Guest column: Feminism not gender specific

Andrew Roger

I’m a man in my early twenties, and I’m very familiar with both the fervent passion that drives people to identify as feminists and also the denial that plagues most men to denounce the term.

Feminism is, in my opinion, the largest movement in the world still misunderstood by half of the people it involves. This confusion warrants a definition of the term: Feminism is, and I’ll defer to the apt description put forth by actress Emma Watson, now the Women’s Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations, “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

 As one can plainly see, at no place in the definition of feminism is there included the license to hate men, the necessity to shame them or a statement of exclusivity barring them from participation. Feminism is intrinsically inclusive of both men and women. I don’t mean to oversimplify the current climate surrounding the issue of feminism, nor do I mean to deflate the ongoing and complex philosophical debate that it inhabits; I refuse to paint this as a black-and-white issue. It is easy for a lazy feminist to fall into error and generalize men as anti-women’s rights in the same fashion that the misunderstanding of feminism generalizes feminists as man-hating.

Feminism, for all its practical applications, may be no more useful than in its effect on the minds of young girls and boys, for this is the time when precedents are set in young minds. Without feminist ideals, little girls will continue to feel shame for the way they look, having grown up in an environment that urges them to dress for the consumption of others.

According to an article by the University of Washington, 40 percent of girls ages 9 and 10 have taken steps to lose weight. In the same article, it is stated that 53 percent of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and that number rises to 78 percent in 17-year-old girls.

It is clear that this sense of self-hate is driven by an impossible standard of beauty put forth by advertising, movies and other forms of popular entertainment. Without feminist ideals, young boys who are not drawn to the typical “macho” attributes that currently make up society’s caricaturized idea of “male” feel uncomfortable in their own skin, feel pressured to dress and behave in certain ways, and are generally less happy with who they are.

According to an article published in the Huffington Post, a study found that young men who consider themselves to be too small “improve” themselves by getting bigger and stronger and were more likely to abuse drugs, alcohol and muscle-enhancing supplements. Conversely, young men who were seeking to be skinnier were more likely to develop depression. This is why we all need feminism.

Ideally, we will see feminism into our common culture both in theory and practice. Amid the recent reports and controversy domestic abuse among NFL players, a report by PBS Frontline surfaced on the Huffington Post, which found that 76 out of 79 of deceased NFL players suffered from a degenerative brain disease. The article stated, “96.2 percent of former NFL players in the study suffered from the disease.” Perhaps this can be a turning point in the way we discuss the relative values of upholding outdated and unrealistic gender roles and stereotypes as opposed to embracing a more feminized, inclusive, equal and unified society.

I, for one, am committed to subverting the current over-masculine culture I was raised in and want to create a better one. I’m proud to call myself a feminist because, by identifying as such I ascribe qualities to myself that I am proud to uphold and represent. Lack of gender equality has far-reaching and constantly expanding social impediments, from basic reproductive rights to marriage equality. All of equality is rooted in feminism. Equality of all people is an ideal we can all agree is worth striving for. Let’s begin with this conversation.

Andrew Roger is a junior communications studies major. Contact him at [email protected].