FeMENism: How MEN Can Shape The Future of Feminism

Men’s role in the feminist movement has always been a minor one.

Pre-conceived notions of what feminism is always seems to deter men from joining the fight for equality.  Honestly, before taking a class on feminism at LREI, I too had stereotypes of what feminism was.  When talking amongst friends about what classes we were taking all I heard was “you better switch out fast.”  I heard little to no positive feedback about taking a course on Women.

Many of my friends believed that feminism was a movement to generate “male-bashing” and other anti-men “feminazi” talk.  This could not be more false.  In fact, throughout my course, I discovered and built my own meaning of feminism: it is a liberation movement to eradicate discrimination based on sexual, racial, and socio-economic class, etc., that creates a truly equal environment for all of the sexes.

What can men do to help this cause?

The goal is ultimately for women to be equal to men; which would end men’s domination over women.  This, of course, is on a societal level, and we as a society need to fix this.

I feel the first step for men would be to educate each other on the truth behind feminism.  We need to educate one another about how feminism is actually a movement to create equality not to throw men under the bus.  When we hear things like “feminism is going to take over men,” we need to correct them.  Do not let these ignorant rumors spread.  These misconceptions, although trivial in some cases, are actually very damaging.

Don McPherson, a football-playing feminist advocate, speaks about the importance of using language that is non-discriminatory.  He talks about how using language like  “you throw like a girl,” sets a standard on the narrow expectations of masculinity while simultaneously establishing an understanding that girls and women are “less than” men.”  He describes how activism can even take form in just a conversation and using positive language.  I feel that men using language that is inclusive and respectful of all genders in schools, with friends or family, or whenever, is vitally important in women’s liberation.

After establishing the use of correct language and educating males on the true meaning of feminism, the next step would be advocacy and joining  the “good fight.” For example, Men Can Stop Rape is an “international organization that mobilizes men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence,” focusing on men’s violence against women.  This is a prominent example of a positive male feminist organization.  Through “education programs, public awareness messaging, and leadership training” Men Can Stop Rape promotes safe relationships and equality between men and women.  Men should JOIN these organizations and volunteer and not fear criticism from other men.  I understand that this is easier said then done, but that brings me to my next topic.

Men must concentrate and fix the problems with our own gender.  Many people believe that because men are the dominant gender, who are sometimes held responsible for the inequality between the genders that they do not have problems of their own.  An argument made by Barbara Wootton stated that “if men behaved like women, the courts would be idle and the prisons empty.” Many statistics found in the article “The culture of masculinity costs all too much to ignore” show that men are responsible for the majority of violence related crimes, and this is due to the “culture of masculinity.”

This is what I call a thin cultural interpretation of masculinity.  A thick culture interpretation would question WHY is this the case? Why do men commit these crimes and what are the deeper connections? Dr. Niobe Way is committed to finding the truth behind why men and teenage boys have difficulty showing emotion in forms other than anger.  Men are known to emotionally “shut down” after reaching a certain age.  This is due to societal messages about how a man should act.

A lot of these messages influence why men are not involved with feminism.  Men are told through various media not to act “gay of feminine.”  Showing emotions other than anger often labels a man as acting too feminine or even homosexual.  In a recent Today Show episode, two other boys and myself, along with Dr. Way were interviewed  about this issue.  If men were more able to express themselves emotionally we would be more apt to fight for the rights of woman’s equality.  I feel that men fear joining the feminist movement because they will be labeled as too emotional which in turn becomes too “feminine or gay.”

With my own experience, I found it hard to tell my friends that I was even taking a course on feminism in fear that they would make fun of the fact that I was emotionally connected to the issue of women’s rights.  However, when not with my friends, I was able to promote and contribute to the feminist movement.  I think the key in incorporating men into feminism is first, to fix the problem of how men are emotionally disconnected, then educate other men, and then ultimately become activists in the feminist movement.

5 thoughts on “FeMENism: How MEN Can Shape The Future of Feminism

  1. Yes, I think that the issue is that men do not really know being a feminist really means. In 2011, I believe that everyone should be a feminist, even if you live in the most conservative town in Texas. not being a feminist is not respecting the law in a law, because you think that you can dominate someone and that all genders are not equal.

    I love how your blog shows that your ways of seeing feminism has changed and the more men we can add into the feminist world the best. And yes, it starts by teaching men what being a feminist really is. Men Can Stop Rape is a step, but we need more

    It’s great that it was not too much of an awkward class to you.

  2. I definitely spent the trimester wondering what the class was like for a boy, and I’m happy to see that it wasn’t too bad. You have some really smart and relevant things to say here about why men are not more involved in feminism, and good ideas for what they can do. The cult of masculinity and feminism aren’t looked at together enough, but they’re so connected.

  3. I think you stated very well why men aren’t part of the feminist movement, because men don’t want to seem overly emotional or “gay.”

    I understood this already because of day-today experiences, but also because i started off the year with a class based on the pressures that men face.

    An interesting point to think about is how we are all being opressed. Men HAVE to be masculine, women HAVE to be skinny, ect. We are all made to feel as if we aren’t good enough

  4. I find it really brave and commendable that regardless of your friends encouraging you to switch out of the class and your preconceived notions about feminism, you still decided to stay and learn more about the movement.

    I love your connection to male allies and the society’s interpretation of masculinity. The statistics certainly are alarming when it comes to male aggression and incarceration rates, but I do agree with you that a statement like “if men behaved like women, the courts would be idle and the prisons empty” is painting with broad strokes.

  5. It’s very interesting to see what your experience taking the course was in comparison to mine. I think you should be commended for taking this class regardless of your friends pressuring you to do otherwise. The problem definitely is that people view feminism as just a women’s issue and it’s so much more than that. Your connection between male allies and masculinity as society perceives it, I think is very interesting and accurate. It’s very assuring to have you as a male ally! I’m sure your advocating and imprinting feminist ideas on your friends!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s