It’s easy to see the history of the women’s movement as a struggle of “men vs. women.”
Indeed, if you went back to the early days of our fight for equality, this is almost certainly how it felt. Before women could vote, many men felt genuinely threatened by the idea of a politically active female population. For much of the last century, many people still believed that there were certain jobs that were “not appropriate” for women.
Over time, as we gained the rights that we deserved, our new role in society became normalized. Now, very few people would argue that women deserve to be lower paid than their male counterparts. Even fewer would claim that “the only place for a woman is in the home.”
Unfortunately, in many ways, this is exactly the problem that contemporary feminists have to deal with. Conscious and overt discrimination can, to a certain extent, be dealt with through litigation and social norms. Subconscious discrimination and cultural biases are harder to eliminate.
This is a big problem, because even subconscious discrimination can lead to lower pay, fewer rights, sexual harassment and discrimination.
There is a growing feeling that, in order to make real progress in the 21st century, men need to do more than passively accept the fact that women are equal – they need to analyze, accept and address their own internal biases and work actively to level the playing field. In other words, more men need to become feminists.
As Susan Sarandon said in a recent interview with Daily Life, “For a while the word ‘feminist’ was very strident and people didn’t want to use it… but I think we have to not lose our focus by spending a lot of time debating what word to use. I think everybody is for equality and men should be feminists too.”
I don’t agree with Susan Sarandon on every issue – far from it! But, the more I think about this, the more I believe that she may be right about men getting in touch with their feminist side.
I spoke with my 37-year-old son about this the other day and he agreed. He said that you can’t pick and choose where to apply the concept of equality. It is a principle that makes society better overall.
Like Sarandon, he said that part of the problem is that the word “feminism” has both positive and negative connotations. If feminists really want men to join the movement, they need to rebrand their efforts and clarify their purpose.
I’m really curious what you think about this!
Do you agree with Susan Sarandon that men should be feminists too? Why or why not? Please join the conversation!