lyrics for decades, you can stand to pay attention to some female rappers.
  • Seeing a therapist. Everyone should!
  • Honestly just watching “Dirty Computer” by Janelle Monae 80-something times, it should stick.

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