Editor’s Note: This month, that is September 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Boys, Men and Masculinities, where we invite various articles to highlight the different experiences of masculinity that manifest themselves in our everyday lives and have either challenged, subverted or even perpetuated traditional forms of ‘manliness’. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
Posted by Maria Khanam
Men can be feminists!
“Feminism is for everybody.”
Feminist politics is inclusive; it is a fusion of cooperation with criticism and a vision to fight against inequality, gender roles, patriarchy, sexism, sexual oppression, and discrimination. Feminist advocacy is not a crime, sin, or a ‘Kufr,’—a term that implies disbelief or denial.
Before I start, let me tell you something which blew me away. I have witnessed the negative prejudices and stereotypes against feminism around me. My male friends, family members, and relatives believed that my fight against social injustices within the feminist discourse and politics is useless and good for nothing. Being a member of the feminist community, hence, it’s my responsibility to reveal the curtains and show them the reality.
What have I noticed, you ask?
Most of them are ignorant, blunt in their perspective, and they either see the world through the hegemonic self-centered vision or through their wish to remain as religious as they are. Islam has already given all the rights not only to women, but also to other human beings.
But the question that still lingers—have they practically been implemented?
One More Step Towards Gender Equality!
The extending feminist solidarity of men in feminist politics must not limit the power or decision-making of people from relatively marginalised gender groups, but should aid in enriching the definition of feminism. Men’s involvement in feminist politics doesn’t imply to overrule women or gender minorities. The integrated vision transforms the power hierarchy into creative power to achieve the end goals of equality. On the other hand, feminists too must realise that pushing men from the gender and feminist debate could harm the foundations of the feminist movement. A man within the space of feminism should not be perceived as a ‘stigma’, ‘delusion’, or assumed as ‘effiminate’/’feminine’, both by the society as well as feminists.
The integration of feminist politics can provide a cure to end the patriarchal virus in our social structures. Exclusion of the participation of men from feminist politics could often imply power over others rather than power with others. Feminism is not a call for unwanted chaos and it shouldn’t either be a complicated process for men to get involved in, but a free universal solidarity to find justice in the socio-cultural, economic, and political affairs.
Contrastingly, for feminist men advocating equality, isn’t enough for them to become feminists. They might aspire gender equality, but there is no end of social inequalities. It demands a commitment to rage a war against patriarchy, sexism, and oppression along other lines of oppression like caste, sexuality, conflict etc. It shouldn’t contradict with their personal and political actions and their feminist identity should not become a mere mask to cover their internalised gender stereotypes, prejudices, and stigmas.
How Can You Say That Feminism Is Suitable For Men?
Firstly, look around yourself. The construction of masculinity and gender roles in military training, force cadets, and even playgrounds, where rigidity is the marker to initiate toughness, violence, etc., can be claustrophobic for men. Many boys, or men too want to get rid of these gender roles. And, feminism is the platform to free them from the strict codes bestowed on them in every sphere of life.
Secondly, in cases of rape and intimate partner violence, the fight for justice seeks men’s involvement too where they can actively take a stand against such forms of violence against women.
Thirdly, many men are not interested in games since their childhood, but are forced to accept indulgence which implies fulfilling societal norms. If they fail to do so, they are labeled either as ‘gay’ or ‘mentally unfit’. They also lack positive experiences from family, school, religion, and so on. Therefore, sex-role stereotyping is dangerous for all genders. Men are also oppressed and disadvantaged under patriarchy, and are expected to behave in a particular way, either deliberately or accidentally. Feminism offers the best path in understanding these ongoing issues and attempts at providing possible solutions.
What Are The Hurdles To Convince Men Into Feminist Politics?
There are several myths against feminism, which act as hurdles to propagate feminist politics. We must counter these notions to build up an inclusive solidarity to achieve gender equality. One of the biggest myth is to assume that both men and women are already equal, or that feminism is only about women’s solidarity against men. But feminism is neither “male-bashing,” nor misandry. If you believe in equal rights of all genders, and deny to call yourself a ‘feminist’ or be an active part of the movement, you are implying that you reject social and personal change.
At this juncture, I am reminded of Bell hooks, “Feminism is for everybody,” a passionate politics published in 2000. Inspiration for the present and future generation, it has a vision to “imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility.”
Increasingly, many male voices are becoming a part of the feminist movement and extending their solidarities. An example of such inclusive stand was made by the Women & Men as Allies Initiative. It is a partnership between Feminist.com and Michael Kimmel and the creator for the study of men and masculinities. It explores both men’s and women’s experiences in pursuit of gender equality.
In the Indian context, Raj Nayak, Mahavir Singh Phogat, Suresh Raina, MS. Dhoni, Anand Mahindra, Sushant Singh, etc. advocated women’s rights and worked for gender equality. Farhan Akhtar an eminent filmmaker started a campaign called MARD (Men against Rape and discrimination) in 2013, a supporter of women’s empowerment and later the first male UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for Southeast Asia.
However, feminist consciousness needs to make an effort to even incorporate the common masses and debunk elitism to make a much more inclusive future feminist politics, in order to create a different culture that can break all the ills like sexism, discrimination, and violence against women.
Maria Khanam is pursuing MA Gender Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia and completed graduation in English Honours. Her journey from self-exploration to feminist consciousness is filled with vibrant colors of experiences. She has a keen interest in Islam, Women, and Gender issues, which always creates a curiosity to develop consciousness among the youth of this generation. Her concern is to eliminate patriarchy, sexism, and traditional gender roles. “Break the silences, voiceless to voice, and to be heard” is her motto to bring justice. You can find her on her blog and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: MIC