Meninsm: an attempt to derail and delegitimize a movement

Sandra Riano, Staff Writer

Schreiber Women’s Day, which took place on March 27, was hosted in recognition of the importance of women’s rights issues. The presentations covered a wide breadth of topics that encompassed complex issues of sexism and the oppression women face globally.

However, after carefully constructed presentations, Women’s Day coordinators were faced with one question again and again: “When is Men’s Rights Day?”  My frustration stemmed from the participants’ unwillingness to understand feminism. I cast myself in a shadow of self-doubt.

Had we made a difference? What would it take to make a lasting impression on students about the importance of these issues, specifically the young men that asked these questions?

How can I explain the complex and misunderstood concept of feminism?

“Feminism should be known as gender egalitarianism,” said senior Henry Lin.

This is because a movement for equality should not seem threatening.

Yet that is just the way that it is interpreted by a lot of men and women.

Men’s rights activists disregard or berate feminism for being overzealous and assertive.

“Feminism works to uplift both sexes and raise awareness to break gender norms imposed on men and women,” said senior Carolyn Suh.

“Pride, and men not wanting to walk under a banner held by women,” said senior Chris Bendix when asked why men have problems with feminism.

It’s important to understand that feminism seeks to liberate women who face systematic oppression around the world in system that is so horrific and terrifying that any rational man or women would be shocked to hear that women are facing these abuses because they are women. According to the US Bureau of Labor the ratio of boy to girl births is an equal 51% to 49% ratio. If the chances of having a baby girl are 1 in 2, then why are women growing up in societies that strip them of their right to learn, berate them, and misrepresent them as soon as they are born?

Another important issue that needs to be addressed is education. We need to recognize that not only in the West, but globally, investment in a man’s education is preferred over a woman’s. For the most part, young men are encouraged to obtain higher education.

Why do I keep bringing up the concept of men and women’s rights internationally? Although the West has succeeded for the most part in eliminating a lot of the societal and cultural norms that impede women from obtaining an education, this is not the case for most developing countries around the world.

So if you are a young man in Western society and you have a hard time understanding the complexity of women’s rights because you see your female counterparts as equals, then maybe we have achieved significant progress in the U.S.

But that is not indicative of progress being made anywhere else, or the more subtle ways in which women are now being oppressed in the West (in media, in workplace, in STEM fields). The main takeaway here is that the impediment of a young girl’s education in Yemen, India, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, or countless other countries indicates a demographic of women without the capabilities to sustain themselves economically, and sustain their families and communities. Simply put, the miseducation of women stifles not only their political and economic autonomy but global economic development.

Why pay attention to women’s rights? Not only would women’s equality provide women with benefits, but it would also improve their sons’ quality of life.

“Just because the word implies female does not mean that males are excluded,” said Suh.

Why do I have a problem with young men who feel the need to take part in Men’s Rights Day? Because that attitude is a clear example of how some men are offended by women with less gender privilege then them standing up for themselves.

“If men want to have a Men’s Day, let them do it. For those who feel the need to separate themselves from the feminist movement because they are afraid, it’s okay. We need strong leaders, not followers,” said senior Melody Sagastume.

Indeed, not every movement needs a counter movement to truly “equalize” everybody.

The importance of global feminism is clear. If we can recognize that from the moment a baby girl in a less developed country is born she will grow up in a world that pursues her as if it has a violent personal vendetta against her sex, if we can recognize that violent system of oppression and dismantle it, then we can also succeed in overthrowing the oppressive gender norms imposed upon baby boys since birth. Feminism recognizes that stereotypes and gender norms are imposed onto both men and women by society.

Feminism is a powerful movement meant to uplift both sexes. In recognizing that women are not damsels in distress, weak, or incapable, we can also recognize that men can be sensitive, passionate, gentle, artistic, and poetic, without losing their masculinity.

In dismantling one large and oppressive structure that oppresses women, we can dismantle the subtler oppressive structures that oppress men. In liberating women from their gendered oppression, we can liberate men from the fear of calling themselves feminists.

“Feminism is real cool; it’s a cause for everybody,” said Suh.