The Role of men in modern feminism
What is the role of men in feminism? Well, I do not know. If you perhaps have the slightest clue, please leave a comment.
I, however, can try to explain what it feels is a man’s role in feminism. It feels like…how do I put it in humble terms? Um, it feels like it is not for you. At least in an active sense. Merriam Webster defines feminism as the belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. That word “especially”. Guess that’s gonna be the whole basis of this discussion.
At this point, you probably notice the conspicuous use of the prefix “modern” in feminism used there above. Some refer to what we are conversing on as third-wave feminism. As a young human, I have the opportunity (in most cases; burden) of being lectured at almost any hour of the day about some history of something according to the memory of my lecturers. Phrases like “He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it” and “The past is the fabric that makes the future” are usually used as threats to make you listen. Question is? What if your past is evil? Shouldn’t you want to let it go?
When I turned 18, I was introduced to what we now call “gender wars”. Gender wars were basically what it sounds like. Two sets of people, each of separate sex, gather to discuss and ultimately argue over a topic where each side acts as an advocate of their gender. Being right in these discussions was irrelevant. All you were there for was to look for possible defenses for your gender and attack the other. Period! At such meetings, history lessons on how “we” have oppressed women throughout time were “occasionally” brought up.
It was always a mystery to me how things done over fifty years ago could be so firmly grasped and weaponized against an issue that happened today.
“Women weren’t allowed to own property till just …”
“Okay, but you can now. It is no longer a problem so…”
“The rates of women enrolled in the university in 1992 was…”
“Has it not been increasing almost half-fold ever since?”
Usually, the discussions used to go that way. Modern people using past scenarios instead of what they go through now. At least if you used a current example of what you’ve gone through, then it would feel genuine. Why bring history into current arguments? Don’t you have any points of your own? I saw it as useless. Many years have passed and I have shifted to the following ideologies.
Eighteen to Twenties
1. No more gender wars for me. There is never any point in arguing for the sake of being right. No one listens to each other. Save your breath for shower singing. Even winning in such arguments won’t do anything for mankind or in this case womankind. Discussions of how to live together are more appealing. The earth is big enough for the both of us.
2. History is not useless. It gives you an understanding of why people get emotional on certain issues. Years of segregation make black people very emotional on racial topics. Years of disenfranchisement, make women sensitive to gender-based topics. Additionally, just because some few milestones like the ability to vote have happened, doesn’t mean job done. More is still to be done.
3. Never use history as a sense of entitlement. One of the greatest African leaders, Nelson Mandela, said, “We must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past.” We should not strive to revenge wrong-doings but to quench the flames of hatred with the springs of love. Nothing in this world belongs to anybody as the world was not created by those who walk on it. Never feel you deserve preferential treatment because of the tag of being a minority or hate a majority when you lose to fair competition. How do you usually come to the unequivocal conclusion that you are always more qualified? Do you have a hard drive of all their certifications?
4. Listen then ask. If you have lived with women for more than three weeks, you will pick up that they like being listened to. The catch is; your purpose there isn’t to respond. They are venting. They want to be heard in a world where everyone is deaf to their opinions. When they talk, do not talk. Just listen. When she says she had a rough day due to some form of harassment, just listen. After listening, ask what you can do? In most cases, you can’t do jack! In some cases, like currently, you can sign a petition that will make life a little better moving forward. Either way, listening is the nicest thing you can do.
5. Do not generalize. Generalizing is the biggest barrier between the sexes in history. The side suffering usually is prone to this vice. In the Bible, there were sayings like “what good can come from the gentiles”. In the godfather of Harlem, we had, “Never trust a white man’’. Now we have, “Men are… Women are…Uber drivers are…Bodaboda are…Police officers are …It is not our job to differentiate”. Nothing makes the recipient shutdown as quick. The world had, has, and will always have criminals. Call them just that- criminals. If you call them a general tag, you alienate people who would otherwise help your cause.
6. Do not oppose good ideas cause of emotions. Even after serious abuse or serious neglect of issues on your side, celebrate and support the wins of the other side. All wins are ours. Same with the failures.
Honestly, feminism is not meant for both sexes. How many feminists do you know advocating for women’s rights? Uh-huh. Practically all. And how many feminists do you know advocating for male rights? Shoulder shrug. A few here and there. Feminism isn’t about equality. It is about equating one gender to the other. They use equality because it sounds better. I recently heard it phrased as “Equality as the end-goal, equity as the means.” There is a reason it has the “femi” is that it stands for female.
Do I think it should shift to both gender advocacy? Honestly, no. The Chinese say, a man who chases two rabbits catches neither. They have their fight. If you give your opinion on their issues, they’ll hit you with the “what do you know about being a woman” anyway. Ask any man who comments on abortion or their reproductive health or dressing. It is not your business unless they allow it and when they do, you better say what they want to hear. That is what it feels is the role of men in feminism. Editar Achieng, a gender activist and politician based in Kibera, when asked if men can be feminists responded, ‘Personally, no. I feel men can be allies of feminism because of the different issues that are only party to women. Issues like sexual reproduction, maternity, and menstrual health.’ I am with Editar on this one. What we need is to start our own. A body for the male gender and the multitude of its own burdens. One that comes to mind is ‘Man Enough’. Check this out https://youtu.be/xc4H8DnnLUI.
IGNORE THIS PART
Today is a very unique day. Happy International Women’s day. On top of that, it is also my cousin Cheryl’s birthday. She is as feminist as they come. When people say they were born into it, this must have been the reference. I wish to share a cherished memory I have of you. Back in my first week on campus, you bought me that big cup of vanilla-flavored milk.
Before you feel embarrassed by my short utterance, just know that simple gesture went a long way in helping me settle down in this completely new world of adulthood (living by myself) coupled up with the daunting and equally exciting prospect of joining the university as a fresher. I can’t quite explain how just the mere knowledge of having family close by can be reassuring. Happy birthday, cousin. You are as kind as you are reasonable. I know you will come to read this very soon.