Why don’t more men call themselves feminists? This is a question I’ve been posing to people over the last week or so, and I’ve received a variety of different, all interesting, answers. The main ‘problem’ people (men) I asked seem to have with feminism is this misguided belief that somehow, as men, promoting sexual equality and standing up for women’s rights limits one’s masculinity or, to put it another way, makes one less of a man.
I had several problems with this response. First of all, the idea that your masculinity is defined by how little you respect and fight for women’s rights is problematic at best. You are automatically implying by saying so that women’s rights are unequal to men’s rights, that women are an inferior sex and their continued existence and happiness on this planet is none of your concern, which is incorrect.
Also, what’s wrong with being less of a man? It’s a hugely broad generalisation, but if men were less blunderingly, oafishly bloke-y about everything and actually took a cue from women occasionally, it’s my opinion that the world would be a nicer place.
A woman I spoke to about this also said that maybe men feel threatened by feminism. My response was that if they choose to feel threatened by a global campaign for sexual equality, that’s their problem. Women feel threatened by men every day, sometimes just passing them in the street. So, sorry, men, if you feel threatened by feminism. Pass me a bucket for my bleeding heart.
The final response I want to share before moving on is this one, from another man I asked: ‘There’s no masculist movement. Who’s looking out for our rights?’
Where do I even begin? I’ve shared before my thoughts on this modern patriarchy we’re living in. There’s no masculist movement because there doesn’t need to be one, because men are the dominant force in every major society and have been brought up to believe that having a penis is better than not having one and that by extension, their thoughts, opinions, and general existence are more important, more likely to be pandered to, than those of women. In the U.S., even as little time as a century ago, women were still fighting for the right to walk into a polling station and mark a cross on a piece of paper next to someone’s name. There’s no masculist movement because it was men who finally granted women the right to vote and it is (typically) men who get elected into office. Even in modern society, there are massive divides between the sexes, not the least of which is the pay gap.
Men—statistics from 2012 show that, in the UK, you typically earn 9.6 percent more than women. You may be feeling rich and smug after reading that sentence, but let me put it a different way. This means that your wife, daughter, niece, granddaughter, and all other women you know personally are being paid the best part of ten percent less than their male counterparts for performing the exact same tasks in the exact same conditions. Does this sound fair? Would you think it was fair if you were a woman? This should not be the case. Work is not of less value to a company because it’s being done by a woman. So why the divide?
On a slightly more scary note, let’s also take a look at rape convictions. Statistics from January of this year, reported in the Independent newspaper in the UK, show that in 100,000 male-on-female rape cases reported, just 1,000 result in successful conviction. That’s one hundredth of rapes, and that’s just the ones that are even reported. There is something wrong in a society in which fear of reprisal outweighs reporting that someone has physically violated you and caused you huge emotional damage. And what about the ones that got away with it, who smiled at their victims as they left the courtroom, free to offend again? Society is so ready to laugh at, mock, and disbelieve women that workplace sexual harassment is at an all-time high, and cat-calling and street harassment are seen as ‘compliments’ by some people. Women have been putting up with this for far too long, and it’s time it stopped. We’ve evolved past our animal instincts—there is no excuse.
So, to conclude, there need to be more men willing to identify as feminists, to come on board and celebrate their female counterparts. You’re not declassifying men or going against your gender by saying you’re pro-women’s rights—you’re just a decent person. What’s so bad about that?