Why a Guy Like Me Needs Feminism

"I need feminism because equality is a must." (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).
“I need feminism because equality is a must.” (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).

When I was asked to think about why I need feminism, I couldn’t start writing for a while.  I thought about this question and came up with different answers, but they all seemed fake and not from the heart.

My journey through my high school feminism class has given me a whole new lens towards life.  This includes thinking in a new way about the media as well as about comments made by friends and family.

I did not choose this class knowing that I would come out learning as much as I have, and even though my male and female peers who had previously taken the class told me how life changing it was to them, I did not believe them.

Every 50 minutes of class (which should be 100), I was constantly being forced to use this new lens I had developed.  I always looked forward to each session of our Fierce and Fabulous Feminism class, as we all supported each other as contributors to each discussion.

One of my favorite films that we watched this trimester was Killing us Softly.  It analyzes in detail media images of women.  One of the first clips in the film was of a show I watch, Entourage. When it came up on the screen, I was immediately drawn in, but for the wrong reason.  Following this clip came many advertisements for Gucci and other big name brands.  These advertisements showed women with very little clothes on, if any.  These women appeared extremely sexy and certainly catch the attention of straight, young male audiences.

However, these images are often inappropriate.

The majority of these advertisements do not have men in them, and the ones that do were just as bad.  In every single image, men were was in a position of authority, and appear stronger, smarter, and plain better than the women.  Although the women in the ads are beautiful by society’s standards, each man in the ads was obviously in power.

I found all of these images to be offensive. But the next part of the film was the most shocking to me.  There were about one hundred clips of my favorite movies and TV shows, simply zooming in on how women are objectified. While watching these clips of scenes I have watched a billion times, I felt as if I had never seen this part of them before.  I was caught off guard, and almost began to feel guilty for not realizing how much these shows objectify women.  When you watch an hour episode of a show, there is a lot the director can do to make it seem more subtle, but the message remains.  With this new lens, I am able to see when this is happening, versus before taking this class, and not knowing what the real messages were.

Killing us Softly gave me a whole new perspective and completely changed the way I look at my favorite movies, shows, and advertisements.  I think this film should be mandatory viewing for all students, and the word needs to be spread.  I know that one thing I can do to act on this problem is to show other people the film, and another is to address problems when I see them.

If I am with my friends, and a Gucci commercial comes up on the screen, it would not be a shocker to hear tons of, “damn, she’s hot,” or “look at that ass”, but that’s the problem.  The world we live in is waiting for this reaction, and that’s the reaction they get.  God forbid a TV show has a woman CEO, or portrays a woman who has power over men and people act like the world is ending.

On the first day of this class, we were told to write down why we were taking this class and what we thought our definition of feminism was.  My understanding of the second part of this question has taken a turn as I see the word with a whole new weight.  On that first day of class I wrote, “By learning about feminism, I’m actually becoming more of a feminist.  I’m taking this class to learn about what it means to be one, if I am one, or if I even want to be one.”

Looking back, I did not have all the knowledge I have today on this topic, and neither do most people in the world who do not have the opportunity to take this class.  I personally think this should be a mandatory class in all high schools.  One class can really make a huge difference in how our world works.

One of my favorite songs of all time is P.I.M.P by 50 Cent.  I had always thought that a pimp was a gangster, someone my friends and I should look up to.  However, after taking this class, I lost a lot of respect for some of my favorite artists.  After studying about GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services), which helps girls and young women leave their pimps and traffickers, I learned about “the life” these girls lead and I felt lied to by the artists I had once admired.

In a way, it was my fault for not knowing the real definition of the word “pimp,” but then I watched the P.I.M.P video over again, and I thought, what was I thinking?  I couldn’t believe how insensitive and uneducated I was.  I am a huge fan of music, and although a lot of my favorite artists seem harmless, many have harsh messages embedded in their lyrics and videos.

In the film Very Young Girls, which chronicles the lives of the girls that GEMS supports, I was able to see how girls who are sexually exploited live, and how they are treated by the pimps.  After watching this film, I could no longer chant P.I.M.P. with my friends, no matter how good the beat is.

My feminism class holding up signs that say “I need feminism because…”
(Photo Credit: Noel Diggs)

In the photo to the right, the students in my high school feminism class are holding up signs.  On these signs are answers to the question, “Why do you need feminism?”

In a way, a lot of the work done during this trimester is answered on these signs.  Although the ink will stay on these signs, the work is far from done.

This class is not over and this fight is not over.

I have been given information that many people do not get the chance to receive, and for this education I am extremely grateful.  I will educate others and address problems when they arise.  I will deepen the work I have done and continue to be my best feminist self.

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