Talking to men about feminism is often an uphill battle from the start. To begin with, you face defensiveness: “well, maybe some guys are like that, but I’M NOT!” And then you have outright rejection: “Feminists just hate men and I’m not down with that.” And sometimes it’s just paternalistic nonsense: “It’s okay with me that you think that.” “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
But for me, the most frustrating is outright apathy. Recently I was talking to a very dear friend of mine about rape culture, patriarchy, and why sometimes his off-color humor crosses lines that make me uncomfortable. And when I suggested that he educate himself further, he responded with, “Well, I’m just not that interested in that stuff.”
Since we are both law students, I tried to compare that statement to wanting to go to law school and be a lawyer, but not being interested in Constitutional law. Living in American society and not being interested in feminism? In patriarchy? In rape culture? You’ve just eliminated roughly 50% of the population from your interests.
And I wanted to articulate why I wanted to change that statement and reverse it: because I, as a feminist, want him to be happy.
Let me repeat that: Feminists want men to be happy.
Feminists do not want your house. We don’t hate men. We don’t want to run you completely out of politics, academia, higher education, the workforce, advertising, society, the media, athletics. We don’t want you to lose your house or car in a divorce, lose custody of your kids, pay alimony for the rest of your life. We don’t want you to constantly be bombarded by conflicting messages from the media about masculinity, maleness, and your role in the world. We don’t want you to bumble about, constantly being confused by Females whose emotions you don’t understand, whose motives you don’t share, and whose viewpoints you just can’t identify with. We don’t want you to be threatened, confused, frustrated, unappreciated, or ignored.
I want you to learn about feminism because whether you like it or not, you have women in your life. I want you to be able to work with them equally, on good footing, and achieve your best in a healthy, competitive workforce, to help this crazy mixed-up country get out of this sinkhole and back on track. I want you to find the love of your life and build a healthy relationship with her and maybe marry her, maybe not, but at least know that you contribute equally to the other’s happiness. I want you to have as little or as much sex as you want without feeling shame, guilt, or victory, only the same satisfaction that your consensual partner shared.
I want you to have daughters that grow up in a world that teaches them they CAN be all they want to be, that the sky isn’t even a limit anymore, that they are safe and loved and secure and happy because of who they are - not because of some tiny piece of skin that supposedly separates pure, good women from unwanted trash. I want those girls to have choices about their bodies, their clothing, their sexual partners. I want you to be able to fight with them and for them to fight back because no matter what, you love them and don’t feel like you have to hit them, break them, or dominate them just to prove a point. I want you to hear, “When I grow up, I’m going to be the President” and not have to make excuses for this stupid world that focuses more on a candidate’s wrinkles and windblown hair than her years of service for her country, that still thinks that a woman’s highest qualification is that of “good-looking.” They’re going to fall in love with boys (or girls!) and get their hearts broken and mended and you’re going to watch it and know that it’s okay because they are YOUR daughters and you love them.
I want you to have sons that learn what power really means, that it doesn’t mean hurting or domination or burying your feelings. I want them to be able to cry if they want to, to be angry or sad or depressed, to embrace the world and all its contradictions. I want them to not be bullied at school. I want them wearing cargo shorts, skinny jeans, dresses, playing football, chess, and clarinet, and not worrying that any of those things is any less “manly” than the other. I want them to form solid relationships with their mother, if she’s around, and with you. I want them to grow up respecting women of all shapes and sizes, ages and races, for more than their physical attributes. I want them to recognize privilege and power and violence and to use wisdom and love and empathy to redefine this world. I want you to parent your children to the best of your ability, with all of your heart, no matter what.
Feminists want you to be able to live a happy, fulfilled life. They want EVERYBODY to have a shot at that happy, fulfilled life, regardless of gender, age, looks, orientation, race, ethnicity religion geography money height weight fitness or any of those other categories that we use to separate ourselves. Feminists have been and still are fighting the patriarchy that makes that impossible and threatening. Understanding that is the key to understanding the women in your life so that they can understand you, and then you can have conversations and disagreements and relationships and sex and disagreements and compromises that make up the whole of an actualized human experience.
And so you SHOULD be interested in feminism because feminism is interested in you.