Through the Eyes of a Feminist Boy

Here I am opening our feminism class assembly for International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).
Here I am opening our feminism class assembly for International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

I am a 17-year-old white, upper middle class, Jewish boy living in the Bronx. I am part of a defined group of people when it comes to my race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and geographic location. Because of that, I have a set perspective of everything that I see and interact with.

Over the course of my entire high school experience, I have developed a better understanding of what perspective really means. What I have found is that everything, EVERYTHING, is all a matter of perspective.

Appreciating science the way I do, I will demonstrate this first with a collection of statistics. According to an EFA Global Monitoring Report from 2012, an estimated 66 million girls are out of school globally. If you spent every single day of your entire life counting each of the girls who are not in school right now (one girl per second) you would spend 22 years counting! Now look back to the beginning of this paragraph and re-read the 66 million part. The way you see that number is different isn’t it? What I have learned about perspective is that once you see a different side of something, like a number, you can never not see it again.

This different viewing of perspective has allowed me to experience my time in my feminism class in an entirely new way that I have never known before. During our International Day of the Girl assembly that we had at school I introduced our event. My job was to introduce the reason that we were up on stage speaking to our fellow classmates about intersectionality.

If it wasn’t on anyone else’s mind it was definitely on mine, “There is a boy introducing the feminism class.”

It’s amazingly ironic, but at the same time it’s actually just perfect. We need more boys and men learning about what feminism really means and what their role in feminism is. The way to do that is by changing their perspective of what they view as feminism.

In her TEDx talk titled “We should all be feminists” and her experience in becoming a feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says:

This is how we start; we must raise our daughters differently, we must also raise our sons differently. We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity becomes this hard small cage, and we put boys inside the cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear, we teach boys to be afraid of weakness, of vulnerability. we teach them to mask their true selves because they have to be HARD MAN!

When I first saw this video I had a set perspective. I had the perspective of a white, Jewish, upper middle class BOY. I have only known this perspective my entire life and everything I had learned prior to this was what I believed to be true. Then a person like  Adichie comes along and changes my perspective.

Remember the statistic earlier in this post and try to imagine how you felt after your perspective changed. That is what I’ve been feeling for weeks. My perspective is still of that of a boy, but now I have a different idea in my mind of what that really means. Adichie  says that we need to raise our sons to demonstrate the change in the world we wish to see. Now each day I think about all the girls who are not being educated and all the girls who are harassed, raped, or sold into trafficking. Instead of just viewing these issues from the perspective of a boy, I now view these issues from a perspective of a boy who is ready to make a change.

17 thoughts on “Through the Eyes of a Feminist Boy

  1. Reading this blog was a matter of perspective and allowed me to understand yours. What you shared about perspective “that once you see a different side of something, like a number, you can never not see it again,” is a very important idea, and important to be aware of. It is really interesting to hear your story as a white, upper middle class, Jewish boy. Because you are male, it is particularly interesting because you are one of the few boys in the class, but great how you relate it to the importance of boys and men learning about this issue and “what their role in feminism is,” as well as relating that back to perspective and how boys and men need to change their own perspective on feminism.

    As a girl I often don’t see the male perspective on feminism, and to see yours is very informative. Not only does it make me see how you view feminism, but how men and boys in general are deeply rooted in the issues, and that it cannot just be changing the way in which women and girls think.

  2. I’m fascinated by your reflection on perspective! It’s very impressive and the information that you offer is captivatingly surprising.
    It’s great to read about your development of awareness of your position, your interest, to begin with, and the commitment that you feel in the movement. As you say, it does sound quite peculiar, “but at the same time it’s actually just perfect”; I couldn’t agree more. It’s true that there should be “more boys and men learning about what feminism really means and what their role in feminism is”, yet I realize the magnitude of the shift in perspective that it may require. The constraints of masculinity that you describe are terrible; it’s discouraging to think that conventions of society have created such a limited mindset.
    It is necessary to reveal the reality behind these limits, to open a discussion and take decisive steps towards the improvement of society at large: in your own words, “once you see a different side of something, like a number, you can never not see it again” – I could really see it in this piece.

  3. Great post Emmett! I loved your explanation and thoughts on perspective and it made me think about my perspective. I appreciated your honesty about your own position and it is great to know that you have found new ways to look at the world. I particularly loved the line, “What I have learned about perspective is that once you see a different side of something, like a number, you can never not see it again.” This is so true!

  4. Emmett, your focus on perspective in this post gave me a new perspective. I agree when you say “EVERYTHING, is all a matter of perspective” because it is very true.

    I love that you are in our class, I love that there are three boys in our feminism class because I also think that “we need more boys and men learning about what feminism really means and what their role in feminism is.” I feel like I am always saying that EVERYONE should take feminism. I also agree with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when she talks about raising boys and girls differently.

  5. Emmett, I loved your blog post because I really agree with your opinion on how boys should be encouraged to find their feminist identity in order to make the world a better place. I think that the problem with the relationship between both sexes today is that men and boys tend to conform to these gender roles and instead of questioning why society gave them natural privilege, and why not females, they tend to view feminist issues as gender only issues which is completely incorrect. I think it is a human issue that we must all work on collaboratively together against these higher institutions and so i really congratulate you on instead of “just viewing these issues from the perspective of a boy, I now view these issues from a perspective of a boy who is ready to make a change.”

  6. Your explanation for really grasping how much 66 million people was mind blowing. Sometimes statistics can still create a distance from a problem because it’s hard to visualize. So I appreciate your analogy.

  7. As another male member of the Feminism class I feel that we have a special connection. Looking at some of these topics through a different lens then others allows us to see different things. It was not an easy decision for me to take this class, and I was extremely nervous at points. I enjoyed the video you put in your post, and I believe Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie raises many interesting points. When she talks about gender roles, she gives the audience real life examples that may apply to them as well.

    Great Post Emmett

  8. I love how passionate and proud you are to be a feminist boy. I agree with you when you say that more boys need to take a feminism class. At a slut conference I went to, Samia a 16 year old girl stated “you get more girls if you are a feminist boy,” so keep being passionate about being a feminist boy.

  9. I am also a male feminist, and I have also struggled with finding my place in the feminist community. As males, our perspectives are different and can never replace the perspective of a female. I constantly ask myself how I can be helpful in the feminist movement without taking up space that should belong to women. Like you, and much of the audience, I also felt that it was a little bit strange with a male introducing the feminism assembly. Ultimately, I realize that it was actually a positive thing. Boys and men need to learn that they can also be feminists and they do not need to be ashamed about sharing their feminist viewpoints. I’m so glad to hear the story of a fellow male feminist!

  10. Amazing! I really appreciate your honesty on being a boy taking a feminism course and I love your calculations on counting every single girl who’s not going to school. It really does change my perspective, and I liked how you talked about how your perspective changed when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came along. Great post!

  11. I really loved your reflection on how feminism has given you a lens to look at aspects of your life with a different perspective. I also agreed with the quote you took from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk about the way boys are being raised. As a society we really do a disservice to boys by teaching them that certain feelings and emotions and actions are for “girls only”.

  12. I love how you start by addressing how relevant perspective is in relation to everything. I think a really powerful line from your post is “once you see a different side of something, like a number, you can never not see it again.” I wholeheartedly agree with this and the impact something so simple like a story or a statistic can have on a person’s entire outlook on everything. I also agree that more men should be feminists but it does require some change of “perspective” on their meaning of the word.

  13. Emmet, I think you did a really great job demonstrating the importance of perspective and the role it plays in how we experience the world around us. I completely agree your statement that “we need more boys and men learning about what feminism really means and what their role in feminism is,” and I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did an amazing job explaining why. I feel that if we were all raised to see the world with a feminist perspective, it would be a much better place.

  14. Emmett,
    I can completely understand what you mean when you say that “EVERYTHING, is all a matter of perspective,” it is something that I have also learned in this class especially the statistics of it all. Even though taking this class has changed my perspective on so many aspects of my life, reading 66 million girls still didn’t make it WOW until your brought it to my attention that I would be spending ” 22 years counting.” That is one of the major difficulties we face, that until someone alters our perspective we are essentially left in the dark. My favorite part about your piece was that you mentioned Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie because it is true, the first step needs to be to reteach the boys. I have an enormous amount of respect for you, taking a class where you are one of three boys in a subject that is focus on girls must make it difficult for you to fully express your opinion. Although I do believe that this class can be almost more beneficial to males then females. I believe you should be proud for opening yourself up to the emotion that are felt by girls that the general male race inflict on us without even knowing. You are doing what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, by taking this class, you are raising yourself differently.

  15. Emmett your conclusion to your piece brought a smile to my face. I too was very fascinated by Adiche’s video that we watched in class. I agree with her when she says that “we need to raise our sons to demonstrate the change in the world we wish to see”, and this aplies to many boys who are still growing up and learning. When you said that you are “ready to make a change” It makes me glad that you are ready to be=ring your unique persepctive to the conversation, and are prepared to help create a world where everyone should be a feminist.

  16. I absolutely agree that there should be more boys in Feminism classes. Too often are girls taught to be modest and timid because aggression, certitude and frankness are male traits. Too often are girls (and boys) silenced because they do not fit society’s status quo. As Adichie says “we stifle the humanity of our boys” and limit that of our girls. Starting with you and the other males that take a Feminism class we are beginning to shift away from a society that feeds off of a master narrative to one that thrives within self-narrative.

  17. I think the role you play in our feminism is amazing. I think all three of the amazing boys in our class are strong and comfortable. I have to admit, I was thinking, ” A boy is introducing feminism”, but once you began it felt right. I think that by having you introduce it, it allowed the school and the world to see past, feminism as only a “female” thing. But instead something people of so many different walks of life could be apart of, even the 17, straight, white Jewish boy from the “fake” Bronx, lol. 🙂

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