May 10, 2021 by Cláudia
A few years ago, I wrote a pretty controversial blog post entitled “Feminism should be about men too”, in which I explored some of the ways men are also harmed by gender roles and the patriarchal frame of thought. In it, I argued that men’s experiences were neglected and that feminism was too centred on women.
And even though I introduced some valuable notions, such as the shaming of men for showing human emotions or the rigidity of masculity, some of the points that I made were extremely harmful. I was coming from a place of untapped privilege, furthering harmful misconceptions of what feminism is and lumping the plurality of the women’s experience into one very white-centric, middle-class perspective. I made some ridiculous statements, touching on respectability politics and tone policing.
So this is my corrigendum.
Gender roles are harmful for everyone but the patriarchy is not equally harmful to men as it is to women (and it’s also not equally harmful to all women). An intersectional feminist approach should have these nuances in mind when addressing the different levels in which people with different struggles are affected by the patriarchy and misogyny.
It’s frequent that people (especially men) are hesitant to use the word feminism because they feel like its not including everybody in the conversation. And in a way, they are right. Historically, women’s voices have been silenced and excluded thus feminist circles aim to create space for their experiences and demands. In this sense, if you’re a man and the idea of the existence of female-centered spaces bothers you, I invite you to sit in that discomfort and consider that most spaces have excluded (and still exclude) women’s voices and experiences.
But, like I said, gender roles harm everybody and feminist movements have actually brought to the table some of the ways that men would also benefit from a more equal society. For example, the legal definition of rape didn’t use to include the possibility of men being raped or maternity rights didn’t use to include the possibility of fathers also taking leave when having a child.
As the movement progresses and small victories are achieved, the challenges faced by men can and should be brought to the conversation, such as the difficulty in showing emotional vulnerability, being victims of bodyshaming and the inability to explore femininity and leave the confined box of masculinity. Deconstructing the patriarchy is also deconstructing the concept of masculinity and its harmful effects on men and young boys.
Where I got it wrong was when I established a false symmetry between the challenges faced by women and the challenges faced by men because I overlooked the fact that, realistically speaking, most men are not (currently) feminists or allies to the feminist movement, continue to uphold misogynistic beliefs and enact the patriarchy (while hugely benefiting from it). That doesn’t mean that their challenges are not valid or worth addressing, but it does mean that generally speaking being a man still brings unequivolcal social and political advantages in detriment of women.
If a movement that does not centre male experiences (particularly of white cis men) causes discomfort, that only tells me that either there is no understandment of the extent to which the patriarchy harms women or that there is no real commitment to gender equality.