Feminism: Its Not Just for Women Anymore!

Radical Radiance will return next Tuesday… I hope. I really need suggestions! That section is hard to do all on my own, especially because I would really like to feature everyday people as well, not necessarily just celebrities.  So please: nominate someone (even yourself), point someone out, anything… just give me a hand! Remember, you can reach me at sunfollowers@gmail.com :) In the meantime, here’s something new…

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Feministing pointed me recently to this ‘humorous’ commercial that Pepsi aired during the Superbowl. I have been researching this article, about feminism and men for awhile now; the following commercial provides a perfect lead in to this topic…

We all know how the largely patriarchal distribution of power in society holds women back from achieving their potential (aka the glass ceiling) and generally pressures women and girls into prescribing to some fairly narrow ideals of beauty and behavior. However, rarely do many of us consider the negative effect this same system has on men.

While men do have the privilege of easier avenues to power and education,the norms dictated by the patriarchy mold their lives negatively as well. The media and popularly held beliefs tell us that men are strong and stoic, powerful and brave; they do not express emotion as women do (or even pain, as this commercial illustrates in an exaggerated manner) and they certainly do not take interest in “girl-y” things (like diet soda, apparently). This is harmful to men, let me explain how…

“WOMEN’S ISSUE: GENDER STEREOTYPING”

HOW IT AFFECTS MEN: MENTAL HEALTH

1877_346839546_man_20crying_1__h120751_lIn America alone more than six million men become depressed each year (and that’s a low estimate, considering men are less likely to report emotional disorders like depression). This large number is, in part, the fault of a society that tells men that it is unacceptable for them to cry or even to discuss their feelings. Females are expected to be emotional, to cry, to talk things out, and thus society provides females with socially acceptable outlets for their sadness. Many males, however, do not feel comfortable seeing a therapist or chatting with a friend about the stresses and sadness in their lives; for fear of being considered less of a man.

The truth, obviously, is that men and women do not have different biological processes for dealing with sadness; both genders feel emotion in the same way. More men than women, however, bottle those emotions up and do themselves lasting mental damage; not because of biology, but because society has taught them they must behave in a certain, stoic way. The brave men who do acknowledge and work through their feelings of sadness (and yes, even cry)? Often, they are ridiculed,even by their own fathers, and told to “toughen up” or to “take things like a man”. Their emotions are completely dishonored, and they are made to feel even worse for attempting to express them.

“WOMEN’S ISSUE: THE GLASS CEILING”

HOW IT AFFECTS MEN:FORCED INTO THE WORKFORCE

beansweenies_228Another thing that the patriarchal propaganda robs men of is their freedom of choice; to work outside of, or inside of their homes. While it is often brought to people’s attention that women are still  limited in their abilities to have a family and still work outside of the home, we often ignore the men in this situation. There are many men out there who would love to opportunity to stay at home and raise their kids, and many men who have chosen to do this . However, the fact still remains that most stay at home parents are women; largely due to society’s conditioning about traditional (limiting) gender roles.

Society is set up so that men are expected to be their family’s primary breadwinner. When the man is not, in fact, the provider for a family he will often feel emasculated. This is due, not to biological nature, but to the fact that society is set up so that men who choose to stay at home with their children are judged as strange or inadequate; just as women who pursue a career instead of caring for their children (or even having children) are viewed as strange or even shirking on their “womanly responsibilities”. As a result of this many men sacrifice the closeness they could have with their children and vastul underuse their nurturing abilities, simply because they feel obligated to spend most of their time working to advance their family economically.

“WOMEN’S ISSUE: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE”

HOW IT AFFECTS MEN: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

battered

Did you know that at least 40% of domestic violence victims each year are men? Most people don’t. While domestic violence is a serious issue for women it’s not just an issue for women. Men are abused, physically and emotionally, and even raped in our society and yet, we hardly ever hear about it. The stereotypical gender roles that were spoken about earlier often prevent men from reporting abuse (for fear of looking weak or emasculated), and stop other people from accepting the reports of the few men brave enough to speak out. Often, abusive women are even admired for their ability to “stand up” for themselves; even though they were acting abusively, and NOT in self defense.

I believe the clip below, another excerpt from ABC’s What Would You Do? illustrates this issue perfectly…

THE BOTTOM LINE: Men can be feminists too! If you care about reducing the stigmas related to emotion, breaking down limiting gender roles, putting an end to domestic violence, or gaining more equality among the sexes in society then… surpise! YOU are a feminist… yes, even if you’re a guy. The sooner we all realize this, and lose our negative stereotypes related to feminism, the sooner we can start making some real change because at the end of the day? Women’s issues are everyone’s issues.

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Here’s an interesting, related piece.

14 thoughts on “Feminism: Its Not Just for Women Anymore!

  1. Good post, but…

    Women’s issues are everyone’s issues.

    I see what you mean here, but I’m not sure I agree. While there’s obviously a huge overlap between the ways that men and women alike are negatively affected by the current social model (I’m not going to call it “patriarchy”; that’s reductionist and IMO plain wrong), I think there are areas which can be, even if only tentatively, titled women’s/men’s issues.

  2. I apologize that my use of the term patriarchial offends you, however, I do believe that it is applicable here because the current social model is in place largely (if not solely) because of the masculine power-structure that has been in legal and economic control of America almost since it’s beginning. Only in recent decades are we beginning to slowly creep away from this patriarchal power structure, and this progress is not coming without significant struggle.

    I’d like to understand where you’re coming from but it’s hard without specific examples… could you explain what type of issues you’re talking about? Because I seriously can’t think of a single issue that is so specific to one sex that the other has no stake in it at all.

    For instance, reproductive rights are a “women’s issue” at first glance but when you consider the absence of a father’s voice in decisions regarding abortion, the lack of available birth control in certain areas (that effects both men and women), and so on… you see how there is a serious overlap.

    Not to mention simple human compassion can make Women’s Rights a part of everyone’s lives; just as I am a strong advocate for gay rights, an end to racism, and so on… just because I don’t experience the negative effects of these issues doesn’t mean that I am not emotionally affected by the hardships my fellow human beings face; my compassion makes their issues my issues as well.

  3. To launch a rocket properly, you need the right launching pad. With all respect, yours is faulty. Your foundations are steeped in feminist dogma. First of patriarchy was (and is) a sacrificial system for men, placing all value for life and limb on women and children. It carries some unfairness for both sexes, particularly for men, but reducing it to a system that holds women back (which is only half the story) and relegates women and girls to narrow beauty standards (which isn’t even supportable) isn’t just missing the point, it is as erroneous as feminist conclusions on domestic violence and about a thousand other things.

    It is always nice to see people attempt to voice some reason on behalf of men and boys, so I don’t want to appear ungrateful. But if that voice is to be credible and clear, you must first extricate yourself from the ideology that women are the victims of collective male perpetration. It just isn’t true.

  4. We, essentially, agree: the patriarchy hurts EVERYONE. The feminists I know are quick to make the claim that the gender binary does hurt men too and do not only tell “half the story” as you claim. However, just as you see areas in which women have benefited as a whole from this system there are plenty of areas where men have benefited as well – I see no good that will come out of playing into an “oppression Olympics” situation here so I will leave it at that.

    As for the issue of beauty standards you and I stand at complete opposite sides of the fence. In my studies and experience the standards that have been placed on women’s appearances for decades are easily seen through historical narratives, conversations with contemporaries, and depressing things like eating disorder statistics. There are standards placed upon men’s appearance, I do not deny that, but those standards are often much more lax and not nearly as universally championed – in short, men can often rely on their intellect/character/etc. to be considered their defining characteristic, circumventing the need for good looks, whereas with women looks are almost always a part of the picture.

    Your aside about DV also strikes me as problematic – and I say this as someone who has done work within the system to help victims of rape and abuse. In short, I know what the reality looks like. What erroneous conclusions do you speak of?

    I am not tangled in “the ideology that women are the victims of collective male perpetration” but, rather, I believe that many women and men are both victims of an antiquated societal structure that puts unfair expectations on everyone based on one singular characteristic – their sex. Its time we live in a society that judges people on who they are, not what they’re born with between their legs. I hope we are together in that goal.

  5. Feminists seldom if ever acknowledge female on male DV, and have worked to create laws that specifically deny that it is as much of an issue as male on female DV. Cite the existence of VAWA.

  6. SOME feminists may seldom acknowledge female on male interpersonal violence sure, but some feminists (like me) do… so we’re in agreement on this one… you can stop arguing with me :)

  7. You are taking far less credit that you deserve. It’s a very rare thing indeed for feminists to even admit to being aware of female on male DV, let alone acknowledge it. Good show!

  8. This is where we will have to agree to disagree because most of the feminists I know -in real life and online – are all to willing to admit to this issue… and I know a ton of feminists (women AND men) within the anti-DV movement. Neither of us has any actual data but, I’m pretty sure my information is more accurate since I am actually actively involved with this movement (I volunteer for a Rape Crisis Hotline.)

  9. OK, you are more plugged in to the community than I am; so, perhaps there are more feminists who see this issue. However, in terms of policies and change they push for and public statements made by feminist groups/organizations, I have seen not seen any evidence whatsoever “feminism” (as a movement) cares at all about violence against men as being an issue that needs to be addressed.

    I could be wrong but I doubt it. :-)

  10. DV is already illegal… so I am not really use what you want from feminists there. In terms of the difficulties that men face when reporting they are LARGELY due to stigma created by kyriarchal ideals (like the idea that men must ALWAYS be the physically stronger, stoic individual in a relationship). Feminists challenge these ideals every day, with the end-goal of a society where human traits are not gendered… if we reached that type of society, then not only would men be much more likely to feel comfortable reporting DV, but the people they report to would be much more likely to take them seriously.

    In terms of practical needs, plenty of feminists have either created or advocated for shelters etc. for men… although it IS true that there aren’t as many. Luckily for men, because of the power structures in this country they are MUCH more likely to have the monetary means of finding safe haven from an abusive relationship than women however, so again… the aid is roughly proportionate to the need although with all survivors, there are always limited resources and I WISH we had more to offer.

    Up until 1993 spousal rape was legal in at least one US state (the first state to put a law on the books making it illegal did so in 1975). Issues like this DISPROPORTIONATELY affect women over men and, as such, the feminist movement has focused their advocacy on women in certain cases, this is true. However, that doesn’t say we deny men aid. For example, when men call into the hotline that I volunteer with we all offer them the same aid we’d offer a woman caller.

    Just because some advocacy is specific to women’s issues, doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the male survivors.

  11. Feminists went out of their way to ensure that an entire federal agency castigates men only as the abusers, VAWA. Why not violence against people, or domestic violence against people. There is verbiage in the law that defines males as the abusers and females as the victims.

    I won’t launch too much into that but suffice to say that DV against men is simply not on the feminist agenda. It is not mentioned (to my knowledge) even one time on any feminist organization website (e.g. NOW, FMF, etc.).

  12. VAWA is one piece of legislation, that deals with a very legitimate problem… it doesn’t JUST cover DV either, but sexual assault as well (something that more women then men experience). Is it the perfect piece of legislation? Of course not… but just because SOME feminists were involved with the creation of one piece of legislation, that doesn’t mean that ALL feminists ignore/belittle men who experience DV or sexual assault. There is no one “feminist agenda” because feminism is more a lens through which one can understand the world, my own personal “feminist agenda” involves fighting against abuse that is perpetrated on ANYONE and many of the feminists I work with feel the same way so, again, I have to disagree.

  13. Well, if that was/is true, it would have been called violence against people or domestic violence something or other. And, feminist lobbyist groups and organizations were the prime movers behind VAWA.

    If that were true the phrase “violence against men” would appear at least once on feminist organizations’ websites (e.g. NOW, FMF, etc.) as an issued they have at least addressed.

    However, not one time has it ever been addressed in the history of those organizations, which have long been THE leading feminist organizations nationally. Perhaps you and your friends are the exception to the rule; and for that you are to be applauded. However, the facts bear out that you all truly are a rare exception.

  14. Where up there did I claim that the violence against women act wasn’t about women? I NEVER denied that… moments like this are why I feel like you’re not actually reading what I wrote.

    NOW, FMF, and so on are not the be-all and end-all of feminism. With the third wave, especially, feminism is all over… here are just a few feminist blogs that mention this issue:

    http://desifeminists.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/violence-against-men-is-a-feminist-issue/

    http://feministing.com/2009/04/14/when_men_are_sexually_assualte/

    http://zeldalily.com/index.php/2010/11/male-survivors-of-sexual-abuse-speaking-out-on-the-oprah-winfrey-show/

    http://youngfeministtaskforce.blogspot.com/2009/10/free-group-for-male-survivors-of.html [From a blog affiliated with NOW? You don’t say…]

    And so on and so forth. I lump intimate partner violence and sexual violence together because so often they go hand in hand. These blog posts were all found with a five minute google search… now, certainly this issue could be discussed MUCH more expansively everywhere, and I wish it would be, but it is disingenuous to say that feminists don’t care about men who experience violence when there are PLENTY of us that do.

    Not to mention, since this is an issue that you care so much about… where is your activism? I’m doing my part :) are you putting your money where your mouth is so to speak?

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