“Battle of the sexes” must become a thing of the past
I am a cisgender man. Any conversation that I have about gender equality feels like it requires
that disclaimer, because I do not understand what it is like to be a woman, and some women believe that precludes me from having a place in the conversation. However, I respectfully disagree.
I believe that men absolutely have a place in feminism because gender equality benefits everyone, not only women. That being said, I hope that women will respect my opinions on the topic with the proviso that I always keep my gender in mind whenever I enter this conversation. I also add that I use the male and female genders as absolutes in this article, but only do so as shorthand.
In complete honesty, I consider myself a feminist. Some men as well as some women may scoff at this, but I am not afraid to speak my mind on the topic, and I believe that my thoughts and opinions matter.
As a man, I do not know what it is like to be a woman. Men: you do not know what it is like to be a woman because you are not one. I have a mother, a sister, aunts, cousins and close friends that are women. I have listened to statistics and facts about rape and sexual assault. Teachers teach about what it is and what it was like to be a woman throughout history, and lecturers lecture on a spectrum of topics related to womanhood. I still do not know because I have never lived as a woman.
However, just because I cannot understand what it is like to be a woman does not mean that I do not know that women experience injustice, nor does it mean that it is not my problem or responsibility to do something about it.
In “The World House,” Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, in reference to Cain’s question to God in Genesis 4:9, “We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
It may be more appropriate here to say “my sister’s keeper,” but the same idea still applies. Men have a responsibility to not stand for the injustices inflicted upon women by (primarily) other men, whether those injustices are actions or words.
Without the intention of offending anyone, I must acknowledge the fact that men are also the victims of sexual assault and sexism. It is true that there are men that are raped by women. Each victim is as important as every other victim, regardless of gender, race, religion or nationality.
However, I cannot remember the last time that one of my male friends asked to be walked home because it was dark and they were scared to walk home alone. If there is a single straight, white, wealthy, Christian man that is reading this and believes that he has experienced even a tenth of the amount of discrimination that a woman of color has, then he needs to seriously rethink reality.
Most men live with sexism as a minor inconvenience in their lives, whereas many women suffer assault, sexism and harassment daily. This will not change without the involvement of men because we can change ourselves, and we can try to change our brothers and friends. Even if it only starts with awareness of how women feel about our actions and words, it can open our eyes and change our hearts.
Men not only belong in the fight for true gender equality, they are needed. That is not to say that women need men to save them or that women cannot fight for themselves, rather that achieving true gender equality will require the cooperation of women and men.
An “Us vs. Them” mentality breeds discontent and alienation, which is only harmful to achieving unity and equality. There are men in America who are bound to sexism by what they believe is tradition or by the fear of not getting what they want and they do not understand that an America where there is gender equality is better for everyone.
The endgame of feminism is not that no women will be mothers or that women will have an easier time getting a job or getting into college or that men will never have sex. The endgame is that half the population can get a fair shot at the life that they deserve and want. In America, we are supposed to be free and equal. I say we try to make it that way.