Men, we need to talk. Let’s, for a moment, go back to this year’s freshman orientation diversity event.
There was a point in which they asked who in that room identified as a feminist. A lot of women stood, but way too many men stayed seated.
That’s a problem, my bros.
First off, “feminist” shouldn’t be seen as some dirty word. Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” If you believe this, you are a feminist. It’s that simple.
Next, us guys really need to realize that when women complain about something men do, we need to listen. Statements such as “not all men” are invalidating and unproductive as they halt any important dialogue that might be had. Sure, not all men may partake in the problematic behavior in question, but if some do, then it needs to be addressed.
I’d like to use the classic M&M argument here. If you have a bowl of M&M’s and three of them will kill you, you’ll probably have some issues with the bowl of M&M’s. Especially if the M&M’s won’t stop complaining about how most of them are a delicious milk chocolate snack that won’t kill you.
We, as men, need to start speaking out when other men are being misogynistic. Start paying attention to the little things: invalidating a woman’s argument, using certain words meant to degrade women, treating them only as objects of sexual pleasure, victim blaming, etc. And please speak up if a friend is making rape jokes. Rape isn’t funny, and all a rape joke does is validate rapists.
Also, we need to self-reflect a little bit. Step one may be identifying as a feminist, but step two is acknowledging that you still aren’t a woman and can’t completely relate to their lives. Misogyny is so deeply ingrained in our society that we act it out without even realizing it. So pay attention to your behaviors and correct what may need to be corrected. Listen to what the women in your lives are telling you. If every woman is telling you that catcalling makes them uncomfortable and afraid, believe them. She doesn’t secretly think it is flattering, I promise you.
Because so many men tend to disregard women’s feelings, it’s so very important to use your voice not to replace a woman’s but to amplify it.
Feminism isn’t just beneficial for women, but for everyone. Hypermasculinity is a great example of something directly hurtful to men that feminism addresses as well.
Hypermasculinity directly comes from the concept that being “feminine” is somehow degrading for a man. Because of this, we are told to bottle up our emotions, among other things. This is incredibly harmful for everyone. This is why men don’t seek help and are more likely than women to kill themselves. This also contributes to why some men become predisposed to violent behaviors that lead to abuse. It’s why men think women are “complicated,” when in reality we are pretty similar.
It’s so often said that it’s difficult to understand women, but it’s really not. If men would just listen and communicate with women instead of prioritizing their own entitlement, we, as a society, would realize that women are just normal people.
I would also like to address the well-intentioned, but ultimately dehumanizing, thought that men should respect women because “think of your sister or your mom.” No. Respect women because they are people.
Women are not treated as equals to men in our society even if the law books say they are. There are still so many reasons why we all need feminism, so let’s all do our part in helping the movement along. Do some research, call out other men, listen to women, stop brushing off feminist arguments and self-reflect a little bit.