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Why men should be feminists and why feminism is important to men

Joel Cosgrove

Opinion

21/05/2007





”Women have a right to work wherever they want – as long as they have dinner ready when you get home.”
John Wayne Feminism. It’s got a bad rap in most quarters. Why? Well apart from pissing off John Wayne, it’s a social-justice movement that challenges the system, pure and simple. You challenge the system and the system comes down hard on you.
But feminism, equality of the sexes? What does that mean and is it appropriate for men? Equality is like being allowed into a building (take whatever metaphor you want from that). Equity however, is more about being able to get into the building, by walking, wheelchair, crawling, what ever way you need to be able to get in.
Different people have different requirements; that’s life, and it’s the same with feminism.Feminism is a broad umbrella of different groups and issues. One of the difficult aspects of being a feminist is immediately and publicly being identified as having views on ‘controversial’ issues such as rape, domestic violence, abortion and sexism. It’s quite hard to have to stand up and make a line in the sand that will ostracise people you know. Dialogue is so important.It’s hard for guys to sit back and say, “That night I forced my girlfriend to have sex with me when she didn’t want to, that makes me a rapist.” It’s something I’m guilty of. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful. But that is one of the stands that feminists must make, it’s about equity, fairness and respect. None of us are perfect, but that’s not what it’s about. A good place to start is to admit your mistakes and be brave enough to deal with them. Reality is a harsh thing, but so is oppression.
Gender roles are a very obvious part of the lives of men and women, they’re used in a way to exploit working class men and women. Men are cast as the breadwinners and we are judged by our capacity to provide for our families (because we’re all in heterosexual nuclear family units).
Average incomes have dropped 20 per cent in the last 20 years, which only makes the jobs harder and longer for all involved. This social pressure to work and provide has a big effect on men’s mental health. A UK study on men’s mental health found that lack of job security was a risk factor [for depression and suicide].
This is a catch-22 as men are judged by their role as breadwinner and yet that role is being constantly threatened by redundancy and unemployment. The system that oppresses women also oppresses men.Feminism is about changing the system for everyone. It is the recognition that exploitation exists so as to work to bring an end to it. Feminism is not about women having preferential treatment over men, it deals with equity for all – it is about living in a society where everyone has access to the building and can get in too.