By Saya Meza
I am a feminist.
I believe in social, political, and economic equality for all, regardless of class, gender, sexuality, or race.
I believe that in our current society, we do not fulfill that sentiment for any of the categories.
It is known that womxn are not adequately represented in many social arenas, womxn of color even less, LGBTQIA+ womxn less still, and LGBTQIA+ womxn of color least of all.
However, when it comes to issues that have been deemed ‘feminine,’ male representation is just as lacking. For such issues, the pattern noted above is the same.
A culture has been created stating that men must be strong, stoic and put together, a picture of power and masculinity. To be anything but takes away from their identity as a man. In other words, anything but is considered unmasculine, aka feminine. These characteristics are painted as things to avoid.
Unfortunately on this list of male taboos are emotions. “Men don’t cry,” “Man up,” “Don’t be such a girl.” There are dozens of phrases developed to make sure men are repressing their feelings in order to avoid being seen as weak.
In turn this creates a distinction that anything non-masculine is bad, and therefore anything feminine is bad.
So as a feminist, I see the extremely powerful value in conversations regarding men’s issues.
We cannot begin to fix what is wrong within our society if we refuse to look at all issues. Actually, by only looking at one side, we are helping nothing and, in some cases, making the issues worse.
Issues like hypermasculinity and male gender roles highly correspond with negative feminine stereotypes, womxn gender roles, and violence against others. Male sexual assault victims deserve just as much support and advocacy as female victims. The same goes for male victims of domestic violence.
Too many cultures have the concept of masculinity or machismo ingrained deep within them. These cultures raise sons to fit within a rigid mold, and those who don’t are usually shamed and attacked. These issues translate from culture to culture.
Our society has put genders in a box. Our generation is improving on that.
We are trying our hardest to free womxn from this box, but for some reason have forgotten that men are there too.
Highlighting the issues of one does not and should not minimize the issues of another. But refusing to acknowledge what one group is going through does no one any good.
I am a feminist. I believe that womxn’s status has a long way to go still in our society. I also believe that much of that progress is stunted by the refusal to discuss and address the issues afflicting men, issues that in turn only harm the rest of our society, especially womxn.
So let’s stop pretending that any focus on men and their issues is a betrayal to womxn, and look at the bigger picture. We feminists claim we want equality for all. I stand by that claim.
Saya is a junior studying psychology and political science.