BOYS AND FEMINISM: A WORLD OF MISCONCEPTIONS OR THE BEGINNING OF A UNION?

“Feminism:  the theory of the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” A definition established by Merriam Webster, but sadly not one that has been acknowledged by many.

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Nowadays, there are many misconceptions about being a feminist, such as that we are man-haters, that we do not care about our image, or that we are aggressive. However, I think the biggest misconception on feminism is that only women can be feminists.  Most men take for granted, as said before, that feminists are man-haters, and thus that it is a movement against their gender. These are mostly men that do not realize how much inequality there is, even in small day-to-day situations.

As a young female, I have witnessed these types of situations, where women are stereotyped or diminished. For example, usually when a boy tells a girl he is a university student, a girl would feel impressed by that. However I have encountered myself in situations where boys feel immediately intimidated and uncomfortable when hearing it coming from me. It is this kind of embedded fear of a woman being completely equal to man in this sense, or to see that a woman has achieved more than him or has more ambition, that men do not identify.

And tell me, how are we supposed to reach equality if men and women do not stand together? Cause again, feminism is not a women versus men, or a fight for superiority. It is a fight for equality, and to achieve our goals men and women need to support each other, as real equals.

An amazing step towards this was the HeForShe  campaign launched by Emma Watson, well known actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women. The HeForShe campaign encouraged men to join women in the feminist fight for gender equality. In the beautiful speech that she presented, she invited man to open themselves up to a world without stereotypes of masculinity or femininity. A world where women can be strong without being seen as aggressive or dominant, and where men can be sensitive without being called “less of a man”.

After seeing more and more posts on social media on feminism, how the roles of males and females in movies and series have been changing, and how this topic is increasingly discussed in class, I was curious to see what the thoughts of my male peers were on feminism, so I carried out a few interviews. First of all, it is important to note that most of the respondents had the correct definition of feminism, and knew that it was about equality. However, one of them (who preferred to remain anonymous) defined feminism as a process of women realizing that they are not inferior to men and of women standing op for their rights. This again implies feminism being only for and about women, instead of both sexes.

Usually, males see feminists as intimidating, due to the man-hating myth surrounding this ideology. When asking young males about what their reaction would be if a girl told them she is a feminist, reactions where different than expected, since instead of stating that they would feel uncomfortable or intimidated, they went from neutral to positive. Or even as Leland said “I would think she’s a badass”.

I also put my respondents in the spotlight, asking them about how they stand or feel in a conversation about sexism. Based on their answers, I got to the conclusion that while feminism is reaching males to the point that they understand it or support it, it is still hard for them to speak up when a sexist matter is raised, and they would feel uncomfortable or dubious about it, since their gender is the one being blamed and attacked.

It is also important to note that specific considerations about feminism are changing, as none of the young males that were interviewed saw feminists as man-haters. This means that this misconception about feminism might not be as widespread as we think is, and that we might be approaching a time where the opinions on feminism are shifting from man-haters to supporters of equality.

Even though this role of supporters of equality might be taken on by both males and females, it is still hard for men to see themselves as feminists. To see if this is true, and to see if we might be reaching the moment where men and women stand together in this battle, I asked my respondents the question that may be the epicenter of this whole feature: “can men be feminists?” Anonymous claimed without doubt that men cannot be feminists, however this may be due to the fact that he had the wrong definition of feminism, thinking that it only involves women. Enrico stated that men could understand feminism but that it would be harder for them to call themselves feminists. Kaloyan however claimed that it was possible and that in fact he considers himself a feminist, together with Leland who also agrees that men can be feminists.

These interviews made me realize some important things. On the one hand, that some men are receiving the wrong information on feminism, and basing their judgement on misconceptions and wrong definitions, adopting a frivol position towards feminism. On the other hand, I saw that as soon as men open their minds to understand what feminism is and what it stands for, they realize that it is not a battle for women to fight alone.

For this I am calling on you, guys from EUR, to open your minds. Think about your girlfriends, your mothers, your future daughters. Think about what type of future you want for them. Think about how you would want them to be treated.

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Open your mind and your hearts to feminism. Do it for her.

 

Camila Alvarez

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