Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Post-Feminist Apocalypse #2: Men who like Women

Feminism is often seen as a club for girls. There are many historical reasons for this, particularly feminism’s early goal to elevate women’s social, legal, and political status to a level comparable to men, especially when many men were actively opposed to basic rights for women. However, feminism is increasingly concerned not only with elevating women, but also with eroding the social structures that produce the gender inequalities that adversely affect women and men alike. So… why aren’t more guys interested in feminist issues?

Here I am thinking particularly of men who do not identify with the male sexuality constructed in pop culture. While women’s sexuality is usually portrayed in nauseatingly objectified terms, men’s sexuality doesn’t get a much better treatment. Men are expected to be promiscuous, detached, ambivalent to their partners, and are also expected to objectify women. But what about men who don’t identify with this image of male sexuality? What about men who do not see the women in their lives as idiots or objects?

This article in Esquire
inspired this particular line of questioning. Reading the article as a woman, I find it insulting and degrading. But how might a man feel about this? Would faithful husbands and boyfriends not find this equally offensive? Sexism often takes women as it’s object, but sexism also forces men to play a role that many neither fit nor want. There are many faithful husbands… do they really want the writer of this article representing them, or telling them what they need?

Beyond sexual stereotypes, there are more severe feminist issues that affect men as well as women. For example, when a woman in a developing nation dies in childbirth because she cannot gain access to adequate healthcare in her region, does this not have adverse effects on the life of her husband or partner? Feminist issues often have a strong bearing on the lives of men, but, like women, they are discouraged from taking a stand and identifying themselves as feminists. Indeed, I’ve even heard it claimed that men simply can’t be feminists. I personally don’t see why not. If you respect women and think we deserve equal treatment and consideration in our society and under our laws, then welcome to the club.

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