I’ve made a decision: I’m going to stop prefacing my conversations about feminism with “It’s not just women – feminism helps men too!” This is not because that statement is untrue. Feminism fights (or should fight) for the equality of all genders; this includes criticising and challenging toxic masculinity, fighting for the recognition and rights of trans* and non-binary people and generally trying to deconstruct damaging ideas about gender which hurt every member of our society. But I’m done with adding hundreds of caveats to the statement “I am a feminist.” Because, you know what, even if feminism was only about furthering the rights and equalities of women and did fuck all to help men, THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH.
The ‘He For She’ campaign launched by Emma Watson has undoubtedly been one of the most successful mainstream feminist campaigns of recent years. It attempts to involve men in feminism, in part by highlighting the ways in which patriarchy is damaging to men and also the importance of men becoming involved in the fight for equality. This is all brilliant. However, something about the whole campaign rubbed me up the wrong way and I think it was the idea that feminism becomes more valuable or more legitimate when men are involved.
As I’ve written before I think that, because of predisposal to take men more seriously than women, they are afforded privilege in female-dominated spaces. So when Benedict Cumberbatch wears a T-shirt with the words ‘ This is what a feminist looks like’ on it, he is hailed as a hero but when women speak out against patriarchy they are met with online abuse.
Often, doing what is right means doing things that don’t actually benefit you. Sometimes, doing what is right means doing things that actually affect you negatively or make you less likely to enjoy yourself. Tough! Deal with it! Maybe being educated about sexual consent and treating your partner with respect means you won’t get to have sex when you want to. Tough! Suck it up! Maybe fighting for equal employment legislation means your less likely to get a job, because it went to a woman or person of colour who was better qualified than you. Deal with it! If you are coming from a place of privilege, what is right and what is fair is probably not going to benefit you directly. But you still have to fight for it.