Men should be feminists too...
…because feminism without men is terribly boring
In her book “How to be a woman”, Caitlin Moran encourages women to stand on a chair and to proclaim loudly: “I am a feminist.” A few lines later, she asserts: A male feminist is one of the most glorious end-products of evolution. A male feminist should ABSOLUTELY be on the chair – so we ladies may all toast you, in champagne, before coveting your body wildly.
Well, I am a man. A white man. Fate was kind to me. I am part of the middle class of a wealthy European country and enjoy the privilege of free education. And all that even though I was born into a rural working-class family. Maybe that is exactly why I appreciate my privileges and do not take them for granted.
I really do have everything I need… except for a chair to stand on. Yes, at this very moment I am sitting on a nice comfortable chair, but it is a swivel chair and experience has taught me that it is a bad idea to stand on a swivel chair while uttering an emotional statement. That’s why I am writing. And I want to share a well-considered sentence with you:
I AM A FEMINIST.
Yes, that’s right. I am a white, middle class man and I am a feminist. And I truly believe that all men out there should be feminists. Actually, everybody out there, regardless of gender categories, should be a feminist. Simply because feminism is a good thing. Feminism is good for us. Feminism is striving for equal rights for men and women. Period. Nothing else.
Men should be feminists because feminism also benefits us. Let’s face it, masculinity is not an ideal, masculinity is a straightjacket. It’s easy to be a man. It just needs a little bit of help from nature, an X and a Y chromosome. The odds are 50/50. But it’s way more difficult to be masculine or manly! Masculinity is not innate, it’s imposed on us while we are still innocent boys. In these early years we are not capable of deciding whether we like it or not. Masculinity means to be strong, insensible, pragmatic, rational and more convincing and powerful than your male counterpart; to be in good shape, six-pack and appealing biceps included. The whole masculinity package. Although, appearances are secondary as long as we are masculine enough. Masculinity is the social ideal and is generously rewarded with power, higher income, authority and respect – all in all, a higher social standing, the top of the social hierarchy. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if we all, men and women, could be masculine? That’s why we (un-)intentionally force women to adopt masculine characteristics and traits and label it gender equality. I suffer alongside these women. It’s like a lousy fashion year. They have to change from one straightjacket into the other. A women’s suit as an equivalent of a men’s suits doesn’t solve the problem. Masculinity doesn’t solve the problem. Masculinity is not the way out.
Masculinity is part of the problem. However, it is not only women suffering from this imposed straightjacket of masculinity. How often are we told as kids to be “a brave and strong boy”, “real men don’t cry”, “stop acting like a girl”. I’m not asking for a world full of crybabies, but sometimes it is just necessary to shed some tears. And that is a good thing. Crying is a natural outlet. It reduces stress and is way more peaceful than an aggressive outburst of all the emotions we have been holding back in such a manly way. Sometimes it is even enough to talk – to talk about one’s feelings. To just speak out loud about what’s troubling us. But we men never learn how to do that. We have to be strong and distant. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule. Fortunately, it’s a growing number. Emotions are human. Being emotionless, pragmatic, rational and strong all the time is very exhausting. Being masculine is exhausting.
The color blue doesn’t make me more of a man either. It did not during my childhood years and it certainly does not today. In the same way the color pink does not make me less of a man or more of a woman. Yes, there are shades of pink that are simply abominable, but there are also shades of blue that I can’t stand. The book cover of the German version of “How to be a woman” combines both, ugly shades of pink and hideous shades of blue, and this is the reason why I have hidden it well at the back of my book shelf. I have two two-year old nephews and they don’t care about the colors of their toys in the slightest. They like things to be colorful. Preferably, their toys should make weird sounds and, of course, playing with them should be a ton of fun. Thanks to my two older sisters, I had lots of different toys to play with in my childhood and I played with everything, everyone and everywhere. Toy cars, Lego, a doll’s kitchen, Barbie dolls, other kids, adults, girls, boys, outside, inside: the whole package of pure fun.
My examples may appear a bit blunt and trivial, but that does not affect their explanatory power. Our social perception of masculinity robs us men of our freedoms, even though many may not realize this yet. Masculinity is exhausting, demanding and not at all entertaining. For all these reasons masculinity cannot, and must not be a social ideal. At this point you might think, “Well, and now? If women are discriminated against because they are too feminine, and masculinity is no desirable ideal either, what should we aim for?” Let’s question both, femininity AND masculinity. Let’s give feminism a fair chance to sort this mess out for us. If femininity and masculinity are equally restrictive and problematic, let’s go for humanity. Let’s treat men and women equally. Let’s treat all genders equally. Let’s treat ourselves and everyone else as what we are – humans, equal in value and dignity. No one is better than the other, but every human being is unique.
Men and women, stand on your chairs and raise your voices for more humanity, because in the end, we are all feminists, whether we like it or not.