July 28, 2020
WHY MEN SHOULDN'T BE AFRAID OF FEMINISM
By Alejo Peña Soto
I ran my first half-marathon the other day. Yay for me right? It was so nice running around San Antonio, seeing the Riverwalk, only worrying about my mile pacing. Especially because, as a male, I don’t have to worry about being cat called, or someone following me around town. Even when I take my shirt off (because who wants to run with a shirt in 90 degree weather, right?) I don’t feel like there’s eyes on me at all times.
"For too long, our American society has promoted and normalized a misogynistic way of living that tells men it’s okay to treat women a certain way."
For too long, our American society has promoted and normalized a misogynistic way of living that tells men it’s okay to treat women a certain way. Perhaps even worse, we (and by we I mean men) tell women that being treated a certain way is normal. That they should understand “boys will be boys” and getting sexually harassed is just something that comes with being a woman. We live in a world of double standards. While victims of sexual harassment are labeled as desperate, or “asking for it”, those who commit acts of sexual harassment end up as President of the United States. While men are rewarded by their peers for harassment, women are told that showing too much shoulder in congress isn’t allowed. While seven states allow rapists to claim parental rights of their victim’s child, loopholes in North Carolina laws prevent women from being able to withdraw consent.
I grew up in a household that promoted what some may call progressive beliefs. My parents made sure I understood the privilege I have as a male and why the world is a much scarier place for women. They helped me understand why it’s so important to be an ally to women because all too often, men work hard to put them down. They helped me understand that as a boy, being a feminist isn’t a bad thing or something I should be afraid of. I know for a lot of people my age and for a lot of men in general, the idea of being a feminist is strangely intimidating. People think that being a male feminist is an impossible ask when in reality, it’s about becoming a better person. So what does being a male feminist look like?
"We live in a world of double standards. While victims of sexual harassment are labeled as desperate, or 'asking for it', those who commit acts of sexual harassment end up as President of the United States."
"Our role as males in this movement is to be allies supporting those around us and helping educate others on why the ideas promoted by feminism are important."
For starters, I want to make clear that the feminist movement is not one that we dictate or control as males. Similar to the Black Lives Matter movement, if you aren’t part of the demographic directly impacted by what the movement is about, you don’t get to decide what the movement looks like. Because as men, we can empathize, but never truly understand. Our role as males in this movement is to be allies supporting those around us and helping educate others on why the ideas promoted by feminism are important. This also means that you’re going to do a lot of listening, which may seem simple, but is so important. Because for too long, so many women have been denied the chance to speak by men. This means you’ll be put in situations uncomfortable to you. Situations that may make you feel alienated or unwelcome. Well guess what, women have been put in uncomfortable situations their whole lives. Women have every right to question your support too, because history has shown that men will take advantage of women under the guise of feminism (look up Hugo Schwyzer if you’re still confused). And you shouldn’t expect a pat on the back for advocating for women. It’s necessary advocacy that should simply be a part of your life. You don’t get rewarded for calling out your sexist friends or for simply respecting women, your reward is knowing you’re trying to make the world a better place for people who have been marginalized for too long.
"For too long, so many women have been denied the chance to speak by men."
So if you read this and still feel uncomfortable, or still feel like dismissing what I’ve said, think about why. Why don’t you support women in a way that helps them feel more comfortable? At the end of the day, being a feminist isn’t about the title or some extremely radical ideas, it’s about supporting women in ways that are unfortunately rejected or questioned by society. It’s about fighting against misogyny and being an ally, regardless of what that does to you.