As 2014 has unfolded, a series of events have spurred important conversations regarding the status of women. From the #YesAllWomen trend on Twitter, the contraceptive rights outrage evoked by Hobby Lobby, and the deadly misogyny motivating Elliot Rodger, it is evident that women are still persecuted simply for being women. However, there is outrage that these conversations cover misogyny and criticism of toxic masculinity. Many find this as an attack on men. People, particularly men, go out of their way to deny that misogyny is a current issue and that “true feminism” does not point fingers.
A common definition of feminism, particularly “true feminism,” is “equality between men and women.” This definition is a diluted version of feminism, ignoring the fact that feminism is meant to be about the liberation of women from patriarchy as well as the dismantlement of patriarchy. While equality is certainly a goal within feminism, it is impossible to obtain if we try to incorporate women in a structure built to subjugate them.
When subscribing to an egalitarian ideology, feminism is essentially presented in a pretty package in which people do not have to think critically and words such as “patriarchy” are scoffed at. Power structures are ignored and seen as irrelevant. The major issue with an egalitarian framework is that it does not recognize systematic oppression towards women, but instead views the playing field between men and women as equal; this not only brushes off the unique issues women face, but also makes it easier for “I am an advocate for equal rights” to be twisted into a question of “What about the men?”
When there is discussion regarding violence against women – domestically, sexually, and even racially – many, especially males, try to derail the conversation. Typical tactics consist of accusing women that they are trying to push their own agenda and are unsympathetic towards men. However, it never seems to dawn on the accusing party that feminists and subscribers to feminist theory have never claimed that men do not also suffer from violence, but that the rate and consequences between both genders differ greatly.
It seems that those who are interested in advocating for men tend to be the same people who also believe that women have been granted full protection and recognition from society, that women are taken seriously when advocating for themselves. But another trend in egalitarian and men’s-rights circles is that they tend to ignore the reality women face. For instance, in cases of domestic violence, women make up 85% of physical abuse victims.(1) Women also face lower wages compared to males, and this is even worse for non-white women. (2) Regarding sexual assault, women are an overwhelming percentage of victims. (3)
It is known that women are able to harm men. In fact, acknowledging that women are capable of hurting men is more of a concern than the crimes, discrimination, and harm done against women. To make claims such as “Women can be abusive, too!” and “Women can be sexist, too!” is being shallow and apolitical.
Both genders need to have their problems acknowledged. Men also suffer, to a degree, from patriarchy. It prevents them from expressing emotions comfortably but level of suffering is not on an equal playing field for men and women. Derailing conversations focusing on women is not revolutionary, thoughtful, or informative. They do not come from a place of compassion for women, but rather contempt that women are speaking out against the injustices they face. There is a difference between being able to cry freely and the lives of women being endangered.
When one asks why men are not included in conversations focusing on women, perhaps it should be inquired why people are so offended that women are speaking the truth of the consequences that they have been dealt with simply for being women. It is ridiculous thinking that even when women talk about themselves, somehow men are still needed to be heard.
Women speaking up about their experiences and shedding light on difficult subjects are not the cause for any hardships men face. Derailing those same conversations does not improve the condition of anyone.
So, what about the men? Are they having these conversations amongst themselves? Are they bettering their fellow man? Or are they just angry that they cannot always be the center of the spotlight?