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Why Dudes Should Support Feminists

Stephen Hay



“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” PAT ROBERTSON – 1992 Republican National Convention.
This is an article for all the guys who don’t want to be as stupid as Pat Robertson and want to have a look at what Feminism really is. Feminism is a liberation movement. Much like how the people of Vietnam struggle against US imperialism to free their country and have control over there own lives, that’s just what feminists are doing against sexism. So just like the ordinary Americans that had no say on their Government’s foreign policy, but felt they would be complicit if they didn’t stand up and fight, its time (in fact long overdue) for guys to take a look at the sexist world we live in and do something.
There are a lot of guys out there who seem to be afraid of women’s liberation, and make fun of feminism. There’s something they need to understand… Despite the common myth that feminist battles have all been won, women are not equal in society. Just look at the gender pay gap, which has been increasing, not decreasing. In 2004 the average woman earned 86% of what the average man earned, last year that had gone down 4% to 82%. This shows us two things:
1) That the Labour party’s right wing economic policies hurt working women.
2) Women are not equal.
Rape is still happening, and women are still the overwhelming majority of the victims. This alone is a big stumbling block when it comes to claiming gender equity. In New Zealand, like most countries, it is very hard to know how many women are raped, and the department of justice’s estimate that only 12% of rapes are reported. Our sexist society blames women for getting raped. Judge Stephen Erber recently had this to say about a 12 year old girl who was raped by a 35-year-old man: “This girl was partly the author of her own misfortune. She managed to get herself drunk.” Why would any woman go to the police to report a rape when there are so many police officers who have used their power to rape women? (I believe Louise Nicholas).
Lets not forget gender roles (although I wish we could). Society constructs and pushes certain roles for each gender, and it’s a powerful way to maintain domination and increase exploitation. Women are supposed to be dainty, motherly caretakers who should act passively and submissively. You don’t need to look too deeply into the media and adverting to see the traditional gender roles being pushed.
Most of the people who criticise feminism don’t have the faintest clue what it says. Even if you’re not convinced by my arguments, that’s no excuse for spouting ignorant nonsense like Pat Robertson did. Go read a book and find out what feminism actually is, there is no shortage of feminists expressing the wide array of different opinions available within feminism. I would suggest starting with something like, Introducing Feminism or Bell Hook’s Feminism Is For Everybody. My personal favourite book on this topic is Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis. But please guys, go read at least one book by someone who is pro-women’s liberation, before you start acting like you know what you are talking about.
To return to the Vietnam War metaphor, one of the ways organisers of the USA anti-war movement were able to mobilise so many people, was by making the point that the system that drove the war overseas also oppressed the majority of people at home.
What I’m saying is that men should support feminism, not just to bring about equity for women (although that is reason enough), but also because our sexist system restricts men’s lives too.
The pay gap means bosses can use women, who they pay less, to keep wages down for everyone. So men and women need to unite in the workplace and fight for equity and better wages. That is a power that bosses are scared of.
We live in a culture that condones rape, and that means that men and women cannot interact freely and equally. Every woman you know is supposed to treat you like a potential rapist. Your female friends, relatives, acquaintances, even a woman you were in a relationship are all supposed to be afraid of you. That fear may give you a false sort of power, but I know I’d prefer to live in a world where women are free. Gender roles can restrict men’s lives as well as women’s. Men are supposed to be aggressive, dominant, take charge, act tough and never show emotion. While I think: fuck that, I will be whatever I want to be, it’s not always easy. It can be very alienating for men and women if they don’t fit into their allotted roles.
While men may get some small benefit from the sexist society we live in, it is only a fraction of what the people at the top of the system get out of it and an even smaller fraction of what we all could have, if we get rid of that system.