I’m a feminist, have been so for quite a while. And here’s the thing about feminism. The name itself appears to be so gender-specific and women-centric that right at the very inception of the term, men started feeling alienated. Somehow, the concept of a movement aiming towards gender equality and yet being named after the fairer sex didn’t seem so, well, ‘fair’ to them. And that’s perfectly understandable.
Now the very clarification of the term feminism is very important. As I said even in my last feminist blog post, feminism is the radical notion that everyone, irrespective of sex, color, sexual orientation or any other societal segregation is entitled to fundamental human rights and dignity. However it is called feminism and not equalism or egalitarianism because it’s the female qualities that are ridiculed, shunned and considered inferior and women are still devoid of many rights men are born with. Even though activism is an integral part of feminism and achievement of equality, an even more important part of achieving this is empowering women- and men- to rise above patriarchal oppression.
It’s very very important both men and women are empowered equally to truly achieve equality.
Now you may ask, how can we possibly empower men? They are already so empowered. Well, explicitly, it really does seem so, and in many cases, they feel a lot more confident of themselves than the average woman is. But here’s the deal- more often than not, we miss out all the cases where men feel pressured by what patriarchy expects of them. Expressions of virility so trivial, like fondness towards beer, sports, a perfectly sized up body and the unfairly extra pressure on them to succeed professionally are the very implicit but unjust forms of patriarchal oppression men face nowadays. Among other ‘masculine’ stereotypical qualities involve stoicism, athleticism and a default fetish for the STEM subjects. These rigid boundaries that lock the space a man can call his own are toxic and often lead to detrimental results. Boys raised to fit these stereotypes end up embracing other harmful stereotypical qualities- like a inclination towards acts of violence, insecurity of his own body and most importantly the belief that he’s born superior to females and hence a lack of respect towards them.
Hence, needless to say, women empowerment must be complemented with male empowerment for a truly egalitarian world. Men, just like women, should be given the choice to either join the workforce or not and the pressure to succeed owing to him being a man (read: sole bread earner of the family) must be done away with. Men must be reminded that it is not for society to chalk out what their career choices, likes and dislikes should be, but it’s entirely their choice and they would be worthy of respect no matter what they choose. Men must be reminded to be comfortable in their own skin and not to strive for toxic body standards propagated by popular media, but strive to stay fit instead. They should be reminded that the lack of a beard doesn’t make them any less of a man. They should be encouraged to be vocal about their feelings and to not be scared to ask for help. Men should be encouraged to participate in housework; in fact, statistically speaking, men and women who participate equally in housework and childcare share a stronger bond and are less prone to divorce. And last but not the least, they should be taught to respect, be kind and hold in equal esteem their fellow human beings irrespective of their sex, sexual orientation and color.
It is hence imperative both men and women be adequately empowered and loved and respected for the person they are, not for the social construct they belong to. Only then will feminism hold true to it’s meaning and the world can be made a better and more peaceful place.