by Craig Bidiman
I’ve had a few interesting interactions with men over the last two years during my insurgence into the realm of studying and advocating for healthier masculinities. One topic that constantly arises is feminism.
Feminism is an interesting topic in the masculinities realm because I have found that some men are quite resistant to identify as a feminist.
Feminism—simply put—is advocating for gender equity. For all.
And men—simply put—are not good at sharing. At all.
Even though men are often not good at sharing, I have faith we can share feminist dialogue with each other. Yet, in order be effective, I have found that the conversation must go through three distinct steps.
[Note: These are based on my experiences of discussing feminism with men and through other research I’ve encountered along the way. There is obviously much more to this topic than the pieces I will discuss here; yet, this is a good place to start.]
1. Fear of Losing Privilege
The most destructive barrier inhibiting men from having meaningful conversations with other men about feminism and gender equity is a combination of fear and pride. This combination is only further convoluted when some men suggest that they will lose out on opportunities (i.e. pay & jobs) they feel they have earned through their hard work and dedication as men.
Regardless of those factors—and without invalidating anyone’s hard work or dedication—all men have privilege. That is fact.
This is first step for a reason—because without understanding and acknowledging privilege, this conversation will go nowhere. It has almost nothing to do with hard work. Men are going to have more opportunities in life than women—and white men are going to have more opportunities than men of color.
Male power and privilege has been a hot topic as of late—especially with the recent UCSB shooting and the Princeton Freshman article. And if you need a quick refresher on male privilege, check out this article, or this one on privilege and misogyny, or even this one!
Male privilege is omnipresent and invisible.
However, male insecurity is often verbally or physically exerted whenever one feels threatened in any manner. Hence, UCSB, Princeton, etc.
For one reason or another, it always comes back to fear of losing privileges—which, in reality will never happen. Men will always have privilege. Men do not need to apologize or feel guilty for their privilege—however, what we do with this privilege is what determines the future of our culture. So, in order to complete this step, make that point clear to men. Build that foundation and watch the rest of these points flow seamlessly.
Well, somewhat seamlessly.
2. Feminism is not Misandry
Now that the privilege conversation has happened, we are able to move into challenging perhaps the most integral factor in understanding why men resist feminist dialogue—misandry, or the perceived hatred of men.
The concept of misandry seems like an excuse for men to dodge feminism. Men have long guarded themselves as strong, powerful beings while treating women as weak and unable to have original thoughts. These are harmful social constructs that stifle any sort of gender equity progress.
We cannot move forward in gender equity work if men are not willing to quit acting like the victims.
Yet, it makes sense, for years men have been told that all feminists hate men—which is clearly not the case. For example, I identify as a feminist and I do not hate men.
In all honesty, men need feminism. Men need to be open to a discourse which challenges them to consider others before themselves.
Yet, with the insurgence of feminism, women’s rights, and women outnumbering men on college campuses today, the insecurities of men have never been more heightened. Thanks to the internet these insecurities are funneled through what are called Men’s Rights groups.
There are many Men’s Rights groups, like Return of Kings, who spread misinformation across the internet. These groups are anti-feminist propaganda groups that promote the domesticity of women as well as traditional masculine characteristics. These groups are easy to spot because of their blatant and often outlandish misogyny and outright hatred of feminine masculinity, feminism, and homosexuality. This misinformation only creates more fear in men. The misinformation breeds ignorance and hate.
Men’s Rights groups seem to hate men more than feminists!
More than women, even.
Because if men are to ever make a conscious change for the future of the social structure and welcome a discourse that supports gender equity, we must weed out all of this misinformation in favor of actual education of facts regarding the reality of benefits that feminism brings to gender equity.
3. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.
So, all feminists do not hate men and men will never lose privilege—okay.
Now, the final step to engaging stubborn men with feminist discourse is by telling them to get the hell out of the way!
Seriously, men have oppressed women for far too long.
Women have been oppressed in the workforce, education, politics, domesticity—just let women be.
I don’t know why we are still having this conversation. It seems to me that in the year 2014, this concept would make sense by now. But apparently it hasn’t fully landed. Luckily there are plenty of women taking a stand in today’s society, drawing attention to true root of the issues women face as a result of oppressive social structures. Women like Elizabeth Warren, bell hooks, Laverne Cox, Brene Brown, Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Mindy Kaling.
In fact, take Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy.
Sandberg suggests that women need to be confident in their abilities, elevate their voices, and lean into conversations to have their voices heard in order to climb the social and professional ladder. This book has started some great conversations since it was published last year.
Sandberg’s book even mentions the issue of systematic social constructs of male privilege and the oppression of women across the workforce and in education. But that’s all it is—a mention. I recognize this wasn’t the focus of her book; however, I feel this topic could have been at least half of the book. This issue is far more complicated than women taking actions into their own hands. Men need to be held responsible for our actions as well.
Because in order for true gender equity to occur, men need to learn to just step aside and be comfortable with women—and anyone who doesn’t identify as cis-male—being bad asses.
End of list.
A brief letter to men, in conclusion:
Men—It’s time for us to get over ourselves.
Gender equity isn’t about losing your man card. It’s about recognizing that we all should be considered equal in this country, regardless of gender.
This post isn’t meant to convert men to feminism as much as it is to create the discussion of simply considering these aspects of our culture. My hope is that this post will inspire men to inquire further into these issues and dig a little deeper into understanding the realities of systematic gender inequality and men’s oppression over women.
The stubbornness of men has lasted long enough. Open your ears; open your minds; open your hearts to understanding a concept that benefits all of society.
A concerned man
Craig Bidiman is a second-year Higher Education MEd graduate student at UMass Amherst. He currently holds assistantships in the Center for Health Promotion at UMass Amherst, where he serves as a Masculinity Educator and advises the sex positive comedy troupe, Not Ready for Bedtime Players. Craig is also an avid music reviewer, tattoo and vinyl collector, and professional wrestling geek. Join the dialogue on Twitter at @CrigBididman …or on Facebook at Facebook.com/bidimanc. He also MODs for @SAGradMOD & @iStudentAffairs