Thesis: Feminism is inclusive and necessary given that gender inequality negatively affects men, not just women. —Answering the questions, What is feminism? Why should boys care?
Author’s Note: This is a rewrite of the extemporaneous speech I gave for my Comm III class. I wasn’t really keen on posting it, but several developments have quite frankly forced my hand. This post is necessary.
If you are unsure about what “feminism” really stands for, get turned off by its radical nature, or are set on a very particular definition, please take the time to hear me out and check if what we’re talking about are the same things. Because a lot of people use the word “feminism” but don’t seem to understand what it even means. Here are three examples:
Exhibit A. Shailene Woodley. In an interview with TIME, the Divergent Hollywood star denied being a feminist because “she loves men”.
Exhibit B. These boys from Ateneo Secret Files. They claim that feminism is unfair because it oppresses men. “He’s a victim too.”
Exhibit C. Cathy Hills on “27 Reasons Feminism Is Not ‘For Everbody’. This thoughtcatalog entry is one of the reasons why rape culture does exist. (And here we have clear evidence of internalized misogyny).
*And I could write so many responses to this one. Including swearwords. Because every single thing she’s ranting about isn’t against feminism, it’s against the patriarchy.
**I am also very much open to dialog about this very post. I disagree with everything listed on principle.
These are people who don’t accept feminism because it’s too radical, it would isolate them, it’s an inconsistent principle, they could use the word “humanist” instead –because maybe, just maybe, they and the rest of the world don’t know what feminism really means.
So let’s talk about what feminism really stands for. It’s not about women dominating the world after the entire male sex has been subjugated and underprivileged. Feminism is synonymous to gender equality: the political, social and economic equality of the sexes, which can only happen through the removal of gender stereotypes which harm both men and women. And for those guys who don’t believe in gender equality, I’m also going to write about how gender equality is synonymous to a better life overall. For everyone.
“Feminism is Inclusive”
I think it’s necessary to devote a single, short section to this idea. The reason why feminism is miles away from sexist, misandrist or misogynist movements is because it’s inherently non-discriminating of the male sex. The cause for gender equality, with a focus on regaining what has been erased or lost for women, is a cause that is open for everyone. The inclusive effort stems from the inclusive benefit –it’s the entire world we’re helping; we’re not just handing out extra rights and exclusive privileges to women. To get to the point of global gender equality, we need everyone on board.
It is also inclusive in the sense that it comes in different forms for different scenarios. More than being for men as well, feminism is for all kinds of women –from transgender women, lesbians, impoverished, systematically oppressed, struggling executives, working mothers, etc. And there are different approaches to each problem the patriarchy births out. There are legislative forms of feminism, in relatively more patriarchal societies like 20th century America or modern day India and Saudi Arabia, which seeks to provide basic rights of protection, mobility and representation to women. There are educative forms of feminism, in modern day America and Philippines, which actively tries to change the culture of irresponsible sex, condoning of rape, standardization of beauty (Barbie =/= beauty) and workplace discrimination. There are even more radical forms of feminism, from the nudist protesters in France to other naked parades.
It happens everywhere not because we want to be annoying. It happens everywhere because it happens for every single sector that is oppressed.
5 Reasons Why Men Need Feminism Too
*And this was the actual content of my extemporaneous speech.
When people think about feminism, people always come up with this rallying picture. Surface level feminism is all about destroying the stereotypical “Wife” –that gendered role which forces women back to the kitchen, to be caregivers, disrespected mothers and partners. And these really are part of the cause, and validly so.
But the converse has never been really scrutinised. Is the stereotype of the “Husband” –that detached breadwinner, the working man who comes home late to sleeping children and a pleasant wife– really honest and good to begin with? The first three reasons exemplify why it’s not.
#1 Househusbands do exist
As a product of a single (amazing, strong, inspiring) mother, I have sometimes wondered what it would have been like growing up with a single father instead. Then I came into the realization that that would have been disastrous.
Going through Robinsons and SM and other malls, you’d notice a funny thing. Baby changing stations will always be found near or even inside the women’s bathrooms. Real estate developers and owners of public places seem to visualise changing nappies exlusively as a woman’s job, and validly so –if this was the 1900s.
So if you’re a father who just wants to hang out with your baby in the mall for a day, the opportunities to have a stress and poop-free time are slim. A dad can’t go inside the women’s bathroom because he’s sure to receive harsh and offended glares, no matter how cute the baby is. It’s not even a matter just for single fathers. It’s for fathers who are alone just for that moment, for fathers whose partners wanted to try out a dress at the same time, etc.
The market for baby products is always representative of mothers, but never of fathers. Maternal leave exists but not necessarily the converse. It’s problematic for some women on one hand, but sad for fathers on the other.
We have dissociated the domestic responsibility of child-rearing and care-taking from men and boys so completely that it becomes unthinkable to have them perform these tasks. Even and especially when they want to. Sorry.
#2 Domestic Chores
Growing up in a relatively traditional Filipino family, I have witnessed a clear dichotomy between what chores are taught to girls and what chores are taught to boys. It’s very simple. Boys are taught to drive for the family and to change light bulbs, and girls are taught to do everything else –laundry, dishwashing, ironing, cooking, etc.
I’m not particularly bothered by my end of the deal. When it comes down to it, all of those chores are essential to independent living (I’m not buying into the whole “you need to learn to cook… for your future husband” thing), and they have proven somewhat useful when I’m off to college or whenever Ate Risa isn’t around to care for the house.
But my brother. Oh, my brother.
A month ago Ate Risa, our help around the house, went on a much-needed vacation back to Bicol, leaving the house defenceless against dorm-style messiness. In the spirit of laziness, absence and/or busy work, my mother and sister never did laundry or the like for roughly a week or so. My brother, who needed his work uniforms cleaned and ironed, took the gracious initiative to do his laundry himself.
And then he broke the washing machine.
You know, it’s really funny in one aspect, the idea that a person can be so unused to domestic chores that they break the tools they’re using. But it’s really not funny –because my brother is more than 20 years old, and breaking a machine valve due to inexperience or ignorance isn’t funny, it’s depressing.
He probably won’t survive in Big Brother House or in Survivor. He surely won’t survive a single day out in the wild without any means to outsource those chores.
Boys will be boys, and therefore slobs? No. Teach them life skills before they die.
#3 Courtship Rituals
You know the drill. Girl meets boy, boy asks girl out, they live happily ever after.
But in a lot of cases (at least here in my community), the two interested parties reach a stalemate of “who has the next move”. Because the guy can be (reasonably) shy or torpe, the guy won’t ask the girl out. Because they’re conservative, the girl won’t ask the guy out, or continue with the courtship by giving gifts.
It’s just not done.
(So there goes that happily ever after for both of them.)
The next two reasons deal with this ridiculous concept: the “Real Man”. Much like the weird “strong, female character” that some people came up with, the “Real Man” can be used for good (there’s a new campaign battling rape culture premised on this characterization, and that’s awesome!) and it can also be used badly to ridiculous extents, e.g.
#4 I’ve Got a Career For You
Strangely enough, women have realized that limited career choices are a problem (women don’t always want to be nurses, or personal assistants, or models) but men (collectively) haven’t realized the same thing. The truth is, there are a limited number of career paths a man can take, and for the sake of diversity, individualism and industry growth, that can never be a good thing.
How does this happen? I know a lot of guys who are happy with their current university course choices: engineering, medicine, finance, maths. Normal courses you’d expect from logical, rational men. But I also know a lot of guys in those same courses who were there by force, not by chance or choice.
And that “force” isn’t parental will for most cases. Some guys just want to go to design courses, to the art and fashion industry –but the judgment of “GAAAAAAY!!!!” or “unmanly” is something that can really affect people. There was enough pressure to steer their feet to more “acceptable” career paths.
In the end, it turns them off from living out their real passion because the threat (of discrimination and of non-advancement in career and relationships) is real.
#5 It Extends to Behavior
The intensified ideal of “machismo” is one that is practically shoved down our throats by patriarchal institutions. It’s everywhere: from comic books showing rippling abs, from Hollywood movies with that archetypal “strong and silent” or alternately “tall, dark and handsome” types as their leads, to rugged local stars we fanboy to.
The narrative is real: you must be stronger than anyone else, no emotions, no fear, be masculine.
And this kind of narrative can harm a guy’s way of expressing himself as an individual and his way of interacting with other people. In a survey of our Comm 3 class, all of our male classmates professed to never having cried in public –and if there was an instance where they had to, it would signify a lack of control and instil a sense of shame.
But as a couch psychologist, I think that the ability to be emotional, especially in public, is something everyone should be able to exercise. It’s a sign of maturity, not of weakness, and it’s never healthy to bottle it up. At the very least, they should have that choice.
Furthermore, the “I must not look weak” mentality really does a number on friendly interactions. How can things work out when it’s all a competition to greatness? And a greatness to what? If you’re preening for a mate, I can personally testify that an “alpha male” in today’s context isn’t really much of a prize anyway. I’d much rather have complex, intellectual and emotionally mature people –whose body won’t crush me to death with its muscles– as partners, not caricatures of a male stereotype on steroids.
What do these examples all point to? It points to the reality that having gender stereotypes (strict social roles following the binary of pink and blue, girl and boy, man and woman) are harmful not just to women, but really also to men.
So when we talk about feminism, it’s about trying to help everyone get out of the constraints that somehow our society has evolved to creating and protecting. (I know, we’re a messed up society). It’s all to have a society where everyone can be whoever he or she wants to be, without those patriarchal expectations. No more harmful stereotypes. No more sexism of any form.
So when someone asks you “are you a feminist?” I hope you answer the question with all of this information at your disposal. Communicate the right kind of information. Because they say that it’s a man’s (man’s man’s) world right now. But it’s really not. It’s no one’s.
- Patriarchy — a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. This is seen across most societies. Tokenistic affirmative action does not nullify the cultural undertones of patriarchy.
- Feminism — advocacy for social, political and economic equality of the sexes, with a focus on advocating for women’s rights. A lot of people balk at the highlight on women, or the prefix “fem”. Really. The female sex has been systematically oppressed for at least two thousand years, with atrocities including but not limited to: stoned for having sex, burned at stake for being progressive, raped as a tool for warfare, whipped for being a woman, thrown of a cliff as a baby for being a girl, married off in business transactions, barred from any form of education, looked upon as sexual deviants or alternately as virginal pedestals… And you want to fight us for a prefix.
- Gender Equality — the belief that there should be no prejudiced privileges or rights given to or withheld from any sex, through the removal of gender stereotypes which systematically rig the system to oppress one sex. Feminism is a direct path to getting gender quality. Another would be deconstructing gender stereotypes. Oh wait, that’s also part of feminism.
- Machismo — strong or aggressive masculine pride.
- Misandry — the hatred of men (male sex)
- Misogyny — the hatred of women (female sex)
Some illustrative points:
The fear of men going out on blind dates is that the woman might be ugly. The fear of women going out on blind dates is that the man might kill them. Gender inequality is when we have to fear for our lives -against rape, psychopaths and mass murderers.
Misandry offends but misogyny kills. Case in point: Elliot Rodger, whose hatred towards women extended to seven deaths and 13 non-fatalities. Thanks.
Feminism is not misandry. It’s a hatred of the patriarchy, not of the men or women who have been brainwashed by it.
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Life Update I swear I wasn’t planning out writing out two thousand words on this topic. It just happened. I was really, really angry at that thought catalog entry. :( Anyway, I’ll be gone for several hours or days after this (I think), working on uploading Singapore:NTU UADC pictures to Facebook and working on those videos. Happy reading!