The masculine side of feminism
When most people hear the word “feminist," the first thing that comes to their mind is probably something like, "a bunch of man-haters screaming about women's issues." Either that or they just release a huge sigh at the sheer uttering of the word.
However, the fact is that feminism is not about hating men, and it is not just focused on issues that only affect women. Feminism is about dismantling the hatred of feminine qualities, and the acceptance of vulnerability in both men and women.
For example, we all know that violent crime can go both ways — women can be abusive toward men and other women just as much as men can. However, if we for example focus on the majority of sexual abuse cases — associated with violent males — the discussion is mainly about the abused and not the abuser. We hear about the woman first, and what she was wearing, as if the issues of gender have become a “women’s issue.” Somehow we forgot about the men. What we have failed to do, and what we should do, is focus on the abuser, not the victim.
When we then finally do bring our perpetrators to justice, we act as if this is an individual problem — that the rapist, the attacker or the abuser is some kind of an anomaly, instead of looking at the bigger picture. This is a much bigger problem. Abusive men don’t just appear out of nowhere; they are our sons, brothers, and fathers, and they are being produced by our society and it's easy to see how.
Look at the world of sports, or the structure of some of our families and our colleges. It is easy to see how boys learn from an early age that aggression is a positive trait to have as a male, as many of our sports encourage it, or how being a dominating male earns you the "head of the household" title in a family, while our mothers more often take care of the home. Look at every single film from our childhoods that has taught us that girls play princesses, often portrayed as vulnerable and dependent on males, and men often play the role of the savior, expressing minimal emotions. If men do show emotion, they are considered “wussies” or “wimps.”
That's where feminism comes in. Many people still see the movement as empowering for women only. However, feminism actually shifts our focus from women to men, by demanding equality for all.
In 1976, in the case Craig v. Boren, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to treat women differently from men under the law. The case was about the drinking age policy in Oklahoma that allowed women to drink at the age of 18 and men at the age of 21. The law had suggested that men were more aggressive and irresponsible by nature, hence the higher drinking age. It's termination was a win for feminists because it furthered gender equality by dismissing the idea that men are fundamentally more hostile than women.
Feminist activists have also helped change the definition of rape. Up until 2012, the FBI’s definition of rape was “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will”. Thanks to the “Rape IS Rape” campaign by the Feminist Majority Foundation, they successfully changed that definition to include all forms of penetration in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, thus protecting men as well. These laws against sexual violence have also brought attention and justice to males who are sexually abused in prisons in the U.S. every year.
The most prominent fact of all however must be the general equal treatment of men and women in many aspects of life. Feminism includes everyone. It has helped break occupational stereotypes such as nurses and teachers being female or pilots and doctors being male. It has helped draw attention to the importance of men and women's reproductive health, with much support from organizations like Planned Parenthood. This includes the testing and treating of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, both of which are not limited to either gender.
Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act all workers are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. This can be to take care of a loved one, including yourself, and allows men to spend more time with their children, which was a right they previously did not have. A request for leave could previously result in the termination of one's job.
It is time we realize that gender equality is not a battle between the sexes. It sets men free from the stigmas of masculinity and the societal expectations for them. We need to be more supportive of the expression of femininity, and acknowledge the vulnerability and discrimination both genders face.
We should raise our boys and girls to believe that it is okay to show emotion, it is okay to care, it is okay if you want closeness and it is okay whether you want to play with dolls or trucks. Perhaps then we could raise our children to be humans, not genders.