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  • Writer's pictureBecci

Men‘s Role in Feminism

Updated: Oct 10, 2018



I am filled with rage. Filled with rage about yet another manifestation of structural injustice and complete ignorance in 2018. Years and years have passed since women first started protesting on the streets, for simply being able to vote. Today, we are still standing here, demanding equality.


One might argue that the decision to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as US Supreme Court Judge was not an issue of survivor vs. assaulter, of women vs. men - but that it was a partisan quarrel. But isn’t such a distinction exactly the problem? How can a woman’s dignity (a basic human right) be ranked lower than party politics? There is only one answer to this question: women are not equal yet.


To anyone invested in feminist topics, this statement will not come as a surprise. In fact, I was not surprised the US Senate voted the way it did. Yet, that does not mean I am not filled with rage. Since there are many factors that led to this decision, and since there are many men and women who voted for and against Kavanaugh, I will not portray this as a black and white story - it is not the fault of only men that Kavanaugh was confirmed despite his allegations of sexual assault, despite his horrendous performance during his hearing. But in the last few days, I have discussed and read about this issue a lot, and in order to steer my rage into something productive and constructive - I want to use this ‘incident’ as a chance to talk about men’s role in feminism.


 

It is not the job of men to fight for women. No, it is the job of men to fight alongside women. For social justice. For equality. For the rights of all. (By the way, did you know that feminism does not mean one is only fighting for women’s rights, but also for minorities‘ rights, LGBT rights, and - something that is most often overlooked - the rights for men in sectors they are discriminated against (e.g. parental leave) etc.?) The burden of responsibility does not lie on the shoulders of men here, but it does not solely lie on the shoulders of women either. The responsibility to spread social justice has to be carried by men and women (and everyone on the gender spectrum) alike!


And as a disclaimer, because I know some of you will be tempted to write this to me, I should say that I know not all men are bad. But is it enough to defend women‘s rights? I am so tired of these arguments: ‘There are good guys out there too, you know?’ ‘I don’t know anyone of my peers who treat women badly’. But is that the standard we wish to apply here? Is that what we want to hold men accountable to? Is that all we can ask for? Is it enough to just not be a rapist? To not catcall? To not participate in locker room talk? My opinion: NO. It is not enough.


What we need, what women need, is for all the ‘good guys’ out there to actively participate in the conversation and the fight. To stand up for the rights of their mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, wife, best friend. Changing a structurally flawed system starts at the bottom. You can change policies and declare women equal to men, but women continue to be scared when walking home, to be grabbed when shuffling through a crowded club, to be hesitant about saying ‘no’ to their own boyfriend, to be dragged in front of a jury to relive the worst experience of their life only to latter be ridiculed by the President of their country. The truth is: women are not equal to men.


 

So we must start at the bottom. We must start with men acknowledging that this structural difference still exists. It is the little things, but they count. My best friend‘s boyfriend once had a brief discussion on feminism with me, and he was questioning that women are still structurally discriminated against. How often do I generally have to listen to people in my environment arguing ‘but girls do way better in school’, and ‘more women than men graduate from university’, and ‘now women are positively discriminated and get the better jobs’, or the old classic ‘men also have to adhere to beauty standards and are judged by women’ - stop making the issue of women smaller than it is!


And next to the lack of acknowledgment, there is fear. The #metoo campaign has seriously started the argument made by certain men that men now have to fear to have their lives ruined because of false allegations of sexual assault. I am not denying that false allegations exist. But from the viewpoint of structural mistreatment, I want to refer to the argument of Trevor Noah: “In a room full of people, how many men have been falsely accused of sexual harassment, and how many women have actually been sexually harassed. I can guarantee you, the numbers will speak for themselves“ (loosely paraphrased). My housemate recently asked me ‘So how can I still talk to a girl in general? How can I talk to a girl on the street without overstepping a boundary?’ - I am not here to write a guideline on ‘How to talk to a woman without being a creep’. Really, it is not that hard! Think!


And so once men, collectively - not individually, have overcome this fear, and have started to acknowledge that there might be some truth to all of this, maybe, if they have the time, they could you know - help!?


 

And starting from the bottom simply means starting with the little things. I believe that none of the guys in my group of friends are intentionally set out to harm women. I don’t think that any of the guys I hang out with think of women as inferior. But there are these small signs, that make me seriously doubt the level of commitment of my male friends to stand up for women in general. If you find yourself in a situation where your peers talk about a woman walking by, or a mutual girl you know and say ‘Ah I’d totally do her’, maybe you as a fellow man could stand up to your particular friend and hint that one should not talk about women as if they are a piece of meat. That requires courage? Hell yeah, it does! But guess what, it also requires courage for a woman to step forward after being sexually harassed, fearing that she will immediately be labeled as an ‘attention-seeking slut’. Speaking out to your friends does not seem that bad anymore, does it?


Rape culture continues because we let men get away with it. Because the President of the United States can say something like ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ and still be elected. Because a Supreme Court Judge can assault a woman (as a drunk college student even though this is only a point of clarification not an excuse) and yet is confirmed to his position by a group of people supposed to function as a country’s representation. These are all horrible cases of injustice, ignorance, and men getting away with something they should not. But I refuse to believe that the majority of men actually think like these two examples. I refuse to believe that the majority of men want to treat women exactly like Trump or Kavanaugh would or did. But I do believe that they accept too much. That they are indifferent because it does not concern them - or at least, they do not understand how much it concerns them, until it is their own daughter dragged behind the bush at a college party.


It takes courage to stand up for your rights and the rights of others.


But courage - from us all - is what we need.



*Two very simple examples of how men can support the feminist movement are the #HeForShe campaign or the #ManEnough campaign (to be found on social media).

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