Why is feminism important for men too?

Feminism might go down as one of the most misused, mistrusted, flammable, looked down upon or held up (in equal measures) as a beacon ideology. This is especially true for the past two decades of the 21st century. It’s no surprise than to find this term to be routinely misconstrued or misquoted.

Recently a movie once again stirred the hornet’s nest. Feminism and women empowerment are in the eye of the storm ever since the movie promotions went on full swing. Strangely, nowhere did the movie or the lead actors claimed this to be an attempt meant to empower the fairer sex. Rather it was blatantly promoted as a commercial film based on the celebration of female bonding. The ever beautiful theme of friendship, just this time friendship was flourishing among four upper-class girls. The story has female artists in leading roles, as it revolves around women’s bond of friendship. Surprisingly, the girls in the movie weren’t reduced to playing minions to the lead actor. All four held their own, the way it should be among friends. The problem is that once the story unfolded on the screen for the almost two hours of running time it offended almost everyone. Girls swearing, drinking, smoking, experimenting with sex and best of all standing by each other is so much more offending to our society than the women who are routinely portrayed as victims of abuse, harassed, assaulted, oogled, raped or simply used as props on our screens. This might be just another instance giving us a view of deep-rooted misogyny rampant in our society.

Men in patriarchy are brought up with a deep-rooted threat from women-kind. They are socially programmed to control women completely to establish their masculinity. This irrational fear creates a society which is constricting for both the genders. Problems of women are much discussed and often quoted, leaving out the men who are also at the receiving end of patriarchy. Even though they may feel otherwise.

Primarily, patriarchy with its norms of expected behaviour has reduced men to their strong and always-in-control image. They find themselves incapable of expressing basic emotions towards their loved ones. ‘Boys don’t cry’, ‘crying like a girl’ are few of the phrases commonly used to reinforce behaviour which stigmatises men from embracing their weaknesses, hurt, despair, heartbreaks and at the same time associate these human values with weakness and hence women. Be strong always, is the refrain they grow up with; even if they are crumbling and falling apart inside. They are not trained to seek help emotionally, which often creates an emotional upheaval and usually prevents them from forming a deep emotional connection.

Besides it is not uncommon to label men who do not fit into the structures of manhood or embrace the feminine aspects of their personality as ‘sissy’, ‘gay’ & ‘unmanly’. Consequently, men model themselves around the ‘manly man’ ideals as dictated by patriarchy. Women, on the other hand, are painted as mysterious beings, who should be loved and not understood in the proper scheme of manhood. Fairer sex, as they are often addressed, is feather-brained, dependent and dainty thus needs to be protected and controlled at all times. Patriarchy thereby takes away the humanness by creating a deep void of disconnect between any relationship which exists among men and women, across the spectrum.

With evolving relations and family structures, men who are a single parent to their kids are often looked at with sympathy. After all men in patriarchy are not caregivers or nurtures they are providers. Besides a man in the role of the sensitive husband is often a butt of jokes among his colleagues and pitied by older relatives for not controlling wife and worse getting controlled by her instead. The examples are rampant and the society at large still respect a father, husband, brother and son who keep their womenfolk in control irrespective of its consequences which oppress women and dehumanises men.

Simply put men and women form two equal halves of the human population. When one half of the population is brought up with the ideas of power, pride and ownership over the other half it skews and disturbs the balance of the world. This is where feminism as an ideology can come to rescue. It aids men to come out of their illusion of control and power. They have to learn to embrace their own self in order to accept the other. Also, balance among the two halves of the population is maintained when each is allowed to express itself uninhabited and accepts the other as an equal.