Finding a feminist may be a hard task these days.
Women and men of all ages and backgrounds can hardly speak the word unless it is to put down the movement and the people involved in it. Feminists are tagged as hating just about everyone and everything — but most of all, feminists hate men.
The well-known myth that feminists hate men is, sadly, well-known not because of its status as a ridiculous lie, but because it is thought of as fact. We are given a bad name because we are accused of facilitating some grand take-over of male power to then redistribute it among ourselves.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Feminists love men. We happily accept men into the movement to better the lives of women worldwide because this select male group believes that in doing so, we are furthering the lives of everyone.
Men find their way into feminist issues such as sexual assault prevention, pay equity, protecting reproductive rights and by promoting LGBT issues. If you look hard enough, you are sure to find at least one brave male soul working tirelessly in every corner of the women’s movement.
The tragic point is that while many of today’s men understand the need for equality between genders, many men refuse to associate themselves with feminism.
Is this because the movement has so greatly ostracized them? Have we not offered men an adequate invitation?
If feminists have not, it may be because the plight to mobilize the great body of oppressed American women is enough for one movement to bear. The invitation for male involvement is always standing and always open, but the feminist movement is here to empower women to get involved. Possibly we did not think it was our responsibility to empower men too.
Men who involve themselves take great leaps to ensure justice. They are ridiculed for their work, and often their masculinity is questioned as soon as the “F” word is uttered. When women face this type of prejudice, they are able to find strength in numbers within the movement, but often men seeking equity have to go it alone.
Many male icons of pop culture shed their bravado and took public stands for women’s rights. Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain were both outspoken pro-choice activists, and both of their respective groups, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, performed numerous benefit concerts for Rock for Choice, a program developed by the members of L7 and the Feminist Majority.
The only benefit concert that Phish has ever performed was to raise money for reproductive rights, and Rusted Root always has a Planned Parenthood table at their shows.
Is it that these rock stars felt that their masculinity was so undisputed that they could go out on a limb for women? Or was it that they knew what the right thing to do was in a dire time of need?
Women’s issues are often left behind because of the very fact that they are women’s issues. But instead of calling them that, we should begin to call them human issues because that is what they truly are. Whether or not men like to admit it, birth control and domestic violence and sexual assault and a slew of other feminist issues affect them too, and their help is necessary to conquer and protect these issues within society.
There are those men who work on political campaigns with female candidates and coach girls’ sports teams and still refuse the feminist title. That is fine. The movement understands, and we thank you. Being a feminist is not synonymous with calling yourself one. These undercover male feminists and the outspoken ones are valued and integral to the movement itself.
Men enable women to understand issues from a very different and very important perspective. They also create an atmosphere in all the feminist-organization offices that is a little closer to the real world. The male feminist thinkers and activists remind the women who are so totally dedicated to the cause that there will eventually be the change in society that we so zealously pursue.
Feminists are not looking to take over the world; we are simply looking to change it to a place where women and men have social, political and economic equality.
Dedication to creating that environment does not equate to a lifestyle change by becoming an ardent feminist activist; rather, it requires openness to honest discussion and the exchange of diverse opinions and ideas.
Be careful, boys — with these ingredients and the goal of equality stated as the finish line, I hate to say it, but you will be a feminist sooner than you had ever expected.
Maybe you already are.
Lauren Besser ([email protected]) is a junior majoring political science and English. She is the Vice President of Wisconsin NOW.