“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” Emma Watson redefined my personal opinion of feminism during her UN speech to launch the HeForShe campaign. Not only did she challenge the stereotype that all feminists burn bras at the weekends, she also proposed the idea that feminism is, in fact, open to men.
The onus has often fallen upon feminism for wanting to drive the Y chromosome to extinction, by a tribe of women screaming ‘Annie get your gun’ (bet Darwin didn’t see that natural pressure coming) but this imagery won’t help to bring about the change we need.
So I pose this question to you: should we raise boys to be feminist?
How about if we replace the word feminist with humane, does it change the answer? – should it?
Feminism personally is an outdated title. We need to rationalise what it means to truly understand what we’re encouraging. By true definition, it means to see both genders as human beings with equal rights. The understanding of the need for men and women to work in harmony. There’s no Ying without Yang. So let’s set aside the word feminism for a moment and focus on it’s essence.
At the birth of the feminist movement inequalities were overt. Now we are dealing with much more covert pressures of the sexes, which easily go unnoticed. Body image insecurities seem to be rife in men, women and children, something traditionally associated with women. In focusing on strengthening our women we cannot forgot the need for our men to be strengthened too.
Understanding gender equality requires some common sense. You can walk into any primary school and the children will tell you we are not equal. Women have babies and men don’t (they’ll probably have a stab at giving a reason, accompanied with fits of giggles), that’s a biological fact that. What we can address differently is how we distribute maternity and paternity leave. Why should men jump on the corporate merry-go-round two weeks after they’ve been bestowed a child? Are they not just as entitled to time to adjust? Their role is no less important.
It’s down to the next generation to consolidate what we’re trying to change. So as much as we need to teach our girls to be go-getters and how to fit a plug, we also to need to teach little boys to be gentlemen, but that it’s absolutely fine to cry. Because then and only then, will they truly see a world where they can be themselves unbound by social conformation.
I’ll admit I’m a tad old fashioned, chivalry is golden. I like a fella to open doors for a lady or pull out her chair. But that’s more from the angle of respect rather than incompetence. They care enough to go out of their way to do something nice for you. But telling a woman she can’t climb a tree, well that’s a completely different kettle of fish.
So I ask you again: should we raise boys to be feminist?
The answer, in my humble opinion, should always be yes – from a gender equality perspective. The knife cuts both ways. With a society of strong men and women the world would be a kinder place.
My sons will learn to vacuum the house and fix cars. If they want to dance, I’ll be at every performance. If they want to play rugby, I’ll be their biggest fan. Regardless of their life choices they will have an environment where they feel safe, loved and free to express their feelings and accept others.
I wouldn’t want them to fear or feel intimidated by the word ‘feminist’ but rather encourage them to be a feminist ally and challenge preconceived notions. Of course this is a choice they will, or will not, make later in life. But if they do, its one that doesn’t make them any less of a man; perhaps, a better well-rounded man.
So if it didn’t reach you the first time I’m passing on the feminist invitation:
“Men, I would like to give this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society.”
Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that there is a need to raise good people that respect one another and see potential in the opposite gender; that women are equally investable as men regardless of their want to have a family; rather than the notion that a woman’s idea of pampering herself is to pop down to the shops and indulge in a box of tampax – oh the luxury.