Originally published on The Sanctuary of Reason and cross-posted here with their permission.
“I am a feminist.” This statement has caused several kinds of reactions when coming from me, a male.
Ranging from an inquisitive if not suspicious “why?” to sweet praise borne not out of understanding, but rather out of amazement if not amusement.
And yet the one reaction I’ve always wanted to hear, the self-evident “So what? Think you’re special? Who isn’t?”, is one I’ve sadly yet to experience. We are a month away from 2013 now.
So, why am I a feminist? Major reasons include a profound yearning for social justice and equality, as well as the desire for a more pragmatic society which prioritizes merit beyond superficial differences.
But I am also a feminist from a male empowerment perspective. The all too common and often times confrontational question “what about men and their rights?”, whenever someone is talking about the plight of women, can be very easily answered by “feminism is the solution.”
So ultimately, I not only want to be a feminist, but as a man, I need to be a feminist.
I need to be a feminist, because the formal and informal barriers to men’s freedoms and individuality are laid and fortified by the patriarchy.
What men are “supposed to be” is ingrained in our heads since even before we become old enough to play with toys. Strong, independent, competitive, logical, rational; or rather they pass on arrogant, domineering, possessive, narrow-minded, insensitive as the above-mentioned qualities.
Any (explicit) deviation from this “ideal man” (who scares me to be quite honest), is met with instant suspicion and judgement. Males, instead of being in an environment that completely fosters true individuality and encourages them to embrace who they are, are rather pressured into abiding by what they are supposed to be like.
For systemic oppression to be passed on through the generations, people need to be taught and raised in such a fashion as to permit them to perpetuate this imagined balance of power, most of the time without them, including victims sometimes, truly realizing that this (im)balance is oppressive. This perpetuated state of affairs is acquired rather than innate.
I need to be a feminist, because I find it intolerable that every day, women suffer from sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape in massive proportions, with justice rarely being met adequately.
I find it shocking that women, half of the population, have to, understandably, abide by a “rape schedule” – avoid certain alleys and places, be home before a certain time, not walk alone – because of their fear of the other half of the population.
As human beings, we are social animals, naturally drawn to live in groups. How can a social order be considered desirable when half the population is scared of the other half?
I need to be a feminist, because in addition to my repulsion at the terrible injustice of accusing the victim, the sadly all too common act of blaming a woman for being raped only serves to portray men as sex-crazed opportunist freaks who naturally have no self-control, with a psychopathic disregard for people’s pain and suffering all in the quest to satisfy some inherent uncontrollable sexual rage.
Shifting the blame from an individual criminal, to an inherent aspect within the male gender that women ought to expect and prepare for under pain of culpability, is the kind of lie that only serves to artificially impose fear and division (perhaps that’s the point?).
I need to be a feminist, because male victims of sexual assault or domestic violence are also victims of a patriarchal order that frowns upon “weakness” when it comes from men.
This taboo born of self-inflated egos causes a lot of male victims to be either mocked, ridiculed, or to be not taken seriously, or as is most often the case, prevents them from reporting or talking about their plight.
Because an individual man is not allowed to be “weak,” especially in front of a woman. It contradicts some arbitrarily determined artificial-masquerading-as-natural order.
In the same vein, a man is not allowed to have emotional needs, at least as much as a woman, as per the false dichotomy of reason vs emotions, each being separately attributed mainly to one gender.
I need to be a feminist, because in the event that I have a daughter, I want her, as I would want for a son, to grow up in an environment where she can play with whatever toys she prefers, study whatever degree she wants, be with whoever she loves, aspire to become whatever she desires – I want her to feel free to be who she is, without antiquated norms, traditions, customs, and gender roles getting in the way.
This, I would want for any and all individuals regardless of sex or gender identification. This freedom is what can create richness and greatness in our societies.
I need to be a feminist, because I need to believe that men can become flexible, open-minded, sensitive, compassionate, decent, respectful towards their sisters in humanity.
I need to be a feminist, because it’s about time we cast patriarchy aside, and stop thinking in terms of zero-sum game, some narrow-minded perception of power that plagues our societies on all fronts and not just with regards to sex and gender.
I need feminism, because female emancipation is humanity’s betterment, because their empowerment is my own empowerment, because individual freedom for all is my own freedom.
Ayman Kuzbari is a political science and history graduate from McGill University, and is now Master’s student in international economics at HEC. He helped found ADI, a student group in McGill which held a successful summit in October 2011, and is now currently an active member of the Greenpeace Local Montreal Group. He occasionally writes for his blog: http://aymankuzbari.blogspot.ca/ and can be reached via Facebook and email: [email protected].
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