I’m a man and I’m a feminist. But I will admit that when my wife (my then girlfriend) first told me she was a feminist, I rolled my eyes and thought, “OK here we go!” As a reaction, it wasn’t malicious, neither was it misogynistic. But it was dismissive, and it was certainly deeply ignorant. Ignorance is the operative word here. Because, at the time, my idea of feminism was mostly pre-conceived and – surprise surprise therefore – largely wrong. For me the word feminist only conjured up images of cantankerous women burning bras and hating on men. To be honest, I felt quite threatened by feminism.
But let’s define feminism.
noun 1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
What about feminist?
adjective 1. advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
So feminism is the doctrine for equal rights for women, and a feminist is someone who advocates that doctrine. Nothing scary about that.
The thing is, deep in my heart I knew the burning bras and the cantankerous hating parts of my definition were probably an exaggeration, or at least an exiguous minority. So that left me with just the women part. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a sympathizer for gender equality. So what was my problem then? The answer is simple: the fear of otherness. Or to put it more soberly, prejudice. I felt threatened by that which was unknown to me and by that which was different to me. This is the heart of all prejudices.
There was something else curious about this, though. Why did I only envisage women when I thought about feminism? Probably because the only people I saw, read, or heard about in the media who had anything to do with feminism were all women. Feminism was a movement for women run predominantly by women. No wonder, then, feminism seemed so other to me; it was other.
And herein, I believe, lies one of the great barriers to gender equality: there are not enough men advocating feminism. If feminism is about gender equality, then both genders must fight for it. Otherwise how is it equal? Because, men, you can’t say you believe in gender equality if you’re letting women do all the work.
I’m convinced that feminism will continue to be misunderstood, and therefore dismissed by many, unless more men stand up and count themselves as feminists. Because if feminism remains a movement for women by women, then the inescapable laws of prejudice will mean that men will always fear it.
Lessons to be learnt from this (especially for men) :
1. Feminism is simply about gender equality
2. Own up to your prejudices
3. Become a feminist; advocate women’s rights
You can advocate women’s rights in the simplest of ways. Giving to our Give2Girls campaign, which seeks to empower disadvantaged women the world over, is one method. Help us reach our goal of $20,000 donated. Be a feminist here.