Men’s rights activists, otherwise referred to as ‘meninists’ face a lot of schtick in society. Honestly they don’t help themselves a lot of the time, and I’m not here to defend the actions of some of the more butt-hurt, but for the most part they have a point.
‘Woah, Maria, I thought you were a rampaging radical feminist!’ you cry! That is true, dear reader, however it is my opinion that any true feminist cannot ignore that men face problems due to gender inequality too.
Men are more likely to be expected to go into harder and more potentially dangerous manual labour jobs. They’re more likely to be mocked for their sexuality, such as for owning sex toys or being anything other than your traditional hetrosexual. Fewer people are willing to help male victims of rape, and overall men are more likely to commit suicide than women. Fathers are at a disadvantage when it comes to trying to gain custody of their children, and there are more homeless men than women. There is, as you may have noticed, a unifying factor to all of these examples – men who don’t live up to society’s expectations of traditional masculinity are at a disadvantage.
Sex and gender are different and in my opinion should be viewed as such. Sex is the biological feature that deems you to be either male or female, however gender is something society imposes on you from birth. I’d like to think this concept isn’t new to most of you reading this, but it shows how society sees ideal typical features for boys and girls, and how certain people deviate from these typical notions of gender.
Men aren’t better at fixing things just because they were born with a penis. Their genitalia doesn’t determine whether they like sport, or if they cry at the end of Marley & Me. These are just expectations imposed on men from birth, and there are those who conform and those who don’t.
I’m actually shocked at the extent to which these deviations are seen as a joke. If you want evidence, all you have to do is look at how the media sees masculinity. I’ve been watching a lot of Friends recently, and there’s an episode when Joey has a female roommate, and learns how to arrange flowers, and begins to enjoy the art she puts around the apartment of babies and flowers. This is turned into a thing of comedy, and ends up with Joey exclaiming in horror “I’M A WOMAN!”. I just want to ask whoever wrote that what they think is so wrong with being a woman and what is so wrong with a man finding a new hobby that he enjoys, whether it’s kicking a ball around a field or making potpourri.
Along these same lines, what I find extremely weird is the cultural view that nursing is a job for women. Male nurses, both in comedy and in real life, are looked down upon and belittled but seriously what is so bad about nursing? Is it so terrible to look after people and save lives? Being caring is seen as feminine, and being seen as feminine is seen as a bad thing.
I think Madonna puts my point perfectly: “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots cause it’s okay to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. Cause you think being a girl is degrading.”
This view that runs fairly unnoticed in our society is what we call the patriarchy. I wanted to see the other side of the story, so I asked my male friends what they think. Bradley, a second year English Literature student said “It especially affects those of us who don’t have any, or few, of these typically male traits, very negatively. How do we identify ourselves if we don’t fit into the stereotypical image of a man?”
Feminine qualities, or indeed qualities not considered traditionally masculine, are viewed negatively in society. Men are encouraged to hide their feelings. They’re called pussies, and wimps. They’re told to man up. The effects of using language in this way run deep, and reinforce the way we see gender.
Take the example of how society views male victims of rape. There are countless horrific instances of sexual abuse happening to men and boys across the world. Men’s rights activists rightly point out that we accept the stories of women being raped by men much more readily than stories from male rape victims. One victim from India noticed “we get abused, but we have no right to voice it because we’re supposed to be the protectors.” Once we realise that the problems in our society aren’t because of men or women, but rather our traditional views of gender, the sooner change can happen.
Feminism is for everybody: it benefits all genders, even though the name may be deceiving, hence why some people prefer to be called ‘equalists’. Feminism, while the focus is primarily on helping women, it also aims to fix the problems surrounding how femininity is viewed. Whether you’re a meninist, feminist, equalist, or any other ‘ist’, you should know that turning against others is only going to weaken your own argument. You can find politicians whose main policies involve helping men in society, such as members of the ‘Justice for Men & Boys’ party, who also think it’s part of their job to turn on women and feminists. They call feminists ‘whiny’ and ‘gormless’, but what does that make them? If we truly want to see a change for the better we all need to recognise that gender inequality affects everyone. Sure women face a lot of problems, but men have their own, and I hope if you consider yourself a feminist, you consider men too.