Including men in Feminism

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Women march down Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul to mark International Women’s Day. Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Movements need protests, and sometimes even riots, to gain attention. These aren’t a problem because they’re symptoms of bigger, systemic issues. A riot is the language of the unheard.
However, non-male genders do need to realise that those onlookers and observers of such activist behaviour, may not be recognised as ‘progressive’ by others. We the ‘woke’, must find ways of identifying with, and communicating with, the less ‘woke’. It’s all about how we frame the movement in our daily lives.
To be a feminist, you must combine critical theory with ‘self-work’ and activism. We change the way we interact with society. However, many of us have a fear of asking or discussing. Men often don’t ask females about certain aspects of their lives, because they have often been nurtured to leave that conversation for them to have amongst themselves. Curiosity is not satiated, and so ignorance is filled with incorrect assumptions. Similarly, people in general often allow knowledge gaps to arise purely because we don’t know how to talk to each other properly anymore. These gaps are often filled with prejudice.
Additionally, many people in today’s society are made to feel as thought talking about their own problems is too attention-seeking, too selfish and narcissistic and so remain silent. In an age where mental health is seriously in need of addressing, self care IS revolutionary. The simple act of speaking to each other as humans instigates inspiration which instigates change.
Feminists may have an issue with the term ‘bitch’ or ‘bitchyness’. But we must question the origin of these words. ‘Bitchyness’ comes from women being defensive. But why? Because we are often having to defend ourselves because they are forced to compete in a patriarchal world. But feminism is also about representing and defending the underrepresented and, in my opinion, I believe that the male role in feminist theory and discussion is often underrepresented. Just like non-male genders, males shouldn’t have to bottle up their feelings.
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men between the ages of 21 and 45 in this country. Male to male interactions are just as visibly pressurised. Judgement is rife amongst male social groups. We are quick to demand female rights but also quick to forget that we live ina  society where males have been nurtured to thinking that they hold superiority and that they must uphold it; failing to fit the stereotype is often deemed to themselves and those around them as  a failure.
So much of the pressure that females experience in todays society has stemmed from the normalising of actions of women, these social norms have forced many to feel as thought they have to subvert themselves to a particular stereotype. But what is normal?
Many feminists emphasise that the movement must be intersectional. This means including race, class, sexuality, and other identity markers in feminist analysis. Acknowledging what sets us apart and the various identities that make up women as its own identity is the most progressive way of seeking equality. This must mean, therefore, that the role of males in an equal society must be emphasised also.
Otherwise, a one-size-fits-all feminist movement that focuses only on the common ground between women is erasing and ignoring the various elements of society that would otherwise make it inclusive. For example, feminism is also about ending all the interconnected systems of oppression that affect different women in different ways. Therefore, if patriarchy and male prejudice against non-males is an obstacle, then surely this is an aspect of society that must also be worked upon? i.e. we must address what makes males feel that they must uphold a dominant position in society?
If you are comfortable, you aren’t doing enough; intersectional feminism should be making everyone uncomfortable because we never grow or progress when we are comfortable. We grow when we are hurting or struggling or stretching ourselves to understand something new.
The nuisance that protest cause are nowhere near as much of a nuisance as the injustice that the nuisance tries to omit. It isn’t promotion of anarchy- we don’t look back at the movement for women’s rights as anarchists who just caused social issues and not social justice.
Any substantive theory for social change must provide something for most if not all members of society. Men must be provided with the space to consider their feminine character, to better understand the female identity and place in society. Thus, we must question where the role of males lie in the intersectional movement for gender equality. If males can never truly understand what it is like to be a female in a patriarchal society, then what can they do? How can they be given an opportunity to step outside of, or even challenge, the gendered stereotype?
Klocke suggests that men cannot really be feminists anymore than whites can be black nationalists. However, men can be pro-feminist and whites can be pro-black nationalists. At the same time it is not enough to simply be a member of the disenfranchised minority to be either a feminist or a black nationalist. Feminism, Klocke states, is like black nationalism requires political consciousness and even activism
Paul Smith, suggested that men should not be in feminism but nearby. He challenges men to think of feminism working on them. But this cannot be done without changing, not only how men relate to other men, but how we relate to women as well. Perhaps men need to be “menists,” supporting women in their feminist work while allowing feminism to work on them, challenging themselves and other men to end patriarchy. Feminism should be careful to avoid forcing male genders to feel as thought they must walk on egg-shells every time they want to breach a potentially sensitive topic to non-male genders. This is not conducive to the cause, and will likely deter people joining it. Feminist theory and practice could be a catalyst for liberating both men and women from their restrictive gender roles and the system of patriarchy.
Some might therefore take issue with the word ‘in’ when pondering what the role of man is in relation to feminism. This is largely because of the patriarchy’s track record with interrupting, and indeed penetrating female movements whereby the preposition of men repeats an age-old rapine, colonising, and often silencing move. Take ‘mansplaining’ for example.
However, I would argue that feminism can work for gender equality, by recognising the need to redefine masculinity in society, to alleviate the pressures that so often cause non-males to be the subordinate gender. Any societal pressures that leads to this must be talked about, rather than go unchallenged they must be questioned in everyday society. Just as its important to teach young girls about feminism, its equally important to educate young males on it too, to prevent any subtext contained within patriarchal beliefs from sticking.
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