I have not always been a supporter of feminism myself. And I am also no scholar on the subject whatsoever. Here’s the thing though: it doesn’t take a scholar of any sort to know that feminism is good for everyone. I was privileged enough to spend years learning feminism in college. I know that it is an easy subject to hate on. I know because I have been a tough critic of it too. From experience, I can say that the only way to understand feminism better is having more conversations about it. The subject is not one that most men can accept, often, because of the innateness with which patriarchy affects us. But more on that later.
Every day, I am little more mind-blown by the amount of conversation and noise surrounding feminism. As a feminist myself, I know saying “I am a feminist” could work one of two ways: you are either looked at as someone who supports something ‘as visible-to-the-naked-eye as gravity’, or someone who is a ‘propagandist’, to put it in the mildest of words. Of course, gravity may not be visible, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know about its existence, its definition, and its necessity. I think of feminism as similar to gravity: existent, well-defined and necessary.
This post is primarily for men who are open to understanding the ‘conceptual definition’ of feminism better. This is for those men who are open to more information on feminism because sometimes, it takes just that to have more informed opinions.
Most dictionaries term ‘feminism’ as:
the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
I know from experience that many guys have problems with the definition of feminism. It’s not just the words of the definition that are stirring. The problem with feminism for most men is two-fold: one, that the word itself denotes inequality between the sexes, and second, the unfair extremism that parades under the guise of feminism.
Feminism’s abusive male counterparts
Although feminism seems to favor women more than men, feminism is layered enough to include all people, irrespective of gender, to seek equality. At its simplest, feminism is just the strategic leveraging of male privilege to benefit everyone, including underprivileged men. If you as a male, feel that society on a whole makes it difficult for men to address their problems, your hate for feminism is misplaced, because patriarchal constructs are the real enemy for you, and something you should spend time learning about and unlearning generally.
While it is true that most men go through their own sets of problems living everyday life (making feminism seem extra and unbalanced), the ideology of feminism is not blind to the fact that most men don’t enjoy most privileges too. In the patriarchal society we are, although men often behave and believe themselves superior (which is problematic to equality in itself), there is no doubt that such toxic ‘masculinity’ eventually starts taking a toll on men in that society.
Perpetuating the lies and the negation
The problem lies in gross generalization and cyclic conditioning. Most men are raised to be macho and unbelievably regressive to their own emotions. Most boys and men can assert that growing up is often a constant show of prowess, or strength, or some form of competition that at some point, has turned toxic. In most boys’ circles, and often leading into adolescence, bullying plays such a large part that we just brush it under ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘it’s right of passage’.
This toxic masculinity in male upbringing is not for anyone to own up to personally as much as just pause and wonder about. Think about it:
If ‘boys will be boys’ is detrimental to young men growing up, imagine the unfair world it creates for all members of genders that are not men.
In a time and age where science proves that the only constant in evolution is change every day, it is important to unlearn and learn, and be with the times, one day at a time. Even if this means understanding that there are more genders than just males and females. This is important to address because the ‘binary nature’ of gender roles defined through patriarchy often does not even let people, and more often men, think of more genders, or more sexualities than heterosexuality. More often than not, you can count on a male to react ridiculously to knowing that a person is transgender, or that someone believes in asexuality, or holds whatever personal view: they treat this information as a gateway to insulting, making feel inferior and generally adding to already unnecessary miseries.
Identification is half the process
The need to address toxic masculinity is perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself as a human being. Toxic masculinity can be broadly discussed as every instance a male gets gratified, even jokingly, by putting someone else down, by asserting his own superiority, by being sexist or downright being disrespectful to opinions different from his own. At the simplest, it is the
oppression that men subject themselves and others to in the attempt of claiming supremacy, even if over those ‘weaker’ or different from oneself.
There are two ways in which men respond to toxic masculinity growing up: as the oppressor, or as the oppressed. Obviously, these roles are not hardwired psychologically, so bullies tend to get bullied eventually, and those who have been wronged, may or may not choose to perpetuate that behavior. Being in either of those situations sucks, as it pushes you out of sync of the fact that all people, irrespective of their differences are equal. A fact that could either lead you to be non-responsive constructively to ideas different than your own or broken enough to not even look objectively at the world you are part of.
Truly, the number of ways patriarchy and toxic masculinity affect men and society, in general, are so staggering that the first reaction to it is often absolute denial. Our understanding of toxicity is often measured in terms of the ‘aggressiveness’ with which it manifests, instead of actually seeing how it may be subtly filling us with innate oppression, crude sexism, and naturalized misplaced hate. Think this as every opportunity you have seen men (including yourself) make comments that are downright offensive; comments that people would only make out of a sense of superiority, that is nothing but bullying.
Extremism is best dealt with moderation
The ‘unfair extremism under the guise of feminism’ point is actually the simpler of the two points to talk about. All ideologies are subject to different points of view, and while some of them are moderate and advocative, others still are extremist and downright destructive. Like religion, patriotism and so many ideologies that are supported by a whole spectrum of enthusiasts of different kinds, feminism, too, has those whom you could label as ‘excessive’, ‘man-hating’ or even ‘radical’.
These are the people we perceive as users of feminism not as a tool of unison and advocacy of equal rights, but those who engineer and abuse it to their own selfish, unjust ends. While every person is free to their own brand of activism, most of us know that-
higher governing ideals like respect to life, human rights, and plain common sense are sometimes, unfortunately, forgotten.
The only possible way to deal with these situations is to objectively look at the case being made and deal with it accordingly. Isn’t that the logic that must be used for everything anyway? Understandably, the toughest part about having a heated argument over a topic like this is the ability to shut up and actually listen, as much as talk and reach a point of consensus, right?
At least make the narrative more interesting, and make better arguments
And this leads to the final part of the post: understanding the value of better communication and using it to actually help a situation. To be honest, it has taken me days to get the proper words in place here: it’s a little unsettling the ease with which most guys can bash feminism, and more directly, the person making their views about it known. It’s unsettling because most men in our country seem to go through their entire lives being oblivious to the many hazards of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, something that affects them so innately and externally, and might never really know where the damage actually lies.
It’s kinda stupid how unbelievably preachy I feel myself sound while I read through. The truth, however, is that the narrative on the exploitation of human rights continues, and every little act of taking a decent conversation towards eliminating it is worth it. If you truly want to add more than the noise and momentary aggression to the topic, the only way through is to-
introspect, question, set straight, and educate.
I find this sort of comprehensive communication especially necessary and lacking among those men who have had the privilege of receiving an education, of knowing how new information leads to understanding evolution better, and are capable of evolving themselves.
Not enough men talk about how patriarchy and toxic masculinity affect them. Here’s a starting point. It’s not necessary that you agree with the views here, or otherwise. Investing your time and effort in learning more about the things that make your life what it is, and better communicating your understandings towards making the world a better place, those seem like higher ideals each one of us must inculcate. Right?