“You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman.” –Jane Galvin Lewis
I wrote this last fall for my composition class, and watching Suffragette last night reminded me that I needed to share it (because I’m also very proud of this piece). Below is my essay on why feminism benefits women and men.
Citations and formatting according to instructions given by my professor.
4 December 2015
Arguably, feminism was originally created along with the suffragette movement to benefit women’s advancement in society. The various women’s rights movements throughout the 1900s around the world also embedded the idea of feminism being a primarily female concept. Historically and currently, men and women have viewed feminism as the movement of women to positions of higher power and prominence in public. Feminism in modern society, however, is beginning to shift toward equality for both sexes. Feminism, therefore, is as much for men as it is for women, and men will benefit from it if our society will embrace what feminism seeks to create. If society’s view of feminism can change to an idea of equality, men will get the equity they need and deserve while also helping women.
In order to benefit men, society must change its view of feminism as a whole. We must first define feminism in a singular way that promotes equality for both genders and use ideas from different types of feminism to reach its goals. Once society has decided upon a goal of feminism and the way in which this goal is accomplished, men will be benefitted as much as women. Benefits of feminism for men include financial equality, self-expression, media portrayal, and a decrease in sexual violence while raising a new generation of feminist-thinkers. By gradually implementing this new idea of feminism into society and making citizens aware of feminism’s advantages, the ultimate goal will benefit men as much as women.
A singular definition must first be made and taught to our society in order to truly reach the goal of feminism as well as benefit men. There are many different definitions and ideas of feminism that are beneficial as well as detrimental to the concept and the goal feminism strives to achieve. Emma Watson defines feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” This definition does not discriminate nor benefit a single gender group. If we define feminism in such a way as Emma Watson proposes, men and women alike will have the opportunity to achieve what they wish regardless of gender bias or restraint. This definition, most importantly benefits the group that most often feels ostracized and persecuted by the current feminism idea.
We must also acknowledge as a society that there are different types of feminism. All types of feminism view gender equality, eliminating stratification by sex, ending violence, and encouraging sexual freedom to be the primary goals, but they vary according to the extent and approach to accomplishing these goals. Among the many types of feminism are liberal, socialist, radical, and multicultural/global feminism. Liberal feminists believe that individuals are capable of advancing in society by their own talent and merit rather than as a collective group. Socialist feminists believe that their goals are accomplished collectively as a group and “replacing the traditional family” would “replace ‘domestic slavery,’” (Macionis 331). Radical feminists believe gender and gender roles must be eradicated altogether. Global feminism seeks to acknowledge and change how gender stratification is different across cultures (Macionis 330-2). Our society needs to use an amalgamation of these four feminism types in order to accomplish the new goals of feminism that benefit men. Individuals must have equal opportunities, and our society must become one that does not promote discrimination and collectively becomes a culture of feminists. The barriers that prevent gender equality across cultures and in societies other than our own must be recognized and improved upon.
There is ample evidence of the pay gap between men and women that favors the former. According to Charlotte Alter, “research from Wells Fargo shows that college-educated millennial men made $20,000 more per year than women with the same education level.” The problem with a pay gap among gender is that many women are becoming the breadwinners of the home now whether their husbands can not find a job or they choose not to work. If the female partner is the only worker, the financial burden will, on average, be greater than if the male was the sole source of money. If society’s definition of feminism was accepted as a goal of equality, then the pay gap would be eliminated and either partner in marriage would be able to not work for reasons such as staying home with children. This benefits men, especially, because the burden of finances would not be solely upon them who would otherwise have the financial burden to care for their family.
Our society’s idea of manhood is limiting toward men because they are not freely able to express their feelings and inner emotions. Men are expected to be tough because showing emotion is considered feminine. Tony Porter relates how his father being unable to cry in front of others influenced him to tell his young son to act “like a man” and calm down and stop crying. This prevention of emotion is unjust to men because they should be allowed to express themselves in the same way as women. Changing society’s definition and understanding of feminism toward equality between genders would prevent men from stifling their emotions. Expression would allow men to be open and honest, and this would no doubt better men’s overall mental health. Men have been at the greatest risk as a group for many years, and this no doubt is caused because of the pressures put upon them to “be a man” and act as if they do not have normal human emotions. Feminism would allow these men to discuss what they feel rather than feeling their only escape is suicide.
Changing the viewpoint and definition of feminism in society would lessen the objectification of women in media as well as prevent men from being viewed as sex-driven in the same respect. Currently, women are hyper-sexualized by the media, and men are seen as the main cause for this issue. The idea of manhood is men are “supposed to always be on the prowl. Women are objects, especially sexual objects,” (Porter). This creates an image of men where they objectify women, and this portrayal is also seen in media. A new view of feminism would create a need to fix the female image in media as well as male ideas of women, and ultimately the male image as well. By changing the way women are portrayed in the media, men as a whole would not be seen as the “pigs” that media makes them out to be. Men and women would be seen as equals to each other who’s worth is not determined by their bodies or sexuality as is portrayed by the media. A safe environment where no gender is objectified or seen as the objectifiers would accomplish feminism’s main goal of equality, for no one group is at fault.
The current idea of feminism no doubt makes many people uncomfortable— especially men. With the current preconception of feminism, many men feel that feminists are man-haters. Men also feel victimized by feminism in that they believe feminists see them as cruel, evil men who treat women wrong. Men are primarily the perpetrators of sexual assault, rape, and other acts of violence against women. We must create a society where all men are not viewed as evil villain-like characters who seek to harm women. A new definition and social acceptance of feminism would change this idea. Jackson Katz echoes this idea by saying that if men in our society held each other accountable about their treatment of women that those who do act in a violent manner toward women would “lose status as a result of it.” Men would be aware of their actions toward women and, likewise, women’s actions toward men. There would no longer be a notion that men are all violent toward women making equality more achievable for each sex. This accountability should be encouraged in adult males to take immediate action toward the issue of violence against women, however, boys need to be raised to appreciate the value of feminism. Adults must raise their children (especially boys) to appreciate those of the opposite sex and to see them as their equals. The same accountability men must hold each other to must be expected of children.
Our society currently has many ideas about what feminism entails, therefore a change in the opinions of the entire population will occur at a gradual rate. Education from family, schools, and pop culture will need to influence adults and change their preconception of feminism’s goal. Children will also need to be brought up in environments that encourage feminism in a positive, equality-promoting way. These children will be the most important to educate in feminism to further our society’s feminism culture to benefit both sexes rather than singularly women. If children are raised with these ideas of equality, then they will rear more generations of adults who consider themselves feminists.
Feminism has been considered as a way for women to advance in society and have equal opportunities, but it is becoming a goal of equality for men and women alike. Modern society must acknowledge feminism and change how it is viewed to a central idea, and this goal can be accomplished. Feminism is as much for men as women, and its goal can be accomplished with a new conception of the movement.
Word count: 1565
Alter, Charlotte. “Millennial Women Are Still Getting Paid Less Than Men.” Time. 13 June 2014. Web. 2 December 2015.
Katz, Jackson. “Violence Against Women—It’s a Men’s Issue.” TEDxFiDi Women. San Francisco, CA. November 2012. Web. 1 December 2015.
Macionis, John. “Gender Stratification.” Society: The Basics. 13th ed. New Jersey: Pearson, 2015. 330-2. Print.
Porter, Tony. “A Call to Men.” TEDWomen. Washington, DC. December 2010. Web. 1 December 2015.
Watson, Emma. “Gender Equality is Your Issue Too.” UN Women. New York, NY. 20 September 2014. Web. 30 November 2015.