Feminism is for men, too

Review Ellen Ellen Benner/THE REVIEW
“As a male, identifying as a feminist has garnered a variety of reactions, ranging from joyous acceptance to being harshly written off. “

BY
Music and Society Editor

It was not until recently that I began to openly call myself a feminist. This was mainly out of fear of the backlash I would receive due to others misunderstanding my intentions and feminism in general. The bra-burning-angry-lesbian-who-wants-to-behead-men stereotype shockingly still defines many people’s perceptions of feminism — something I want to help change, but we will get to that later.

As a male, identifying as a feminist has garnered a variety of reactions, ranging from joyous acceptance to being harshly written off. I’ve been told that I could never understand, that I am wasting my time, that I would get bad grades in women’s studies classes and that I was out of my expertise.

While yes, it is true, I am not a woman, that does not mean I can’t champion the cause of feminism or even attempt to make a difference in whatever way I can. In my opinion, sitting in complacency and using the excuse of having my hands tied for being a cisgender straight white male is a cop-out and a trap that too many of my male peers fall into. We need all hands on deck to truly make a difference.

Becoming passionate about feminism has made me recognize the privileges and imbalances of daily life spawning from forces outside of anyone’s control and how I have unknowingly been advantaged by such things as my gender, sexuality, race and socioeconomic status. Recognizing these privileges was the first step and, for me, an eye-opening experience that made me begin to question everything I thought I understood about the makeup of the world.

I began to realize how unjust it is that so much of the world establishes its political, social and economic systems around uncontrollable things to directly advantage and disadvantage others. Once I started to explore the hidden nuances of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, etc., around me by asking, listening and observing as much as I could, I determined that I couldn’t content myself in thinking that this is the way things are and always will be.

Reading about unequal pay, sexual violence and challenges in obtaining birth control, as well as cat-calling, name calling and other forms of verbal harassment, was and continues to be utterly overwhelming. For a time, I felt directly responsible for the actions of other males. I am an older brother of three sisters, whom I love more than anything, and I felt guilty that this was the world they were inhabiting. Thinking about them and other young girls who I would be educating one day as part of my future career as an English teacher, I understood that feminism was not a cause relegated to any one type of person.

Feminism, in my opinion, transcends, and is a common cause of equality for all genders, races and sexualities. It is a stepping stone to shed light on the prejudices, discriminatory practices and injustices ingrained in our society to level the playing field and afford equal opportunities and rights to everyone.

Now, rather than feeling guilty or discouraged for not being able to fix the entire world, I occupy my time with educating myself, being self-aware and initiating as many conversations as I can with anyone I can. Over time, it’s become clear to me that the reason stereotypes persist, and feminists are seen as aggressive or exclusionary, is because of a lack of understanding resulting mainly from media portrayals. I quickly became passionate about the topic and knew that it was something I could actively work against.

Asking my peers about why they say or do certain things, recommending literature, wearing buttons with thought-provoking or affirming messages and opening my ears and shutting my mouth are all small differences that I do and anyone can in their daily lives. Being empathetic and open to the fact that everyone’s experiences are different lays a foundation for acceptance and understanding that leads to insightful results.

I know that I have a long way to go and will never fully understand the issues women face, but I do know that it is within my power to carry myself in a certain way and attempt to lead by example to make this world a better place for all people. I owe it to my sisters, I owe it to my students and I owe it to everyone. Feminism is a cause for everyone.

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