What an exciting time to be alive. The first ever edition of Monday’s Mouthful is coming at you right this second. Breathe in the history, my friends. Prepare for your first step towards rolling your eyes constantly or emphatically shaking your head yes! with me every Monday. I have a knack for either preaching to the choir or missing the mark with almost impressive inaccuracy, and I count on my readers to engage me in a discussion in either direction. The only way for me to grow, both as a writer and as a thinker, is to hear what you think and consider why I haven’t thought of it that way yet. So please, faithful Whiners, let me have it in the comments. Show me what’s what.
This first round will start off on a tee. I’m going with what I’m familiar with, something that I’ve dealt with more in the last year than I ever thought I’d have to deal with growing up. Something that doesn’t quite hit you until it hits you where it hurts. It’s a topic that’s namesake is considered a curse word depending on who you say it to.
I want to talk about feminism.
Are you rolling your eyes yet?
Emma Watson spoke at the UN on Saturday and her speech has quickly found its way around the Internet. One of her main focuses was an approach I don’t often see in feminist articles or pleas (or at least the ones that go viral), and its note struck me personally. She asserted that “gender equality is [a men’s] issue, too” and that “we don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.”
What Watson is saying is not entirely groundbreaking, the idea that for as much pressure on women to be Women, there is on men to be Men. The difference is that that tidbit is often thrown in as an afterthought, sort of an appeasement to the men of the world when explaining the pressures of being female. Using that to qualify is very rarely done out of disrespect. That this is a shared struggle between the sexes, however, is not commonly thrown under a spotlight. Watson’s plea to a masculine understanding of this side of the argument intrigues me personally.
By very many accounts, I do not qualify as “manly.” That was a hard sentence to write. It’s a difficult thing to admit. But it’s true. I am petite, I am romantic, I cry when I’m sad, I complain when I’m unhappy, I hate guns and I don’t understand tools. A cool car to me is one that still rolls and I don’t check my oil for fear of getting my hands all black. I am what Red Pilled power-movers would call a pussy emasculate.
And damn it if that doesn’t get annoying.
It shouldn’t hurt for me to admit it. It shouldn’t hurt for me to acknowledge that that’s how I am just because I’m afraid other men will look down on me. My merit as a person shouldn’t be gauged on what is expected of me based on my gender.
That last sentence should sound familiar. You’ve probably seen it tweeted by women 15 million times in the last year. That’s the point. When you see those tweets, when you see those “feminazi” talking points on your feed and you start to roll your eyes – stop. Don’t think this is just women complaining. This is people struggling, sick of being shamed for being themselves. These are your friends, your family, your foes and your flames, losing sleep and sureness because they’re taught they ought to.
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong,” Watson explains. “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are — we can all be freer.”
Watson’s plea is a reasonable one, one of those things you wouldn’t think needs to be explained on a stage before the United Nations. Yet, any article or tweet or television comment of similar breath is met with hordes of angry comments, dozens of “maybe if feminism weren’t based on hating men,” and “feminism is inherently sexist against men,” diatribes. As Watson explains, “the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.” This parroted correlation is simply a misrepresentation and the fact that someone as eloquent and articulate (see: wingardium leviosa for further proof of this) as Watson can’t seem to avoid it is alarming.
Your misunderstanding of a position does not make that position less valid. It’s been said a million times, but feminism is not based on sexism against men. The decision to support feminism is, as Watson so aptly put it, “uncomplicated.” It’s time we as men stop pointing at those misrepresenting feminism as an excuse not to help our sisters, girlfriends, friends and mothers. It’s time to stop using that as an excuse to not help fellow people. The power we wield is an inherent one, one that as men is easier to be willfully ignorant of than ardently reevaluating.
Using feminist extremists as straw men to fuel reluctance to change is stubborn and ill willed at best. Drone on the extremists and you can find a way to misrepresent any group or movement. We as men need to accept the awkward admission that we need equality with women to move forward as men.
The issue of feminism is one with so many layers and opinions and roadblocks that this article and my opinion are just a drop in the bucket of the societal problem of gender inequality. But I come to you as a person raised to believe that “feminist” is a curse word, that the girl in class who spoke about equality was a whining prude, taught to ignore the subtleties ingrained in our upbringing that make girls less valid and boys more solid. I grew up believing that being good at being rude and treating things I didn’t understand with dismissive hostility were acceptable methods of behaving.
It took growing up, losing people close to me, and a revised viewpoint on who I was, both as a person and how I presented myself to other people, to notice these things and understand that they are not okay. I urge any men who can’t escape the reputation of being a jerk — who wonder why people different than them consider them bullies or pigs or sexists because they were “just joking” — to sit down and think: what would it be like to be anyone but me? Do I have any better reason to behave how I do other than because I’ve always been this way?
Introspection and self-evaluation are some of the hardest things to do. They take honesty and humility, sacrifice and shame to use effectively. I encourage all people to do these things, to try to grow before it’s too late. Because for me, the acceptance and understanding of so many great women in my life has made me a better man. Accepting them as more than targets, more than prizes, and more than flings to pass the time has changed the way I look at everything in my life, and I’ve never been better off.
Till next time, Whiners.