As a feminist, we talk a lot about women. That’s because women have to deal with a lot of crap from the patriarchy. From the gender pay gap and workplace discrimination to reproductive rights, slut shaming and rape, there’s a lot to work on. However, feminism is about equal rights, and that includes men too. It’s not only women who are oppressed in a patriarchal society. Yes, men enjoy privilege under a society that positively discriminates towards men, but that doesn’t mean they get off lightly.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues that affect men too:
Just as the traditional roles of a woman as a homemaker and mother still affect our society today, so does the traditional role of a man being the breadwinner. I was watching Channel 4’s Hunted (I know) and one of the contestants was a man who was a househusband. He had taken that role because he had a child that needed constant care. He was on Hunted so he could win the prize money and prove that he wasn’t a failure. Let that just sink in. He wanted to prove that he wasn’t a failure. Can you imagine a someone who was a stay-at-home mom doing the same?
This idea that men should be the breadwinner also informs the fact that men only get 2 weeks’ paternity leave in the UK. Paternity leave is really beneficial for both babies and mothers and yet, men are only given a little time to support them.
It really is two sides of the same coin.
While body image for women is pervasive, the men’s equivalent is fast catching up. If you don’t look like the unrealistic, rugged and muscular societal ideal, then sorry guys, it’s just not good enough. You gotta diet better and train harder.
On top of this, the ideal for men isn’t really changing, in contrast to women, where the body positivity movement is gaining lots of traction. There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent for guys. We’re not seeing a plus size male model grace the cover of men’s magazines.
All this and more contribute to a toxic masculinity where men can’t do what makes them happy. Under pressure to look muscular, be violent and misogynistic and not talk about their feelings, men are quite literally killing themselves.
In the UK and worldwide, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50. And out of all the people that commit suicide in Britain, 75% of them are men.
Personally, I think International Men’s Day feeds into intersectional feminism. Now, this is a whole other blog post that I’d like to get into (I’ll link to it here when it’s done), but it’s basically the idea that oppression can be experienced in varying degrees of intensity depending on what kind of section of society you are a part of, i.e. race, class, gender and ability. So this means that a white, able bodied woman does not have the same experience of oppression as a black disabled one might have, because the second woman has to deal with racism and ableism as well as sexism. However, I think this definitely has an application to men, and trans men, too, in that men will experience sexism and oppression from the patriarchy, simply in a different way from the way a woman will.
In short, if you consider yourself a feminist then the issues that men face should be an issue for you too.