No, scratch that. I’m exhausted. I don’t mean physically; I mean I’m mentally drained to the point that more words won’t come. I’ve run out of different ways to say the same things. Yet here I am, giving it one more try.
Feminism is not “bad for men.”
Or perhaps it is, in the sense that it requires men to examine the ways in which they benefit from male privilege. Perhaps it is bad for men who actively work to perpetuate the systems in place that tip the balance in their favor. Perhaps it is bad for men who violently use and abuse women.
But it’s not bad for men in the sense that they must no longer be real men.
The reason for my weariness today is the numerous conversations on- and offline following last week’s Feminisms Fest blog link-up. I think the reaction of non-participants (overwhelmingly cis men) can be summed up like so:
I’m tired of hearing about feminism. Not all men are bad.
Yes, well, that’s true. The thing is, though, even if you’re one of the good (not “good”) ones, unless you’re putting your voice out there already, you probably have some things to learn.
It’s not about the actions of one individual man that concern me. It’s the societal structures in place that allow people to live in blissful ignorance of the hidden privileges of being a male-identified, male-bodied person. Even some of the things that do hurt men are the direct result of patriarchy. I’ve tried (sometimes patiently, sometimes not) to explain what it means to be privileged, but too often I’m met with, “Huh?”
This checklist of male privilege is fairly helpful. There are some things that I think could use some clarification, but overall, it’s a nice summary. It’s not surprising, but it is disappointing that according to the checklist, cisgender is also assumed; that’s a post for another day. I also want to mention that a few of the items on the list would be harmful to men if they were reversed–another direct result of patriarchy. For example:
- A man would not be questioned about having a career and children, but he certainly would be questioned if he decided to stay home.
- A man would not be expected to take his spouse’s name on marriage, but he would be questioned if he did.
- The entirety of manhood would not be seen as a failure for one man’s failure in his career–but he might be seen as having failed at manhood.
- A man who works for a woman might be viewed negatively if he wasn’t vying for her job–or even if he expressed his respect for her authority.
- A boy who is quiet, introverted, or artistic is often viewed as unmasculine.
- Boys may be judged on the kinds of toys they do or do not play with.
- On the whole, a man doesn’t have to worry about the message his wardrobe sends–unless he doesn’t want to wear “typical” men’s clothing or colors.
- A man who has been sexually harassed, raped, or victimized by an intimate partner may have more stigma and fewer resources for help based on the faulty idea that he should have “been a man” and prevented or stopped it. He may not be able to seek asylum at a shelter due to distrust of men or disbelief that he was victimized.
Yes, men, this is hurting you, too. But not in the ways you think it is. Not because a woman who works in upper management is a “ball-buster” or wants to “be a man.” Not because your notion of feminism is that it’s anti-man. What’s hurting you is not feminism but the systems that feminism seeks to dismantle.
I think the mistake is that in some way, men recognize that the power is imbalanced, and there is an understandable fear that the tables will be turned. It’s not so much about losing the privileged status (at least, not for the genuinely good guys); it’s about not wanting women to do to men what they’ve done to us for centuries. I can assure you that while there are probably a few women who would like that, the overwhelming majority of us just want equity.
That’s all. Just all people, equal in all things. Equal pay. Equal choices for our lives. Freedom from fear. Freedom of gender expression and sexual expression. Opportunities for all people in all areas of work and life. Justice for everyone, regardless of who we are, how we identify, or what we look like. It’s actually pretty simple.
The ways to accomplish it are simple, too. Take a look at the checklist again. What things on there can you change in how you interact with your spouse and children? Your parents and siblings? Your employers and employees? Yourself?
If you think about it, it’s not hard to see why we still need feminism–even for men.