Pushing men to fight for feminism

by Jackie Roman / Beacon Staff • February 24, 2016

This is a piece for the men—bear with me. This is a feminist piece for the men who never read my think pieces and my blog posts and my statuses full of frustration. This is a plea to the guys in my life who claim to care about me and other women like me, but who scroll past our complaints of catcalling and gender inequality without a thought. And it’s a plea that gets caught as a lump in my throat, because I shouldn’t have to pander to the group that already has power over me. 

Every time I write a think piece on feminism, the majority of shares and likes are from women. My female friends share the link with a caption along the lines of, “Yes! Read this, it’s spot on!” or, “So agreed, this is important.” It circulates through the feminist circle on campus and provides these women with a comforting feeling that they aren’t alone. But I’m tired of speaking to an audience that already sees me. The words of feminism need to reach the eyes they usually diverts. 

Of course, some of the problem seems to lie in the word itself—so often misconstrued as unfair, unequal, and militant. In a 2013 Huffington Post survey, 82 percent of the 1,000 respondents supported the idea that "men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.” When respondents were asked if they considered themselves feminists, only 16 percent of men said yes, and 37 percent brandished it a negative term.

What will it take to have readership cross the binary? It must be more than personifying the woman assaulted on Boylston as your potential sister, mother, or girlfriend. The subject shouldn’t have to be a relative or a lover in order to be worthy of concern or understanding. Every self-identified woman is a human being, and that alone should make them deserving of compassion. 

A couple years ago, New York Magazine’s The Cut wrote a piece asking men not to identify as feminists because, “There’s something suspicious about anyone eager to identify with the oppressed.” This is one of the more optimistic reasons men might be hesitant to declare that they’re down with the cause. It would almost be comforting to believe that men are cautious to label themselves the big “F” word for fear of claiming they fully understand the plight of women. But it is possible to support the work of an activist cause while respecting and providing space for the stories of those it most affects. I am striving to be a more intersectional feminist, but my advocacy for equality amongst all women does not mean I am saying I completely understand what it is like to be a woman of color. I have a lifetime of education ahead of me with this issue—it is possible to be a student of activism while also being an activist.

The feminism I (and others) write about isn’t about stripping men of masculinity or identity or pride. It isn’t about asking for more money, more power, more privilege than other genders. It is about leveling the playing field and providing equal opportunity. It’s about walking down the street without fear of harassment, job instability, and doubt.

 In fact, if anyone gains anything they didn’t already have, it might be men. If feminism became a widespread practice instilled in political and cultural spheres, I would gain equal pay, equal employment opportunity, and equal expectations of safety. Those are all things I should have had at birth. Men, on the other hand, can gain access to their full spectrum of emotions and have a chance at pursuing opportunities labeled feminine. Feminism removes the negative stereotype associated with touch, nurturance, paternal instincts, domestic work, and emotional support. 

Any person in a position of privilege shouldn’t be afraid of supporting the pursuits of an oppressed group. In fact, the onus is on them to engage, educate, and practice furthering the goals of their friends. This goes for any instance of allyship—white people with friends of color; cisgender folks with genderfluid friends; able-bodied individuals who know colleagues and acquaintances with invisible disabilities. We can’t just live in an echo chamber where our shouts amplify without any purpose. 

My personal activist cause is feminism. And with that specific issue, I am tired of speaking to only hear an audience just like myself provide snaps back. Share this with your father, your brother, your personified friend of the male persuasion—let them know they’re the audience, too.