Gina Davis’ May article in the Odyssey Online was tough to read because it missed an important tenet of feminism. Being a feminist is about believing in the equality of the sexes. Miss Davis wrote, “However, I don’t believe that being a female entitles me to put down men and claim to be the ‘dominant’ gender.” Good, because I don’t either. Feminism isn’t just about helping women; it’s about helping men, too.
Feminism teaches guys like me that failing to meet unfair expectations, such as withstanding a tackle from a 220-pound linebacker, does not make us any less of a man. I’m about 140 pounds, and I am quite confident that I would snap if a 220-pound linebacker came running at me. Feminism teaches me that I don’t need to hold traits associated with hegemonic masculinity in order to be a man.
Ending those assumptions is better for women and for men. If men didn’t feel pressure to assert their physical dominance in order to prove manhood, maybe fewer men would commit violence against women. If men were told it’s okay to cry and seek help when they need it, maybe men in the United States wouldn’t be far more likely to commit suicide than women.
“Men and women are meant to complement one another — not to be equal or to over-power,” Gina wrote. If she really believes that, okay, but it’s important to note that “equal” does not mean the “same.” Feminists believe men and women should have an equal opportunity to achieve success, while acknowledging that men and women are not the “same.”
Also, it’s time that we in the United States check our first-world privilege and acknowledge that being a feminist is about more than opposing the wage gap between men and women. There are other issues out there that need our attention. Child marriage and female genital mutilation are two global examples that come to mind. The United States ranks last in the world for government-supported time off for new parents, and that’s detrimental for mothers, fathers, and their children. We need to close the wage gap, but those who diminish feminism by thinking it is only about this one issue are living in a most unfortunate bubble — a bubble that is causing little girls around the world intense physical harm and, in some cases, death.
To all those who continue to believe feminism is a dirty word, I only ask that you really think about what the true definition of feminism is. Deconstructing the gender stereotypes that negatively impact both men and women is important work for our society. One thing Gina and I do have in common though is that we will both reap the benefits of a feminist society, even if only one of us is willing to fight for it.
This article first appeared in The ‘F’ Word on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.