The side of feminism that no one talks about, and thus the Achilles heel of feminism, is the benefits feminism brings to men. The clichéd phrase “I need feminism” may be highly irritating, but it applies to men just as much as women.
So what are these benefits?
Well, there are many many benefits, but I’ll explain the 3 I feel have the most weight.
The first is that the empowerment of women is the only known cure for poverty. A state is always better off for having given women control over their reproductive systems. Do it in a third world country and the floor will visibly rise. Although it may be harder to see in a first world country, you can directly correlate the overall well-being of any nation with the amount of power it gives to women.
The second is that truly equal rights means truly equal rights- men will benefit from this too. I’ll draw upon the example of paternity leave; many people would ask (many hypocritical feminists and non-feminists, I’m sure) “Why should men be granted leave? The woman did all the work.” However, in my mind (the mind of a feminist, I should add) even if you wanted to argue that a woman has more rights to leave because she birthed the child, paternity leave offers the man a chance to help and get involved with childcare. If equal rights means equal rights, this is what feminism is offering; a real chance to be a better father. To me, that is something that every Father worth the name should want.
The third is a less aggressive and testosterone orientated society. The benefits of this speak for themselves, but I will say that it’s not until you’ve had the unnerving experience of walking past a group who made you afraid, been caught up in a fight or had a moron challenge you to see if you’re “getting rude”, that you realise how desperately these changes need to happen.
A common counter to the third point is that “Men are natural leaders”, but to me, that entirely negates the concept of equal rights, democracy, and gives off the awful impression that you’ve never seen a female leader. I’m sorry; I have nothing but contempt for a feminist who argues that they want their partner to thump anyone who comes too close to them. If you want a goddamn security guard, hire one. It’s long past time that big, aggressive men stopped allowing themselves to be used in this way. And moreover, long past time that we stopped pretending that our problems can be solved in this way.
So why is nobody talking about them?
A feminist will often tell you that society is the sole cause, but I think I can speak in the name of sensible feminism when I say that Radical Feminism must really accept some of the blame too.
When I say radical feminism, I’m not just including the usual extremists; there are some views which are held by feminists that I think are damaging, particularly when it comes to aggressive feminism. The kind of feminism that isolates women, rather than getting everyone behind the cause.
So often you will hear it said “But we (feminists) need to make a strong stand.” I would agree with this, but I would say that strength doesn’t mean just being aggressive- it means being loving, persuasive and intelligent. And I cannot emphasize that enough. For what is the point of feminism if it does not help everyone?
Well, on what basis do I make this claim? Well, I’m sorry to say, a number of things that I have seen on Facebook pages like “fkh8.com” that have pissed me off. And I think I have a right to be annoyed about this.
To give you two examples; I saw a post a while back that was a poster image with a woman being followed by the shadow of a man (he was clasping a beer bottle, just to add to the stereotype) and the message was along the lines of “Are you being a stalker?” The other example I would draw upon is a post which says “What men most fear about going to prison is what women fear about walking down the sidewalk.”
If you don’t have any objections to these, I struggle to see how you could claim to be a feminist.
How can you make such an absolutist claim as to know that all women fear walking down a road? How dare you put all men on a level with these creeps? How dare you imply that men wouldn’t know not to rape unless they had a poster reminding them not to? I won’t have that. It’s insulting.
While it is true that men are the abusers more often than not, the victims are just as likely to be men or women. According to US government statistics, 1 in 33 men experience an attempted rape at some point in their lifetime- that’s one person for the average class size in a school. Here in the UK, roughly more than 72,000 men are raped per year. Anyone who knows rape statistics will know that the number of women who experience rape is much higher. However, what fewer people take into account is how many men are willing to take their offences to court- no more than 6000 per year. Six thousand out of seventy two thousand. Regardless of your political persuasion, that should bother you. The problems being addressed by feminism are not just a female problem.
The attitude towards male rape victims speaks volumes about our society, although I am aware it’s not the only issue that can be addressed through feminism. I would argue that not enough is being done to help rape victims generally, but I really do want to take on the issue that everyone seems to avoid; male rape victims are at a very great risk and are faced with a largely unsympathetic society.
How can I make this claim? Well firstly, opinions have been allowed to form that men cannot be sexually abused- which is flat out untrue. Again, this says a lot to me. However, I found the statistics to be even more shocking- there are less than 20 services in the UK that are willing to help male victims of sexual abuse. Even those that do will turn away any men with an alcohol or drug problem. Again, if you know your statistics, you’ll know that rape and sexual abuse victims are more vulnerable to alcohol and drug addictions. The other services all turn men away- equal rights will mean equal everything and the feminist movement, in its proper form, will fight for this.
This is a good demonstration of one way in which feminism is needed by men, but there is another truth which affects men; we bottle up our emotions.
What do I mean by this? Well, women talk to each other and let emotions out. Men bottle up their emotions until it consumes them. Everyone around them is none the wiser.
I know this is true because I’ve done it, and I’m sure there are not many men who haven’t. ONS findings from 2012 discovered that male suicide rates were found to be 3 ½ times more than female suicide rates. I would argue that the bottling up of emotions is a big issue. A better society would be one where feminism has helped us get to the point where we’re not worried about how “masculine” (and emotionless) we appear.
And if you needed evidence that the vulnerability of men is not being taken seriously, our beloved Prime Minister has provided it. Ignoring the cuts made to suicide aid services, David Cameron cut the state funding for the number one charity service for male rape victims (SurvivorsUK) to zero. They have had all of their state funds (which provide for the majority of services) evaporated in the last month. I urge you to go and donate to their cause. I’d also urge you to read Ben Alexander’s story in The Independent on his experience as a sexual abuse victim.
It is therefore that I say that the issues that feminism focuses on are just as profound for men as they are for women. How about instead of ending violence against women, we move to end violence against everyone? How about we start tackling abuse in all it’s forms, instead of the most common? It is time that the feminist movement, all of us, began to push these ideas forward and make our case. It is my sincere belief that those who are hardest to love are those who need it the most. As for who that advice is aimed at, I’ll just keep you guessing. Bye now…