Feminism Cannot Succeed If We Exclude Men.
There is so much divisiveness, among women, regarding the objectives of the Equal Rights Movement and what mission should take priority over others. There’s the general fight for equal rights. There’s the battle as old as time — pro-choice vs. pro-life. There’s the issue of race and the varying “classes” of women competing for the title of “underrepresented;” from privileged elite women to non-educated women. The minorities within that range, finding that it’s difficult to elevate themselves because of this categorical fixation. It’s not enough to say that women are oppressed. Black women are more oppressed than Latina women. Single mothers are more oppressed than married women. By making these distinctions, we found ourselves prioritizing categories of women rather than all women; playing the saddest popularity contest of an entire gender.
It’s difficult to say that feminism is simply the desire for equal rights between men and women because we’ve taken this term and we’ve stuffed a number of issues under its mantle.
End result — the feminist message is cloudy and dizzying. The biggest consequence of our disjointed movement is the lack of accessibility that men have been allowed; to understand, empathize, and join. Our inability to stay on message has, on the surface, fulfilled the stereotype that women are emotional and irrational; that their abilities as leaders and policymakers are lacking because they cannot reason logically, they cannot unite, they cannot “get their shit together” like men can. The uncomfortable truth about feminism is that we need to involve men alongside women to see and make real, identifiable progress in equal rights and relations between the genders.
Here’s some simple math:
Boys excluding girls = Patriarchy
Girls excluding boys = Still Patriarchy, because boys are still in charge.
Generally, I’ve had the displeasure of knowing men who exclude or recuse themselves from feminist association — ESPECIALLY when women are not around. They feel emasculated to call themselves feminists, so they refer to themselves as “equalists.” They support the overall goal of equal rights, but they don’t see how they can conceivably participate in something that seems to reject them. When we have rallies and marches, we make a damn big deal and a lot of pink comes out and every woman is called upon to represent herself. But we don’t directly invite the men. We don’t directly invite them to show solidarity with us. We don’t DIRECTLY invite them to listen to our discourse in events where the ratio of man to woman is at an advantage for the women who would prefer not to be interrupted when they speak. We don’t directly invite them enough to participate, and so, the most feminist of men are at a disadvantage. By excluding them we’ve sent them the wrong message. It’s because of our shaky platform that the “meninist” nonsense comes into play. We’ve held so much, so close to the chest, that some men have even come to fear what they do not understand. But I don’t want to talk about meninists (because they’re not worth the effort).
At the end of the day, we need men. It’s not a truth that feminists like to confront.
We need men to attend events and have THEIR voices heard. We need those same men to continue to take advantage of the patriarchy as it stands and challenge it from within. We encourage women to support other women in office settings — to speak up for your fellow woman when she’s cut off mid sentence or mansplained. We have hundreds upon thousands of resources directly targeted at female feminists, and too few that are less hostile and more inviting of men to participate. How can we expect men to fully represent feminism, when we’ve deprived them of said equal representation in the Equal Rights Movement?
Without inclusion we only equip men with dry-erase markers instead of lead paint. Their dedication to our cause can easily be adjusted at convenience because we’ve offered no permanence in their inclusion. We make it easy for them to stay silent because the only role we’ve given men is to shut up and listen. Any self-proclaimed feminist male still has the option to passively or willfully engage in supposed “locker room talk” when females aren’t around. They will continue to do so for as long as they continue to feel that, while they support our cause, that it is not their cause as well. Feminism has a knack for attacking the worldview of men. It’s the same for white privilege. We ask men to SEE something that they’ve blindly benefited from and then we tell them we’re gonna take that shit down. Women are already at a disadvantage in a patriarchal society, so we don’t benefit when we advocate a “No Boys Allowed” mentality. We’re not even benefiting from important insight that men have. They know the game of hierarchy within groups of men. They know the societal pressure to “be a man,” which means they know what men fear and they know what drives them. Only men truly understand their vulnerability, just like only women truly understand theirs. So they are quite literally “our men on the inside.”
The distinction between the Equal Rights Movement and the established patriarchy needs to be the unity of women AND men alongside each other.
We need to openly welcome men to listen and participate in our conversations. We need to refrain from dismissing their opinions because, “they’re men, and they wouldn’t understand.” Help them to understand. Take the time to recognize when you have a man’s full attention and exploit it with the positive message of feminism and the motivations behind its pervasiveness. Tell whatever your story is to as many men as will listen. Tell them everything. When something happens in front of them and they miss it, point it out. When something happens in front of them and they witness it, point it out. When they say some micro shit that cuts you down on the basis of your gender, point it out. Make them sensitive to your cause by making them equal champions of it.
The strength of our cause needs to come from our ability to confidently pursue unity without resorting to exclusion. Men are only our enemies if we continue to villainize them and dismiss their inclusion in the dialogue. This is a challenge to our concept of humanity. Our compulsion to categorize and subcategorize has affected our forward progress. We’re too caught up in making sure that the “right” cause is represented at any given time and our most crucial advocates are finding themselves at the kid’s table on Thanksgiving. While just desserts are delicious, it’s not the answer. It’s our undoing.