This semester I’ve talked a lot about feminism in regard to women’s issues. I’ve briefly touched on how men are impacted by the feminist movement. Today, I’m going to focus on why feminism is important to men and the role of men within the movement.
Many people believe that men cannot be feminists. The word alone seems to be exclusive only to women. This is incorrect. While the experiences and historical oppression of women are the basis behind the feminist movement, essentially as explained over and over before, feminism seeks to put all genders on equal ground. In this essence, men may not be able to know what it’s like to be a woman, but they can sure as hell support the equality of women and men.
Feminism does not seek to overthrow men. It seeks to overturn the patriarchal society that instills that men are inherently better than women and therefore are entitled to better things like better jobs, higher wages, recognition, positions of power, sexual domination, etc. etc. The list could go on. If you think this oppression isn’t real, just think about the fact that women around the world are attacked verbally and physically when they speak out for gender equality.
I was recently verbally assaulted by a young man outside of a bar who was making racist remarks about some of my friends who were international students. I stood up for my friends, who were inside and unable to defend themselves or their nationality. The young man said, “Why are you even talking woman?” Whoa, so a racist and a sexist. Wonderful. I didn’t back down. My boyfriend and the male bar manager, stood up for me and my friends. The young man quickly realized that racism and sexism wasn’t going to fly there. He ended his offensive rhetoric. Thank you support system!
Instead of making a battle out of gender issues, why not recognize that everyone as an individual, regardless of gender, is capable of bringing something unique to the table. Let’s quit judging one another on the basis of gender alone.
A woman goes back to work after having children and she’s judged as a bad mother or an undesirable employee. A man gets upset when his child is sick and he’s judged as weak for not holding it together. A young girl is looked at as “odd” because she doesn’t like playing with Barbies or wearing makeup. A young boy is scolded by his mom for picking up a pink hula hoop because it’s a “girl” color. I actually saw this last situation happen right in front of me at the Stillwater Arts Festival last weekend. Luckily, the man who I assume was the father stepped in and said, “Let him play with whatever hula hoop he wants.” He then proceeded to pick up a bigger pink hula hoop and started hula hooping with the young boy. Kudos sir…kudos.
There were two events on campus last week that specifically looked at how men can make a change in overturning this patriarchal system that hurts BOTH women and men. I hope you were able to attend, or at least that the events caught your attention and caused you to look into the message.
The “Blurred Lines and Axe Body Spray” workshop was hosted by the OSU Student Conduct Office last Wednesday. The workshop sought to examine and challenge the negative portrayal of the treatment of women in the media, whether that involved victim-blaming, violence against women or just an overall acceptance of the type of behavior that encourages rape and entitlement culture.
Last Thursday, the OSU Ethics Center hosted its last event of the 2014-2015 year with its discussion on “Race, Masculinity & Identity” with guest speaker Dr. Elon Dancy from the University of Oklahoma. On a more specific level, this discussion addressed issues black men encounter as they are raised in a society that expects them to live up to certain masculine expectations.
If you weren’t able to make it to any of the events, you could also take a Gender & Women’s Studies course during your time at OSU. If you need some incentive to not think the class is completely a waste of time, many of the courses fulfill the diversity (D), international (I) or social (S) requirements OSU students need before they graduate. I believe, however, students will get much more from these courses than a graduation fulfillment.
I wanted to write about feminism in relation to men because as gender equality activist and self-identified feminist, Jackson Katz (yes Jackson as in a man Jackson), explains in his TED Talks speech, for too long have men been left out of the conversation. Gender issues are perceived as women’s issues, but many people fail to realize that there are a spectrum of gender identifications, and most often the cis-male gender identification often gets left out of these conversations. Interestingly enough, he also points out the white cis-male gets left out of a lot of conversations.
I’m not pointing this out to harp on white straight men. To the contrary, I bring it up to point out that many men don’t even realize they are being left out of the conversation. Maybe some just don’t care. I’m not above admitting that, although I wish it weren’t the case. I think if more men realize the impact they could have by involving themselves in the conversation, what a change it could make. Yes, I know I can stand up for myself when I’m being discriminated against or looked down upon simply because I’m a woman (and this doesn’t just happen from men either), but I appreciate knowing I’m not alone when my male friends are willing to stand up for me and other women as well.
So men of OSU, the next time a situation arises that appears to put down women, stand up and say, “That’s not OK!” I can’t speak for every woman, but I think it’s probably safe to say that most women will appreciate it, even if they don’t see you do it. And I can’t speak for every man, but you might be surprised just how liberating it feels to finally be able to stand up for your girlfriends, sisters, mothers, and wives when they are unable to.