Feminism. For a lot of men, it’s a dirty word – but should it be? Feminism might sound one-sided (it has “femme” in it, after all), but it’s actually helpful for men as well, in some really important ways…
1) Men can be good parents too
According to the U.S. census bureau, only 1 in 6 custodial parents in 2013 were fathers. That seems pretty unfair, right? So why are mothers so much more likely to be awarded custody?
It’s pretty simple. “Don’t ask, don’t get” – and men don’t ask. In most cases, parents mutually agree on who the custodial parent will be. Only 4% of cases even go to trial, and 91% of cases are settled without court interference. Back in 2009, the New York Times pointed out that about 50% of fathers who do seek custody get it.
Why don’t men attempt to get primary custody of their kids? Because, despite the courts increasingly treating parents equally (the percentage of mothers who were granted sole custody of their children dropped from 80% in 1986 to 42% in 2008), and despite more men seeking custody, there’s a prevailing view that women are “meant” to rear children, and men just aren’t cut out for it.
Fathers are consistently told that women are more nurturing, while men are the providers for their families. This does more than relegate women to a household role (which is bad on its own!) – it deprives men of the chance to bond with their children and vice versa, and it deprives children of the chance to have parents who participate equally and both play crucial roles in their lives.
How can feminism help? Feminists don’t want women relegated to the household, and they don’t want men to be designated “provider” rather than “nurturer”. Men can nurture, and women can provide. Nothing should be arbitrarily decided by gender!
2) Men aren’t monsters, and they’re not children either
Victim blaming. You’ve definitely heard the term. A woman gets assaulted, and the response is “what were you wearing?” “Had you been drinking?” “Did you lead him on?” This isn’t just insulting to women who have been assaulted – it’s insulting to men too. It implies that men are incapable of controlling themselves; that it’s up to women to minimize temptation for men, since they can’t be expected to withstand it on their own.
On top of this is the narrative that men are sex-starved maniacs, thinking about sex every seven seconds and constantly looking for ways to get laid. Godly Gertrude is one manifestation of this mindset:
“Help out your brothers in Christ – Don’t be their stumbling block.” The clear message: men are too weak to understand when sex shouldn’t happen, and too sex-mad to say “no” when they should. This puts the responsibility entirely on the woman, which, as stated above, is insulting to both women and men.
How can feminism help? Feminists don’t think men are too sex-mad to understand when they shouldn’t have sex with someone. They think that men are responsible for controlling their own responses, regardless of how long anybody’s skirt is, and they want this narrative to replace the one that situates men as helpless victims of their own lust.
3) Men can be assaulted too
Statistics vary, but anywhere between 3% and 38% of victims of rape or sexual violence in the United States are men. These men face some major difficulties in reporting these events. For years, the FBI defined rape as something that could only be done to a woman. Even now, when a man is raped, you will often find people commenting that he shouldn’t be complaining, that he must have enjoyed it or it couldn’t have happened, or that he should be thanking the perpetrator (as long as it was a woman). This is even – or especially – the case with statutory rape, where adult women rape boys too young to consent.
How can feminism help? The narrative depicting men as sex maniacs and women as weak victims reinforces these reactions. “Men enjoy sex, so all sex should be enjoyable.” “Men are strong, so they should be able to fight off an attacker.” Feminism tries to counter this narrative – regardless of how much anybody enjoys sex and regardless of physical strength, both men and women can be, and are, victims.
4) Men don’t deserve to die
Men have a lower average life expectancy than women in every country. Why? It’s not just about biology. War, riots, mass killings, and even extremely dangerous jobs tend to kill men more than women. Men and women attempt suicide at about the same rates, but men use more violent methods like guns, which tend to be more successful. Men are taught not to complain, that they have to be strong – and as a result they seek medical help less often than women. Men tend to smoke more and drive more recklessly, likely as a result of society encouraging more “adventurous” behaviour in men than in women. Men are far more likely to be victims (and perpetrators) of homicides than women – because, remember, men should be dominant, adventurous, self-reliant, and strong.
How can feminism help? Toxic masculinity is bad for everyone. The belief that showing emotion is “feminine” – and that being called “feminine” is the worst thing that can happen to a man – is bad for everyone. Feminists believe that men are just as capable as women of expressing emotion and communicating needs, and that men are not violent by nature, but by socialization. They fight to remove the idea that “feminine” is bad. They fight for women to be allowed to work the same positions as men, whether that be in a dangerous job or in the military. Women aren’t asking men to shoulder all of that burden. Rather, that’s how those roles have been distributed (by men) over the course of history, with women viewed as weaker. Feminists don’t think that either gender is stronger, and we want women and men to be equally represented in all fields – not just those with big offices and hefty paychecks.
This is a guest post by Robyn Hazekamp.