Stop Beating Men Down in the Name of Feminism

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a diversity discussion where I heard something that completely jarred me: the leader of the discussion was defining sexism, and, as he was explaining, he stated how women could never actually be sexist because they are – and have always been – oppressed; any sexist behaviors from women would identify as a direct reaction to the male oppression they had experienced and, consequently, not qualify as sexism.

I could not believe what I was hearing, and earnestly looked around the room to see if anyone else was horrified by this logic. How was that fair?

According to the dictionary, sexism is defined as, “discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women.” The definition does mention that sexism has primarily affected women - which is completely true - but in no place does it say that sexism affects women alone.

What is ironic is that when someone states that men could never be sexist, the comment itself is sexist! That pattern of thinking deprives men of their right to be respected - which they deserve just as much as women. And while most people who hear that flawed logic about sexism will agree that it is wrong, they fail to realize that we, as a society, have begun to create this culture that is sexist against men. What started out as championing girl power has - to a certain degree - turned into excluding males based on their gender.

Breaking the glass ceiling, and telling women that they can be engineers, doctors, scientists, and lawyers, has become a priority. The fact that we are celebrating women who enter what are typically male-dominant fields is great, however, there are two sides to the coin. We forget to validate men in jobs that are stereotypically women's such as teachers, stay-at-home fathers, musicians, etc.

We also forget that feminism is often restricted to the idea of female empowerment and nothing else; feminism deals with the idea of gender equality, as in equality for all genders. Because society has these misconceptions of feminism, men feel uncomfortable speaking about the topic which results in its negative connotation; men feel that feminism is "anti-men," even though it inherently isn't. An example of this happened a few weeks ago when Chelsea Clinton was speaking at a feminist forum. A man volunteered to speak, and the first words out of his mouth after receiving the microphone were something to the extent of, “I’m sorry, I know I’m a man and so I shouldn’t really be speaking...”

What about the way we even talk about men in comparison to women? We can say, “women are more powerful than men,” “women are smarter than men,” “women run the world,” etc. Women will receive little if no criticism for these declaratives, but what if we switched “men” for “women” in each of those statements? Twitter would be up in arms and labeling men as "chauvinist pigs" and "misogynists!"

Am I saying that women are not oppressed at all anymore? No. Do I have anything against Beyoncé or female empowerment? Of course not! I am acutely aware of the struggle of female oppression, and I have fought it my entire life. But women won't win this battle by beating men down. I recognize that there is still a wage gap between women and men, women are still the primary targets of sexual assault, they are still objectified by the media, they suffer from domestic violence, etc. These are all real issues that still need to be resolved. But will inverting the problem solve it? No. We can't bounce from one extreme to the other in order to gain equality. We need to recognize that both men and women are equal, and that neither gender is better than the other.

I am a woman, and a feminist. Because of this identification, it's important to stand for gender equality, not a lopsided semblance of equality. And because women struggled - and continue to struggle - to have their voice be heard, it's ridiculous to think that taking away men's voice will gives women theirs.