The eradication of sexism would be beneficial to everybody, because everyone is hurt by gendered norms and expectations that constrict who we can be. Some argue that feminists do not pay sufficient attention to unique struggles men face, but many of these struggles are the consequence of sexism—not feminism. Here are five men’s rights issues that feminists are already working on:
1. Men commit suicide at a higher rate than women do.
This is in part because of societal constructions of masculinity. Men who are in emotional distress are less likely to express themselves in healthy ways or seek out the resources they need, because emotional expression, admission of needing help and support, and approaching problems in non-violent ways are all associated with femininity in our culture. Because femininity is associated with weakness, pressures of masculinity can result in tragic outcomes for men.
2. Men are also victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and face unique barriers when they come forward about their experiences.
Feminists reject the sexist notion that men are so strong, and their sex drive is so insatiable, they are incapable of having their right to dignity and bodily autonomy violated. Feminists reject the sexist notion that women are too weak to cause men pain. Feminists reject the cultural erasure and delegitimization of experiences that deviate from cisheteronormative narratives.
3. Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape.
Though extremely rare, false rape accusations discredit actual survivors of sexual assault, which reinforces rape culture.
4. Feminists do not want men to have to hold the door or pay for dinner.
We want the opportunity to achieve financial parity with men in any field we choose and are qualified for, and the fact that we currently don’t is a consequence of sexism. The notion that women need to be coddled and provided for, or that our romantic and sexual affections need to be purchased, is condescending, objectifying, and is a part of patriarchy.
5. Feminists don’t want men to continue to be mocked and belittled when they fail to meet misogynistic ideals of manhood.
When men do anything stereotypically tied to femininity, whether that is talking the wrong way, standing the wrong way, caring about how they look, or having sexual or romantic feelings for men, society punishes, derides, and marginalizes them. It’s sexism that puts men in this box in order to position men as superior. It’s patriarchy that says, “Boys will be boys,” insinuating that men are unchanging and incapable. It’s sexism that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s misogynistic gender norms that say men can only be attracted to certain qualities, have certain responses, and can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more—are more, than that.
Although certain disadvantages are absent from men’s experiences, feminists recognize that having privilege does not mean that men don’t suffer. To any activist who advocates for queer men, trans men, men of color, and disabled men: feminists are your allies. To any person who is concerned about manifestations of sexism that are detrimental to all men: feminists are also your allies! Feminists care about the problems of men, and just want them to also care about ours.
Some argue, “If feminism is about helping people of all genders, why can’t it have a different name?” 1) You can’t be mad about the name “feminism” when the entire history of the human race is referred to as “mankind.” 2) “Fem” is a part of the word because in our society, it is still femininity that is devalued. To remove the gendered component of the word is to deny that gendered power imbalances exist. It is sexism that is having a negative impact; we need “feminism” because it’s only fair that the solution recognizes the problem.
Finally, even though the eradication of sexism would be beneficial for everyone, feminism shouldn’t have to directly benefit cisgender men in order to be considered valid and important. As a white woman, eradicating racism wouldn’t be beneficial to me—in fact, it could be considered unfavorable for me, since it would disrupt my privileged position in society. However, white people can still recognize the injustice of racism, participate in anti-racist activism, and understand how racism intersects with other forms of oppression. Thankfully, there are plenty of men out there who feel the same way about sexism, and we’re lucky enough to have some of them right here at Bucknell! Here’s what a few Bucknell men had to say about being feminist allies:
“I believe men and women should be treated equally in all facets of life, which means I am a feminist. I’ve been programmed to view inequality among men and women as the norm, so to fight against these biases I talk about the issue with whomever I can. I ask my sister and my girlfriend if what I’m doing, thinking, or saying contributes to sexism, because if it does I need to know so that I can change my behavior.” –Ryan Frazier, 16’
“I identify as a feminist because feminism is the fight for equality. I feel like men, especially those who possess multiple layers of privilege or are part of multiple dominant groups (hetero, cis, white, middle or upper class, able bodied, etc.), must become more involved in feminism and commit to being active allies. However, in doing so they should not overtake leadership roles in the movement, which should be reserved for women of diverse backgrounds.” -Matt Lipper, 16’
“I am a male who identifies as a black feminist, because too often, the more oppressed groups advocate for black men, but there’s nothing in return. I am a black feminist for my best friends, for my teachers, for trans women of color, and for my mother.” -Andy Adler, 18’
Men of quality fight for equality!