I think that feminism sometimes gets a bad wrap because there’s a false perception about it being synonymous with man-hating. If I want to be an empowered, respected woman, with no opportunities out of my reach, it must mean that I loathe men, right? Well, that’s not what feminists are all about.
It took me a while to openly call myself a feminist because I was afraid of how people would perceive me. Would men be threatened by me? Would I come across as a butch, sulky, male-bashing ogre who would climb over men to get to the top? Would men find me unattractive because of it? Or would I become the target of even more woman-in-the-kitchen jokes?
Maybe the name of the movement does it an injustice. ‘Feminism’ might be misconstrued as a movement that seeks to empower women only and pit them against men, but that’s not the case at all. By definition,
Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.
That’s it. That’s all we’re after: equality.
And I think this can be scary for a lot of men. We’ve lived in a patriarchal society for generations, and now all of a sudden women are wanting to wear the pants, too. What does this mean for men? What will happen if women have the same opportunities and can compete on the same level as men? Does it mean that they’ll be dis-empowered and emasculated? The reality is that gender equality would result in a far better world for all of us. Men included. That’s a topic for another day, though.
I once heard a quote, and I wish I knew who said it, that went like this:
Gender inequality is the greatest human right’s violation of our time.
Truer words were never spoken. Here we are, many of us living in countries and societies that have pretty comprehensive laws concerning Human Rights that talk about how we are all ‘born free and equal in dignity and rights’, and how ‘no individual or group shall receive privileges or be subjected to discrimination, domination or abuse on the grounds of race, colour, language, gender, or creed, political or other opinion, birth or other status.’
And yet somehow there’s still obvious discrimination made on many of these grounds, and gender is no exception. We have a long way to go.
Let’s pretend you’re a man who has a daughter, or who will one day have a daughter. A totally capable, intelligent, independent daughter. How would you feel if your daughter, who had gone to the same schools and universities as your son (or any other male for that matter), and who had worked just as hard (if not harder), was denied the same opportunities in life as her male counterparts and earned only 70% of what they did? How would you feel if she was cat-called and whistled at as she walked down the street?
When this question is posed to men, you’ll often find that it hits home. A light goes on in their heads, and the injustice becomes clear.
To quote the words of Louise Brealey, I’d like to ask every man who doesn’t call himself a feminist to explain to the women in his life why he doesn’t believe in equality for women.
Here’s what’s more: It’s not only women who are victims to a sexist world. What about all the men who are forced into typical male societal roles because that’s just what’s expected of them? Emma Watson hit the nail on the head in her #HeForShe speech at the United Nations in 2014. She said,
‘I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.
I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49 years of age; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.
We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.’
Nothing will change unless we’re all on board.
And this is why everyone should call themselves a feminist.
It’s time for both genders to be freed from the constraints placed on them by our society that hasn’t been able to move past the ideals of generations of the past. It’s time for us to do whatever we please with our lives without encountering gender-based obstacles.
We all need to take up the fight for gender equality, so that women can rise above prejudice, and so that men can embrace the parts of themselves that they’ve been taught to hide. So that we can all be free to choose to live the lives we want to lead.