WARNING: Feminism benefits men as well as women.
By Jack J. Minty
There is a common misconception that feminist progress has been achieved through a one-sided concession: that yielding male-privilege, while beneficial to women, is detrimental to men and their position within society. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, men are doing themselves a huge favour when they support women and feminist issues. When men realise their privileged position, and fight for women to have an equal footing in society, they are actually fighting for their own liberation as well.
To understand this it must be recognised, from our anglo-western perspective, that although (white) men are situated on top of this world’s pyramid of power, they are nevertheless harmed and inhibited by the same rigid structure that imprisons women. This harm is in no way comparable to the oppression of women, or people of colour, but it does nevertheless stem and suppress.
In a sense, the branch of society that imprisons men is from the same tree as the branch of society that oppresses women: they are both extensions of a system of inequality handed down through generations and challenged by few.
Ironically, men perpetuate this cycle as they hold the power to break it (situated at the top of the pyramid), but choose not to. The system we operate in is adept at protecting itself as it encourages men to see feminism as painful. It’s true that relinquishing any privilege, let alone one bestowed to you at birth, is a painful process. But unlike the fashion industry, pain is definitely gain in the fight for equality: the pain endured by recognising and releasing male-privilege is absolutely eclipsed by the pleasure and benefits that follow.
The strict structure of sexism enforces gendered ‘norms’: men are strong, powerful leaders, and women are weak, powerless followers. These concrete ‘norms’ are detrimental to both men and women as they erode our personal freedoms and encourage a forced uniformity. Men, much like women, are expected to fulfill a certain role within society, and deviation does not go unpunished.
Society-wide misogyny — hatred for women — overflows into hatred for men who deviate from the status quo. The feeling of inadequacy possessed by men who aren’t 6″ tall and who don’t have Spartan abs is a branch of the same rigid, sexist norms that persistently criticise women for not having size 3 feet or Natalie Portman’s dress size.
Effeminacy, for example, is simultaneously promoted in women and discouraged in men. Those men who possess effeminate qualities are often targets of abuse; deemed ‘gay’ (a word often synonymous with ‘shit’, ‘crap’ & ‘bad’ for example). Interestingly, the majority of men who are subjected to homophobic bullying are, in fact, heterosexual.
Instead of focusing on the injustice of heterosexual men being mistaken for homosexual men, it is important that we focus on homophobia itself, and realise that its roots are the rigid ‘norms’ that are an inherent result of sexism. All men deviate from the ‘norm’ because it’s a fantasy – all men feel emotions, pressure, anxiety, uncertainty and pain, yet sexism lays an unwritten and uncontested set of laws which regulate our ability to truly express ourselves.
Therefore, the issue of sexism reaches beyond the liberation of women and extends to queer men and, what’s even more shocking, heterosexual men; those at the top of the pyramid of power.
I call on all men to embrace feminism as a mechanism to liberate not only their mothers, sisters, daughters but their fathers, brothers, sons and even themselves.