Feminism is here to destroy the patriarchy, not men.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding feminism – one of them being the idea that feminists hate men. Sure, there may be some women feminists who happen to hate men, but being a “man-hater” isn’t a requirement or value of feminism.
Feminism doesn’t aim to bring men down; it aims to bring women up. In fact, while advocating for women’s rights and dispelling negative gender stereotypes, feminism has also benefited men.
The idea that women are less than or inferior has, for centuries, given the “feminine” qualities that some women (and men!) possess a negative reputation. Things like caring, being sensitive and emotional, liking to dress up, wear make-up, and so on have been seen as characteristics solely and exclusively reserved for women.
By changing the way feminine qualities are perceived, less pressure is put on men not to act likes “girls,” which apparently, in our society, is the worst thing a man can be. The pressure to act the way men are supposed to act – whatever that may be – can be overwhelming.
Cases of verbal and physical violence directed at boys who weren’t perceived to fit the societal ideal of masculine have been endless, and raising little boys to become men who can’t recognize the harmful impact of this isn’t fair to anyone.
This emphasis on masculinity has created a culture of silence amongst men.
Men aren’t supposed to talk about feelings or show that they have feelings – that’s weak. Men aren’t supposed to cry in public – that’s only for girls.
With documented cases of male mental health problems rising, this has become much more obvious. The most convincing evidence of what’s being called the “silent crisis” by health professionals can be found in male suicide rates. In 2007, four of five people who had committed suicide in Canada were male. The code of silence that surrounds men’s behaviour has become a barrier that stops men from seeking the help they need, and acknowledging any mental health issues they’re experiencing.
Normalizing the discourse of well-being and self-care for men and alleviating the pressure of acting anything but feminine is just one of the many ways that feminism is creating a better society for men, too.
In addition to redefining gender and the societal expectations of what it should be, feminism also indirectly advocates for men’s rights where the patriarchy has backfired on them and created unfair situations.
One of the most well known examples is child custody. The majority of child custody cases prior to 1970 were won by women. This was mostly a result of the idealization of the mother and child bond and the shift in family structure that took place during the Industrial Revolution. In fact, before the Industrial Revolution, children were seen as property of their fathers, since women couldn’t legally own anything.
The empowerment of women through feminism has had a significant role in the continuous redefinition of parental roles (ex. making it socially acceptable to be a stay-at-home dad), which has made custody cases a determination of what’s in the child’s best interest rather than a gender-biased debate.
Problems with child custody that arise due to gender still continue today, but the push of feminism towards gender equity has definitely helped make procedures fairer than they were.
So if feminism really means “gender equity” and if it’s also important for men, then why does it have to be called feminism?
Because feminism is about empowering women, and in doing so, creates a better society for everyone.