I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Trevor, how can men need feminism? Doesn’t feminism just deal with women?
Well, yes and no.
The basis of feminism is the political, social, and economic equality of the sexes. Obviously sexes is inclusive of both in men and women, though historically feminism has dealt more with imparting rights to women. For instance, political and economic equality ensure that women have equal opportunity, equal pay, fair representation, et cetera, without necessarily dealing with men. In other words, rights of men are neither granted nor dismissed as women gain rights, though male privilege could lessen over time. But what exactly is social equality?
Part of social equality means having a fair perception of your gender and your gender roles. In our current society, both manhood and womanhood is distorted from reality. And since perceptions of manhood and womanhood are directly tied to each other (and in a lot of ways are a social inverse to each other), the social aspect of feminism has everything to do with men (and women, of course).
For instance, men are viewed as sexual, and women are viewed as nonsexual (not to be confused with being sexualized). So long as society deem men sex-crazed, they will deem women as the inverse.
As another example, women are considered emotional and relational, while men are viewed as visual and physical. But that is another false dichotomy. As a man, I am visual, physical, emotional, and relational. I am a whole person and my range of emotions and experiences is not limited by the gender role that society puts me in.
But according to the gender roles that society accepts, it is not acceptable for me to show emotion or to care what others think about me. Katy Kreitler of EverydayFeminism.com expands this line of thought beyond these two examples writing
Have you ever felt:
- Insecure because your body wasn’t big enough, strong enough, or slim enough?
- Pressured to be tough, aggressive and competitive beyond your comfort zone?
- Ashamed of your interest in cooking, fashion, dance, or some other activity because you were told it made you “gay” or “a girl”?
- Offended by media representations of helpless adult men who cannot feed, clothe, or bathe themselves without the help of a woman?
- Burdened by expectations to objectify women, have sex with many women and be sexually aggressive?
- Helpless when dealing with feelings of sadness, hurt, and shame because you were taught to believe that emotions show weakness and that “real men help themselves”?
- Confused at how to be sensitive and kind but still be sexually desirable?
- Alone when you suffered an injury but had to “handle it”?
- Afraid of being called a “sissy,” “wimp,” “f*g,” “p*ssy,” or “b**ch,”?
- Ambivalent about what it means to be a “real man”?
If even one or two of these is true, then you need feminism.
Men need feminism because men need social equality. Both sexes need the allowance to equally express their humanity by whatever means are most suitable to them without stifling their human experience. But these two limited gender roles simply do not allow us to experience life to the fullest. Hank Green of the Vlog Brothers elaborates this point stating:
“For a lot of people it is nice to imagine that humans are simple and that you can know a person’s sex and then you will know a lot of things about them deeply and clearly…And if you yourself don’t fit into one of these nice little boxes and you think you should, then you end up hating yourself, and that’s probably even worse. I think the best and maybe only way to solve this problem is for people to understand that there are no nice shiny boxes or if there are an infinite number of them–enough to put all the people that currently exist, have ever existed, and will ever exist.”
The problem is that society tries to quantify an infinite continuum in two roles (otherwise referred to as a ‘binary’) which hinders our ability to experience the wholeness of personhood. Gender roles often suffocate experiencing authentic and abundant humanity.
If we continue to view people in a binary, we will create more false dichotomies and double standards in a society that is riddled with them already.
To clarify, our sex is (generally speaking) binary–you are either male or female as defined by your sexual anatomy. But men and women exist on a spectrum of masculinity and femininity and no one should ever feel like they have to “prove their masculinity” or “earn their manhood” or “man up” just because they’ve expressed some “feminine” traits. No one should ever have to prove that they are a “real man.” This video from Button Poetry does a nice job of summarizing that point:
Sure, let’s acknowledge that God has made men and women different, but often we distort that by our perceptions of masculinity and femininity. The fact of the matter is the “biblical” manhood or womanhood is very different “biblical” personhood. (When biblical become the perfect adjective for subjective people in subjective times in subjective roles?).
Blogger Bryarly Bishop summarizes the point of emphasis well in her “Becoming a Feminist” video, exclaiming:
“It is incredibly, outrageously, mind-numbingly frustrating that because of traditional gender roles, everyone, not just women, is being forced to play a sonata of humanity on two keys. I don’t know that it is the textbook definition, but feminism is treating people as people, regardless of gender, and affording them the same freedom of choice and respect that we would want for ourselves. Does that really seem so crazy?”
I want to experience life to the fullest, independent of my gender role, and not be afraid of a societal reaction in doing so. That’s why I’m not just a guy who is a feminist, but a guy who need feminism.