I’ve been seeing a lot of posts recently along the lines of “feminism helps men too.” That makes me sad.
The one that really got me upset was “The rise of women does not mean the fall of men,” on the “My Favourite F Word is Feminism” page (some comments I made there are actually the root of this article). Because actually, it does; the rise of women means men have to fall from a position of power over others to a position of equality. It doesn’t mean that men will be trampled underfoot, but it means they will no longer be able to trample others.
You see, there is inequality in a patriarchal society that is not just about the missing rights of people who are not men — there is also inequality caused by men standing on the shoulders of others and acting with privileges that no-one has the right to have. This inequality is not the kind where some are forbidden from accessing what they need, but the kind where some are handed what they want while others must bleed for it.
Some of these privileges are relatively small things; like being able to interrupt and talk over women without being challenged, or being able to go into a movie without thinking about whether the characters of their gender will have roles that could be done by a sexy lamp. Some are major things; like being paid more for the same jobs, or believing that people in relationships with you don’t have the right to refuse sex with you. The smaller things are actually what men tend to be most outspoken in defending, and that isn’t going to stop if we keep being told how positive feminism is for men. All these privileges need to be stripped from those who benefit from them in order for equality to be realised, and men need to understand that to really be on board with the whole thing.
We simply cannot tear down structures of oppression, or build up a culture of equality, without some people losing their respective altitude. That is not a bad thing — people should not be able to look down from towers upon others, and we should not all have to build towers to be on their level. Our goal should not be for everyone to have the opportunity to rise above the common people, but for the common people to all already be as high as they can get. If we tell men that they can keep the boxes they stand on, then they will never realise that they need to help us tear down the walls.
The rise of women certainly will benefit all of humanity, including men. Men will no longer be considered inferior caregivers; we will no longer be forced to stunt our emotional expression and growth; we will no longer be trapped in violently enforced concepts of masculinity; we will no longer face so many of the pressures that drive us to violent ends. These are all undeniably wonderful goals that are included within the destruction of the patriarchal systems that enforce gender inequality. These benefits to men are an intrinsic part of feminism, and I am not disputing that. What I am concerned with, is how easy it is to try to get men on side using these things when they kick up a fuss.
I understand that the intention of sharing these facts is to make feminism more palatable to men who might potentially be sympathetic to feminism, but still scared of the changes it will bring. But speaking as a man who has traversed the gulf between Nice Guy and Intersectional Feminist Ally, I think that this is not what men need to hear. Because although the rise of women will help everyone, it will still take away the structures that some men have carved from the bodies of the oppressed in order to reach unacceptable heights. The playing field here is not just uneven; it is mountainous. And you can’t flatten rocky ground just by filling the troughs — you have to squash the peaks, too.
Men need to know that some of the things we currently do and take for granted need to stop. We cannot keep hearing that it is fine to continue as we are. We need to hear that some things we do are not OK, and if we want change, we need to change. We need to stop believing that the creation of a just society will neither affect us, nor require any real sacrifice from us. We need to open our eyes, and listen hard; not hide behind the myth that we can support women without making any changes to our own lives. We need to start kicking ourselves and our peers into shape, or we cannot lay any claim to supporting the cause of equality.
Probably most importantly, we need to hear that it’s OK for feminism to be primarily about women, because there is fuck all wrong with a movement that is actually about women. We need to hear that feminism is not about men; that it is OK for there to be things in the world that are not about men. Every other fucking thing in the world is about us; we do not need feminism to be about us too, and we need to realise that.
The only way we are ever going to actually understand what the war for equality is up against is if we stop trying to make it our war. We absolutely must realise that we are on the wrong side of it by virtue of our birth, and how the world deals with us because of that. We have to acknowledge, accept and begin to rebel against the idea that we are good by default, and only need to step up when the Bad Men rear their heads. We will only really be on the right side of the battle when we see that we are cogs in a machine that is grinding down upon those below us just as we are ground down upon ourselves — and we need to start punching out towards progress, instead of trying to defend our little rut in the machine.
We men can’t keep expecting to get away with street harassment, or to let others get away with it, and expect the world to stop viewing men as violent. We can’t keep expecting women to take on the majority of the emotional and manual labour of managing a family and expect men to stop being seen as inferior caregivers. We can’t seek equality between all genders without actively giving up our privileges, and we need to know that. And yeah, I think that means Feminists need to be honest and up front about it.
Because every time a feminist has to say “feminism will help you too” it tacitly reassures men that we don’t want to take anything away from them, and that we men don’t have to really make any personal changes — which is blatantly untrue. Men don’t need to hear things that give the impression that we can keep our privileges, because that is a lie that breeds only complacency and false allies. We need to hear that we cannot live in heavily defended castles and claim to want equality for all.
This means that feminists need to stop responding to men’s criticisms with how much feminism will benefit men; not because men won’t benefit, but because making feminism about its benefits to men misses the point. It misses the point that men shouldn’t be motivated to support equality because our lives will get better, but because equality for people of all genders is the way to a just society that will be better for everyone. It misses the point that to get to this better society some of the things men think are their rights will need to be destroyed. They don’t need to be discussed, questioned or analysed every time a man has a question about them; that has been done to death. They need to be fucking obliterated.
Yes, this means that there will be conflict. I know a lot of people are afraid of conflict; of not resolving things peacefully. I understand the desire to turn screams of anger into words of diplomacy. But your screams are valid. Your anger is righteous. Your fury is fuel for a fire that needs to be lit in order to burn What Is to the ground, to build What Should Be. Change requires conflict, and to win in a conflict you need teeth.
Yes, it means that we have a fight on our hands. And I know that is scary. I know this is hard. I know that you are tired. I understand that you are fucking exhausted with struggling day after day.
I will never judge you for laying down your arms for a time and saying “not today, today I don’t want to argue.” I am not condemning you for trying to elicit words of comfort from those who might respond with aggression if you speak your mind. I don’t blame you for wanting to turn the minds of those who would be hostile through fear, into minds that might at least make the right sort of noises if they are no longer scared.
I am just asking that if you can manage it, please bare your teeth. Let them see that you are dangerous, and let them see your righteous fury. Let them see that they are standing in the way of justice, and that they need to either join us, or we will destroy their fragile little world that makes no room for us.
Whenever you do stand up and speak up, I want you to know that I will stand up with you and support what you say. I want you to know that I am tired and struggling too; but if you can manage to fight, then so will I. And when you can’t manage it, but I can, then I will echo your words and stand in your place if you want me to. I want you to know that when you fight, you will not be fighting alone. And when you need to rest, I will do my best to help you do so in safety.
I want this because I recognise that feminism isn’t all about protecting me, and I want more men to realise that.
Feminism is a threat to the way the world works now, and we should embrace that threat. Men are scared of that threat because we don’t want to lose our privilege, but we should be on the side that is threatening the status quo because we want a better world; not supporting that status quo and expecting women to magically come up to our level without major personal and social adjustments.
Throughout history the average person has supported The Way Things Are, and we look back at generation after generation in sorrow at how their ethics were so shamefully unfair. If you are not struggling to make a better future, then you are just another average person sitting in the inadequacies of this generation, awaiting the scorn of the next.
So for women to rise, yes, some men must fall; not into the dirt, but into the lines of the rest of the warriors fighting for equality. And we men should be just as eager to tear down the men who need to fall — even if we ourselves need to fall a little way to achieve that. We should be tearing down the patriarchy because it is right. We should not need to be told, like a child who refuses to eat their greens, what rewards we will get for doing the correct thing. We should not need to hear how much our lives will improve to see that women deserve much better treatment than they get.
Women should not have to tell men how much better the world will be if we’re nice to them; women should cry out for equality, and the voices of men should not hesitate to ring out in support of them. Women should not be fighting to convince us that they are friendly and nonthreatening — we should see them preparing for battle and sharpen our swords, lock shields with them, and fight with them to destroy the real threat. Yes, even when that threat is something we do. Even when that threat is something we’ve never thought of as anything other than our right.
Because no-one should be able to ‘just grab them by the pussy,’ for example, and there be any question of getting away with it.
Yes, it’s a click-bait title. I picked it because I wanted people to read this, because I think it’s important. If you got this far, it did it’s job, didn’t it? So thanks for your time, and apologies for abusing the curiosity gap to make you read this .