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Opinion: Stigmas should not stop men from being feminists

By Victoria Kallsen
On May 3, 2013

The idea that feminism is an anti-male movement has been so firmly impressed on the minds of society by a conservative mainstream that it seems almost a ridiculous notion to suggest that the men can support the movement at all. However, I argue that men do have an important role to play in the struggle and may even have the most to gain from the spread of feminist discourse as it can inform them of the need for feminist action. As always, I must stress that feminism is not an anti-male organization, but an organization that seeks to end sexism, patriarchy, and male domination. Many men may perceive this as women attempting to dominate them in turn, and I cannot argue that some feminists don't hold that opinion. However, feminism itself is not against the entire sex, and, in fact, men are required for feminism to make any advancements.
Feminism is often assumed to be all about women: women's right, women's vaginas, women's bodies, and women's everything. However feminism can more accurately be defined as a movement to end all sexism, even those committed against men. Sexism and patriarchy (a form of institutionalized sexism, as is matriarchy) have hurt women more than men, but men have also been a victim of the system in different ways. Feminism has been more aggressive in promoting women's rights because to promote an equal gender system, women have to be raised up from their current position. This is not to say men will be dragged down, however.
How are men the victims of a patriarchal society? Such a society forces down the throats of all boys a very specific image of masculinity and a very specific method to follow it. I recently had a conversation with some male friends who argued I'd be hard pressed to find a guy who didn't work out at a gym at some point. Is this not a stereotype perpetuated by our society that our men must be muscular? There is nothing wrong with wanting to be fit, but I must question the idea that all men must work out, not be sensitive to their feelings, and want sex 24/7. I must question the stereotyping of "bro types." That isn't every man, and when you think about it, not all women must be skinny, good mothers, cook, or be subordinate to men. Not all men need to dominate women, and we must question a society that would have us think that.
Many men may find themselves uncomfortable with the name of feminism, finding it not as inclusive as its theory would desire. Some feminists argue in defense of the name as women need to be supported to have this system of equality and to reject the name "feminism" is to deny the oppression suffered. Better yet, I feel men may be uncomfortable with the term and wish not to identify as a feminist. To borrow an example, this is to say a white man calling himself a feminist is similar to classification as a black nationalist. A better term for such an individual if they so choose is "pro-feminist" or even "anti-sexist" or "egalitarian." A man can ally himself with the movement by what language makes him most comfortable.
So, maybe you now have more of an understanding of feminism is and why it's important. Now what? Why is it even important for men or women to care? Because not caring about feminism, not understanding why this type of social change needs to occur, will continue a powerful series of violence against women. This is why I am so passionate about how women are portrayed in film and television. If you're constantly and consistently seeing women in films as a love interest or only in relation to someone else (daughter, sister, mother, girlfriend), what is going to stop the world from believing a woman cannot stand on her own? If women are constantly objectified in all types of media, what is to stop a man from thinking a women is an actual object? Why wouldn't you rape, kill, maim, harm, abuse, and attack something society has taught you is beneath you and sometimes not even a person?
I urge you to care about feminism, because it's about caring about women and men. I am a feminist because I do not want to be asked if can do engineering; because I did not like the looks people gave me when I said my dad was a stay-at-home dad; because I want my sister to grow up in a world where everyone recognizes her inner beauty; because I want more girls to grow up with a mom like mine and see all they can achieve; and because I have a younger brother who I desperately want to see all women as his equal and as worthy of his respect. Feminism isn't anti-male and is ready to welcome anyone who sympathizes with such a cause.  

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