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In this post the writer reflects on why so few men participate in the feminist movement and why more men need to be a part of feminism.
A few months back, a friend of mine started debating with me over feminism. Not the need for it, but how it is being sold as a concept which doesn’t make it lucrative enough for men to find a stake in. Those comments coming from an e-commerce specialist made sense to me once he pointed out some very valid examples of how the concept of feminism (how it is marketed) makes no sense for him.
We debated. The debate shifted from power structures to religious foundations, from patriarchy’s effect on women to its impact in shaping up the psychology, conditioning and functioning of men; and from feminism for women to feminism for equality. And when we debate, we pin point towards each other: you and I; making feminism a wrongly perceived war with two sides: we and they; instead of it being a movement for the common benefit of all. That is when we thought, (his inputs duly valued), that I should pen down this post.
Though the basic premise of feminism comes as one which is for equality of all, merely classifying it as movement for equality can lead to believing that all women need to do is reach where men are and voila, equality is achieved. That is not exactly how feminism should be seen. We as a community have come to believe that feminism is a barrier for men owing to its pro feminine terminology. The terminology in no way gives us the right to assume that problems faced by men are of no value. Belittling and snubbing them in comparison to the women is where we commit the biggest mistake.
And as this has happened, men around have been alienated from the movement.
And as this has happened, men around have been alienated from the movement. They think it’s a fight against them. That is the barricade to the spread of feminism as a movement. An incident from the life of Mother Teresa can be a good example here. While she was all in favor of peace, she had once rejected the plea of a group of people to participate in their campaign against war on the point that they were ‘against war’ and not ‘pro peace’. That is where we stand today. Instead of pro equality, feminism has sadly become perceived as a war against the men.
We are aware that men have possessed dominance over society with their presence at all top positions, politics, media, protagonists in movies, novels etc.; that cannot deny the kind of prejudices and struggles men face in the brunt of being the patriarchal care takers of the society. The goal of feminism should be to crush patriarchy holistically and not just create structures for the benefit of women. But then, why should men stand up and participate in the movement of feminism and leave aside their so called privileges? While women have faced more institutionalized oppression and thus the word feminism; advocating both women’s and men’s rights is imperative for equality.
Here are 5 key take-a-ways from a candid discussion understanding why men need feminism right now the most.
Who says gender definitions of masculinity and femininity are only characteristics that should be shown by men and women respectively? These definitions of ‘manly’ and ‘girly’ can be trashed only when men participate in feminism and stand up for what they want to do, irrespective of it being girly according to the world. Stay-at-home fathers won’t be questioned anymore.
Traditional patriarchal roles of men in the society have been the breadwinner, care-taker, fighter, knight in shining armor and so on. But as a man, you know there is so much more to you then just these defined roles the society forces you to showcase. Feminism helps you shatter myths of defined roles for men and women. It makes the society less cynical about breaking stereotypes.
When definitions of gender roles are broken, the understanding between both the partners, not just emotionally but more so sexually deepens. Feminism helps men understand not just their own sexual needs but also of their partner, helping lead a happier life together.
While the role of traditional breadwinner is a key point, feminism helps us understand that it is not the biological duty of the men to earn a living for the whole family. It is a choice. And when partners start earning, these baggage become shared responsibilities. As a man, feminism helps you feel lighter and live a more contended life instead of a struggle to bring in money every time. While you take care of your parents, your sister can too help. Your wife can do the same for her parents. Multiple hands to earn are always a reason to be happy about, given you share other tasks with your wife too. That is very important in feminism.
When it comes to feminism, the notion of equality helps us understand two major things: We need men to understand feminism to make the world a safer place for women; and also make the world safer for the men who face abuse too. Equality helps all. Yes, more women are abused in the society but more so, even the men who are abused needs to be fought for. In a true world of feminism, men are equally safe as women.
Feminism is not a war against men. We have so many feminist men around us who are an indicator of the fact that the true essence of the movement lies in equality, safety and opportunity for all. That is the fundamentals on which feminism should be.
So, Dear men, unless you participate, you cannot benefit.
(The writer would like to thank the Friend for the interesting, heated session on feminism. Had it not been for him, this post would not have seen light)
Equality sign image via Shutterstock
A Development Communication & Social Work professional working in the field of gender, health and technology
I agree with most of what you wrote. Feminism should essentially stand for demanding equality as much as possible as men and women can never be equals but men can certainly try.
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