“Your girlfriend is a feminist? Watch out man. They’ve got some crazy idea that women are somehow equal to men.”
Feminism in the 21st century is still a dirty word, particularly among men. It has the status of a joke–a joke that isn’t funny.
I am a feminist. I am also a man. These aren’t contradictory concepts because, to me, feminism is about much more than just granting women the same rights as men. It’s about granting men the same rights as women. The prejudicial and unequal treatment of women is obvious. Women earn less than men for the same work, are more frequently victims of violence and are subject to unrealistic expectations of body image. Men, however, are also victims of the devaluing of traditionally “feminine” qualities and traits.
There are times when I as a man would like to cry. I prefer to work collectively with others rather than always competing for status. I like to be spontaneous and creative rather than calculating and rational all the time. These are traditionally feminine traits that our society as a whole perceives as unacceptable for men. Feminism isn’t just about liberating women from traditional gender roles, it’s about liberating everyone.
This doesn’t take away the important women’s issues. I once worked with a woman who had worked at that location for a year before I was hired. She was in a position of importance and authority compared to me, yet her wage after a year was lower than my starting wage. All other things considered, I could only deduce that she was paid less because she was a female.
That enraged me, not only because they marginalized women, but they also cheapened my accomplishments because we weren’t on a level playing field. Similarly, if I try to accomplish something in a traditionally feminine realm, I am dismissed as non-masculine. Suddenly my manhood is at stake, and in a society that privileges masculine over feminine, that is a frightening place to be.
I don’t laugh at jokes about feminists. I won’t tolerate bullshit about gender roles. I’m secure in my gender identity. But, if we’re going to play the game of life, let’s get one thing straight: level the field for everyone.