Men have been slow to show support for the Women’s March on Washington. Although event organizers are rallying “all defenders of human rights” to protest Donald Trump’s politics, the cause is currently dominated by women.
Of the 175,000 people who indicated that they are attending the Jan. 21 event on the Women’s March Facebook page, only a fraction of them appear to be men. Not only that, but the #WhyIMarch Twitter feed, an online campaign meant to coincide with the physical protest, shows much larger participation from mothers, sisters and daughters than from their male counterparts.
Meanwhile Leah Burnett, a musician who helped organized five bus loads of Cleveland marchers, tells the Washington Post that less than 10 of the 250 bus seats have been reserved by men.
— Deanna Final Straw (@dfinalstraw) January 2, 2017
In the words of Bonnie Tyler, “Where have all the good men gone?”
Unfortunately, as important as it is for men to join the fight for gender equality, ENTITY’s survey of 500 men reveals that although 63 percent of men indicated that they believe feminism is about “equality, not man-hating,” only 38 percent of men are willing to self-identify as male feminists.
READ MORE: Is Your Man a Feminist? (SURVEY)
This data coincides with what Jackson Katz, a gender scholar and author of “Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity,” tells the Washington Post: “A lot of men are quiet supporters of women.” Although they believe in women’s rights politically and personally, they don’t have a powerful voice in the matter.
But men need to step up too. Here are five reasons men should be part of the feminist movement today.
While plenty of men believe in women’s rights and their leadership abilities, many of them are still uncomfortable sharing it with others. “There is a sense [that] if you outwardly support a woman you are less deserving of your man stripes,” says Alex Mohajer, the co-founder of advocacy group Bros 4 Hillary, in the Washington Post.
To explain this, Jackson Katz tells the same paper that Trump and various other Republicans challenge the masculinity of men who support liberal issues. In blatantly talking about things like “grabbing her by the pussy,” Donald Trump himself often casts himself as the stereotypical strong man. So if you’re not the type of man who isn’t ashamed to take charge over a woman, you’re not masculine at all.
But newsflash: Outwardly supporting a woman is more about her than it is about your tarnished pride. For instance, if you see a woman being cat called and she clearly doesn’t like it, your silence hurts the woman more than it hurts you. You can walk away from the situation unscathed, but she’s the one who remains uncomfortable.
Women are not the only people affected by traditional gender roles. Stereotypes affect our expectations of what men should and shouldn’t be like as well. Traditionally, people associate masculinity with traits that are aggressive, domineering or and physically strong. In order to be a “real” man, society tells you that you have to manifest this type of macho behavior. The problem with this, however, is that it silences the men who fall outside of the current definition of masculinity.
Narrow masculine standards discourage men from pursuing positive traits that can potentially be perceived unmanly, explains the Center for Media Literacy. They’re not supposed to feel a range of emotions, to work without the need for control, to love in a nonsexual way or to solve problems without violence.
In turn, macho culture can cause emotional repression, encourage violence and even damage relationships. Warren Reed tells Everyday Feminism, “Image is everything. If a guy doesn’t fit this certain mold, they get picked on. Kids emulate that to fit in.” Reed grew up with a family who expected him to be though, but he didn’t see himself this way. As a result, he began to withdraw from his community.
As Linda Sarsour, one of the lead organizers of Women’s March, tells the Washington Post, if men are going to join the march, they “have to be okay with being led by women.” Joining a fight that is largely spearheaded by women gives men an acute understanding of the strength and value of women’s leadership and visibility. It shows men that it’s okay to play supporting roles sometimes.
Not only that, but joining the plight for gender equality also sets an example for the younger generation.
I always give women respect… regardless of who they are, its something that i taught myself, i want my kids to practice it to their women.
— Percy Zwane (@PercyOpinions) May 30, 2015
Tim Riddick, a 36-year-old photographer from Woodbridge, Virginia, is marching on Jan. 21 because he wants to set an example for his three sons. “I am worrying about the way my boys will treat women when they are older,” he tells the Washington Post. “I want to make sure they not only respect women but that they fight for women as well.”
When both men and women work together to fight for these causes, it molds the next generation’s mindset into something more inclusive, respectful and understanding.
Often times, people think that gender issues are synonymous with women’s issues. They hear terms like “violence against women,” “equal pay” and “reproductive rights” and automatically assume that it’s a “woman’s thing.”
To explain this, Jackson Katz explains in his TED Talk that in the U.S., when we hear the word “race,” a lot of people automatically jump to African-American, Asian-American, Native American and so on. Similarly, when they hear the word “sexual orientation,” they assume that it only references the LGBTQ community. And when people hear “gender,” they think it means women.
“In each case, the dominant group doesn’t get paid attention to,” Katz says. “As if white people don’t have some sort of racial identity or belong to some racial category or construct, as if heterosexual people don’t have a sexual orientation, as if men don’t have a gender.” The dominant group, therefore, is rarely challenged to think about its dominance and “that’s one of the key characteristics of power and privilege: the ability to go unexamined.”
Feminism, then, thrusts men back into the conversation. It gives them responsibility and challenges them to think about how their dominance affects a woman’s body, power, mobility and opportunity. Calling yourself a “feminist” – or at least being able to admit it to yourself – helps validate and strengthen the conversations feminists are trying to have. It’s about equality for all sexes, not a woman’s man-hating agenda.
Men make up half of the population and the majority of the nation’s industries. Medicine, technology, engineering, business and so on. In order to start dismantling this structure, more men need to understand the importance and need for equality because they’re the ones currently running the show.
Now, this isn’t to say that women need men to fight for them. As powerful as women can be together, it becomes harder to speak up and be respected in environments dominated by men, especially when women get perceived as the lesser sex. In professional environments alone, women often get perceived as less intelligent, dismissed as too emotional or judged for being too assertive.
This is why movements like Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign are so vital to today’s society.
It’s no longer enough to simply say “I’m not a misogynist,” men actually have to start becoming active agents of change.
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