Sometimes, people do or say dumb things. They get too drunk, listen to Justin Bieber a lot, or deny the need for gender equality. Denying the necessity of gender equality, though, is much worse with more serious ramifications. Some men have voiced opposition to or expressed concerns about the feminist movement for gender equality. They say that feminists hate men, or they say men need more rights. Sometimes, they'll make the truly wild claim that men and women are already equal. To be fair, anti-feminists can also include women, but let's focus on the male population since sometimes the whole "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" dichotomy makes it difficult to have an honest conversation about a serious issue with the opposite sex. So, here's a guide on how to argue for feminism with men because, sure, everyone has momentary lapses in judgement.
Some men don't actually know what feminism really is, or they have only talked about it in environments that are already hostile toward the movement. So, make sure you're having the conversation in an environment that isn't hostile. For example, bringing your guy friend to a #FreeTheNipple parade might not be the best environment in which to discuss feminism. (I mean, it would probably be a great way to get him on board, but probably not for the right reasons. So, just don't do it.)
Clarify For Him What Feminism Actually Means
Many men often equate feminism with misandry, which is an ingrained prejudice against men. Feminism, on the other hand, is a movement that seeks to achieve gender equality. Sure, many feminists become frustrated with men who insist on telling women that feminism is unnecessary, but I'd say most feminists don't harbor a deep, hell-fiery hate of all men or laugh maniacally while sitting alone at home reading The Second Sex.
Remind Him Of Why Women Aren't Equal
Some men just don't buy the idea that women aren't equal, even though there are persisting gender norms that favor men. So, here's a bit of proof:
- In 2013, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 78 percent of what men were paid. In other words, women make about 78 cents to every dollar that a man makes, according to the AAUW. The pay gap hasn't budged in almost a decade, and it's worse for women of color. Hispanic women often make 54 percent of what white men make, on average, and black women make about 64 percent of white men's earnings.
- One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to RAINN. About 3 percent of American men were the victims of attempted or completed rape (we'll come back to this stat later). Further, rape is still used as a weapon of war in many developing countries. In the United States, language surrounding rape still includes, "What could you have done to prevent it?" or "Did you send him the wrong signals?" or "Did you fight back?" Just recently, a college investigated an alleged assault victim's sexual history to see just how "credible" of a victim she really was.
- It is still assumed that women will take the man's last name in marriage, though the tradition began as a form of possessiveness and ownership. Men are also still expected to present women with an expensive, shiny ring to "purchase" their hand in marriage (I'll also come back to this later).
- Women's bodies are still regulated by legislation that seeks to restrict their access to abortion — a right that was given to them decades ago by the Supreme Court. Some politicians even want to stop women from easily accessing birth control, which is part of a woman's basic healthcare needs.
- Female genital mutilation is still a thing that happens regularly in 28 countries in Africa and in a few countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America.
- The list goes on and on and includes many small cultural things that we don't even think about — calling someone a pussy or a bitch, requiring women to wear white on their wedding day as a sign of their purity, calling women "sluts" or other names for having an active sex life while partaking in a prolific online pornography industry.
Tell Him The Movement Doesn't Seek To Take Away Rights
This is a super easy one to solve. Giving women access to abortions and birth control freely just doesn't affect men's rights. Changing language surrounding rape doesn't affect men negatively. Sure, maybe you can't make rape jokes anymore or say "I got raped by that test," but in those cases the only thing people are losing is a really poor joke.
Some men might say, "Women shouldn't be paid more if they don't have the same skills!" and I would totally agree. But there are too many instances right now where women do have the same skills — or better ones — and they're still getting paid less. What men might actually have to give up is power, the power to control situations or legislation that concern women. When encountering men that have this fear, it will be hard to reason with them. If someone is afraid to give up power when it won't hurt them and will simply help make them equal to someone else, then you've got a real debacle.
Show Him That Feminism Wants To Help Men, Too
This is one of my favorite things about feminism, the fact that it seeks to take down structures that have accidentally been created by the patriarchy. For example, I mentioned above how only 3 percent of men have been the victims of attempted or successful sexual assault. Unfortunately, our ideas of gender norms, which have persisted because of structures surrounding male superiority, have made it so that men can never look "weak." Men can't show their emotions or else they're "pussies;" they can't like certain movies or wear certain colors for fear of being called "gay;" they can't admit defeat or ask for help for fear of being called a pushover or incompetent.
Scholars have said that all of these things probably significantly affect men's sexual assault reporting. Men are probably less likely to report their assaults because they fear being made fun of for being overpowered by an assailant. (This idea makes my blood boil.)
Feminism wants to do away with limiting gender norms. These include ideas on how women should dress or wear makeup, whether they should be good cooks or be emotional. For men, these ideas include hyper-masculinity, the idea that men can't be weak, emotional or physical, and that men must "wear the pants" in a relationship by being in control or always paying for meals. Or (I mentioned this above) buying an engagement ring. Feminism says "Screw those norms!" so that people can be who they want to be.
Feminism is about allowing people to identify in whatever way they want, and then allowing them to be treated equally regardless of that identification.