For all intents and purposes, I’m an employable young adult. My friends would agree, albeit not to my face, and I’ve resigned to this truth after 22 years on Earth. Oh well, better late than never. Anyway, I asked my friend Anja to write a piece on feminism for Dash because she’s involved in gender studies, and typically has something interesting to say about the topic. She politely declined, and said something that I find quite interesting, “I think you should write it. Men have an opportunity to educate other men about feminism, that’s the only way it works.”
I immediately thought about how I typically respond to feminist articles, and realized that for a man there’s nothing worse than reading another pro-feminist think piece written by a woman. Not only has the perspective been thoroughly explored, but the articles themselves inspire imagery of the feminist archetype picking angrily at the keyboard with the male demographic in her cross-hairs; as a result males feel antagonized and unwilling to participate in the conversation. Anja was saying that the discussion on feminism won’t change until men decide to speak out against this inequality, and I think she’s right. After all, the issue with the feminist movement isn’t that women have been reluctant to jump aboard, it’s the men. If the discussion on feminism won’t progress unless men speak up, then consider me one of those voices.
From the outset, there are some things to consider. Just because something is accepted by the general public, doesn’t mean that it’s correct or shouldn’t be challenged, and also, just because something is counter-culture or opposing the mainstream doesn’t make it somehow “better”. The snobbery from both ends needs to stop. Instead, we should always be aiming to find an objective truth, and work towards making it common knowledge. The google definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” It’s completely reasonable to consider this a worthy goal, and grant it the status of “an objective truth”. And the truth of the matter is that even if they have equal experience and qualifications, men on average are being paid more than women. This is objectively wrong, and it will take social progress to make positive change.
I recently watched Richard Linklater’s, “Dazed and Confused“. To set the stage it’s 2016, the movie was made in 1993, and is depicting America in 1975. In the film, high school culture was invariably different 40 years ago. You could hit freshman with paddles, flirt with teachers, and drive under the influence. In fact, all of these were considered a right of passage. Watching the film gave me an opportunity to see how society has progressed since the 70’s. Have we lost our sense of humour? Are we taking ourselves a little bit too seriously? Are we missing the opportunity to bond with schoolmates that our parents cherished so much? Maybe so, but I surmise that most people would prefer not to get smacked over the ass with a paddle, or covered in mustard and treated like a barn animal (as in a famous scene from Linklater’s film); coming of age no longer means getting humiliated by upperclassmen under the guise of “bonding.” Hopefully, sooner than later being a woman won’t mean getting paid less.
Historically, social progress works as follows: a brave group of people speaks out against the general public with a positive message, the population at large hears the message, and the social conversation surrounding that message slowly shifts as the majority starts to accept it. Sometimes a small voice is heard and eventually someone with cultural influence steps in as the figurehead; most notably, this happened with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. This is happening with Leonardo DiCaprio on climate change, and with Emma Watson on feminism. But maybe we also need someone like Miles Teller, who appeals to male millennials, to show the boys that they shouldn’t be afraid of feminism?
Keep in mind a male figurehead isn’t the only reason that the large part of men don’t subscribe to feminism. Why would the benefactors of a patriarchal society want to believe that they have been oppressing their neighbours, co-workers, wives, daughters, etc. for all of these years? It would mean we have to swallow our pride, which is an uncomfortable experience. Another problem is that in male-dominated social settings, the longstanding popular opinion that women are lesser than men will rule, which makes those who dissent to sexism afraid to speak up. It’s no surprise why this happens. Who would anyone want to put a damper on a fun evening with the boys by saying something contentious, or worse yet, unpopular? We need to have the moral courage to stand up for something that we know is right, even if it means challenging our friends. Men opposed to feminism will often say, “Yeah, but when women need our coats, or want us to pay the bill they aren’t complaining about equal rights.” My response to that would be to not confuse chivalry with human equality. And this message goes out to feminists too. Sometimes we just want to buy you dinner on the first date, I’m paying for dinner because I invited you out, go along with it, it’s our attempt to be thoughtful.
So when you’re in your small circles discussing women’s rights, just remember that the conversation is changing, and soon enough sexist remarks won’t get a cheap laugh out of your friends; it will be cool to be a feminist. If me, an employable young adult can be a feminist, then you can too!