Let’s face it; ‘feminism’ is a limited label. A true feminist isn’t a woman who burns her bra and vehemently hates men, as the name suggests. A feminist is a man or woman who wants men and women to be equal. That’s it.
In some respects, women have fought to become equal with their male peers and won. However, in others, the scales have tipped the other way, leaving men wrong footed. I can already hear the cries of ‘RUBBISH!’ now, but hear me out for a second or two.
This all came into focus for me recently at work. I’m an Academic Support worker at a local university, and recently I was in an Early Years Care class that was almost dominantly female, apart from two lone males in the back of the class. When they were discussing gender that day, one of the lads spoke up. ‘When I did my last practice they all looked at me as if I were mad’ he said. ‘They couldn’t understand why a bloke was there!’
He’s not the only one. Any male who wants to get involved in a ‘caring’ profession, or in any aspect of the beauty industry, is instantly thought of as effeminate. This male nurse has defended why he chose the profession, but why should he? This is the flip side of women taking on ‘manly’ roles, such as fire-fighters, mechanics and engineers. However, we tend to celebrate women in ‘male’ roles, while we deride men in ‘female’ roles.
This isn’t the only area where men are at a disadvantage. During custody battles, it is usually assumed women are the best carers for the couple’s children. Is that really the case? According to Fathers4Justice, it isn’t. They have made a huge impact in the media, launching stunts in order to raise awareness of the plight of the father denied access to his children.
Speaking of fathers, it’s worth examining their depiction in today’s media. Back in the early days on TV and cinema, men were always the heads of the household, where women had to obey them. However, in the last two or three decades we’ve seen the arrival of the ‘dumb dad’. Think Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. They are dads who, deep down, love their families, but are also selfish, stubborn, ignorant, and just basically infantile. They are usually backed up by the loving wife character, someone who is much smarter than their husband, but who doesn’t receive the credit for keeping the family together. We can see this as a swing in the opposite direction of the ‘Father Knows Best’ character, but possibly it has swung way too far.
David Benatar, in his book The Second Sexism, argues that this is indeed the case. He says that if women want true equality, they ought to be prepared to be equally considered for less savoury things such as military conscription, and to give over equal rights in custody hearings.
I would argue that Benatar does have a point. It’s all too easy, as a ‘modern woman’, to do down a man just because of his gender. After all, who hasn’t heard a friend utter the phrase, ‘Ugh, men, they’re all bastards’? Imagine if that were swapped around. As a woman, would you stand for it? Of course not!
Aoirthoir An Broc, a masculinist quoted on the BBC News site, says that ‘All men are worthy of respect.’ I would like to open that out to ‘everyone is worthy of respect’. In an ideal world, everyone would be equal regardless of their gender. We’ve made steps in the right direction, but things have been knocked slightly out of balance by the changes that have been made. If we can right this, we’re one step closer to a truly equal world.