I don’t know if you have seen Emma Watson’s UN speach about gender inequality. If not, you should – here is a link to it. It is an extremely important speech and Emma manages to pinpoint what feminism is and why it is important for men as well. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Men are also affected by the inequalities and gender norms, and so are their sisters, daughters, girlfriends, and mothers. I remember when I was a child, and I started noticing these inequalities. One day in school a boy pushed a girl in my class so hard that she fell and broke her arm. She was crying and hurting and our teacher told her, and I quote: ”He only did it because he has a crush on you”. So at 7 years old, this poor girl learned that when a boy hits a girl, and breaks her arm, it is to show his love for her.
Another example. I started doing gymnastics when I was 7 years old and I absolutely loved it. There was a boy at my school who also went to gymnastics. He didn’t play football, he didn’t do karate, ju-jitsu, wrestling or any of the other ”cool” boy sports – he did gymnastics. But I remember how he was constantly bullied and left outside for this. How, at 7 years old, he wasn’t ”manly” enough to hang with the football players, wrestlers and other boys. He mostly hung out with the girls and was labeled ”gay”, solely for not having the typical interests that boys have.
I have been aware of these things for as long as I can remember and therefore I noticed how hard boys and girls were working to fit into the gender stereotypes. I once beat a boy at arm wrestling in school (being a gymnast, you do get a bit of muscle) and to this day I can remember the other boys’ laughs, their fingers pointing at the boy and shouting ”You got beat by a girl!”. And I remember how ashamed this boy was and how he since then always struggled with being macho and fitting into the male stereotype. And I remember how pissed I was that they weren’t clapping their hands for me and patting me on the back. I beat this person in arm wrestling and all you do is laugh about it? Come on!
There are so many misconceptions about feminism and calling myself a feminist since 2008, I have experienced many of them. Everything from people claiming that boys and girls are biologically destined to like blue respectively pink, to asking me if I hate men, to wondering if I can really shave my legs and call myself a feminist (why, yes I can!). Truth is, I didn’t call myself a feminist until I started to read about what it actually was during my university studies. It was very much an aha-experience for me and explained many of the inequalities that I had experienced ever since I was a child.
There are feminists who claim that we don’t need men in order to fight this battle against sexism, gender inequality and stereotypes, but like I always say: the more, the marrier. If we as feminists truly believe that feminism is about equality, then it also means that we need as many people as possible to see the inequalities, and not just the ones that we as women face, but the inequalities that men, transgendered, and unidentified genders face as well. All of these inequalities come from misogyny and gender norms, which affect us all. In order for men to understand the misogyny that women face (which truth be told is far worse than what men experience – it is still ”okay” to rape women in many countries, we are still viable for what we wear & how much we drink, we are sexualized as children to a greater extent, we’re always passed off as bossy if we take control, and we still make less money than men) they must first become aware of the social constructs and structures in society that form our genders.
Therefore, I completely agree with what Emma Watson is saying: Men must absolutely get involved in feminism and everybody will benefit from a world where we are all treated equally regardless of our gender.