Deep breath… I can almost feel the backlash now, as I sit down to write this. That said, I would be a total hypocrite if I didn’t walk my talk and share my truth (or at least my perspective) on an issue that, in all honesty, I hadn’t really given much thought. It’s not that this issue isn’t important, it’s that our culture tends to put it on a shelf and ignore it, allowing other issues to take priority. And, given humanity’s history of oppression and human rights abuse across the board it’s both understandable and alarming at the same time. The issue of which I speak is the Men’s Rights Movement. Go ahead, I’ll wait until you’re done laughing.
Seriously though… a lot of focus is placed on the rights of other groups… children, animals, the environment, indigenous peoples, and especially Women’s Rights. In many of these cases the emphasis is rightly deserved. For instance, women and minorities have had a lot to overcome; our ancestors had to work twice as hard, and many lived in fear. History has brought cause to lift other groups’ needs high above the rest but, at what expense to other groups of people?
If we’re all about equal rights, does it make sense to continue this pattern of separating us out into individual little boxes? Have some of these movements unintentionally pitted us against one another?
Once this thought train started rolling I could make it stop. Questions that shocked me started popping into my head. As a woman and someone who considered themselves a feminist some of these questions felt blasphemous. Questions like:
Have we, meaning women, unintentionally slowed our own progress by taking an automatic defensive stance when entering most, if not all, encounters with men?
Have we unintentionally set self-imposed limitations by accepting the subtle, and not-so-subtle, undertones of “woman as victim?” Think about all the messages we send to women and girls about how hard we have to fight to get to the top, how hard it is for women to make it in the world, how hard it is to punch through the glass ceiling… what if it’s really not as hard as it used to be but we’ve grown so comfortable with these messages that we’ve absorbed them into our psyches and now subconsciously set ourselves up to fail?
What if we’ve programmed ourselves to see every rejection as being based on our gender? (I didn’t get the job, some guy did, it must be because I’m a woman!) How can we not feel “less than” if we’re constantly telling ourselves that the world sees us that way and that we have to do everything twice as big, fast, and better than the men?
As I said before, women do still face some inequalities in society, especially in certain countries around the world; but, we have come a very long way and it might do us some good to shift our focus onto our triumphs now and again rather than how much further we think we need to go.
To some up this section… It is impossible to deny that women have struggled, and continue to struggle in many areas. It is also impossible to deny that we have made giant strides and have reclaimed much of the power we lost in the centuries prior. I’m not saying that we’ve achieved complete success but, compared to our ancestors, we’ve got it pretty good (at least in some parts of the world).
Ok, so you might wonder what prompted me to write about this issue anyway. I’m glad you asked. I just finished watching the documentary, The Red Pill: A Feminist’s Journey Into The Men’s Rights Movement, by filmmaker Cassie Jaye (she’s awesome by the way… check out her other work.)
I really had no idea what to expect other than the sneaking suspicion that I would be at least a little uncomfortable (and maybe a lot defensive). Having received my Bachelor’s in Psychology with a Minor in Women’s Studies I’m pretty familiar with Feminism and Women’s Issues. I grew up hearing stories of how my grandmothers, and even my own mother, had to go without many of the rights and privileges women take for granted today.
I have felt myself get defensive when a man called a woman a bitch for simply sharing her opinion (even though I felt nothing when a woman would call a man an asshole for doing the same) or when a man would challenge feminism (how dare he… doesn’t he know how hard we’ve had to fight).
Even my own husband told me he didn’t like the idea of me calling myself a feminist, even though he was raised by women and has a deep respect for women and their rights. He said that feminism is just another tool for separatists to keep people divided. We got into some pretty heated discussions about this issue. I tried to get him to understand that calling myself a feminist wasn’t the same as separating myself from men or men’s issues. After watching this film, I had to rethink my stance. This really surprised me. There was something to this whole separatist theory after all.
The Red Pill introduced me to a completely new perspective… that of men.
My initial hypothesis about this film was that it would be full of woman-haters or men scrambling to make excuses for why women are treated the way they are in society. The movie even starts off with that kind of bait but by the end it circles back around and clarifies the “whys” behind what was said. Now, as with any group, you have your radicals so I’m by no means defending the jerks on either side of the argument (that includes men and women.)
The message of hating women is not the message I received at all. In fact, the film is full of men who want women to be equal in society. In fact, what the men in this film stress the most is that we should be looking at equality for all people and not singling out any particular group. They paint an interesting picture of life as a man in society. It opened my eyes and made me rethink how I viewed certain issues and men in general. I got to peek behind the curtain of the “other team.”
While I don’t agree on all the points made by the men in this film they do bring up some legitimate concerns and issues. They talk about paternity fraud, where men are tricked into fathering a child that is not his own. They talk about the nearly equal number of men who are victims of domestic violence and the lack of services available to them. They speak about the unspoken, and spoken, roles that society has assigned to men and women and how men are not supposed to be vulnerable or “weak.” They speak about the statistics of sexual abuse against men and boys. The list goes on.
I was left feeling a bit ashamed of myself for leaving my “brothers” out of the equation.
Men are people too and they suffer a great deal in many ways. I found myself wanting to replace my ‘Girl Power’ shirt with a ‘People Power’ shirt. I switched my stance from Feminist to Humanist: Equal rights for ALL people. The most important point to all of this, in my opinion, is that we learn to really listen to one another and not just wait for our turn to speak. We need to allow each side to express its thoughts and opinions. We don’t need to agree with everything they say but we can at least listen and be open to learning new perspectives on these issues. Doing so might make the world a better place for us all.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve.