A video surfaced on Facebook this week of men on the street being asked if they could define feminism. Many of them had compelling answers that were positive and correct in more ways than one. However when asked if they considered themselves to be feminists they all responded with a resounding no. Why are some men afraid to label themselves as feminists if they describe it as a positive thing? Throughout history the concept of feminism has had interesting connotations. In the twenties we thought about the right to vote and the sixties were synonymous with bra burning, but they were always looked at as extreme. With women like Taylor Swift and Emma Watson coming forward this year proudly wearing the feminist label, feminism seems to be shedding its extreme label. More young girls are stepping out and looking into what it means to be a true feminist. However as stated in Emma Watson’s “He for She” speech at the United Nations, men need to be included in the conversation in order for true equality to be obtained.
So why is it that some men fear labeling themselves as feminists? Do they fear backlash from other males? Realistically, we know that stereotypes box men into categories with unrealistic expectations of “manhood” and masculinity. However that should not change your willingness to discuss important things that affect the women in your life. Men need to become allies for women and join the conversation in a real way. If these men on the street defined feminism as something positive and helpful then it truly does not make sense why they couldn’t consider themselves feminists. Feminism is a belief but it is not a label that only women can wear. We often forget that ensuring a group of people within our society has equal rights does not take away from our own. If anything, fighting for the rights of others strengthens the ownership of our own rights and almost always guarantees that they will be protected. Asking others to sit at your table does not mean you have to give up your seat.
In order for equality to become real and tangible men need to be willing participants in the discussion about feminism and gender roles. Progress cannot be made if they are too scared to label themselves as feminists. Men fearing feminism only leads to more unrealistic and untrue definitions of feminism being spewed to those who are curious. It turns away potential allies and creates conversations that are considered to be “taboo”. Feminism should not be included in the list of topics NOT to mention during thanksgiving dinner. Women of the world are not asking you to quit your higher paying job and give it to us, we’re not asking you to give us all the promotions, and we’re not asking you to resign from your position as the president of your fraternity, we’re simply asking you to consider the progress you dismantle when you don’t want to be labeled a feminist, and we want you to ask yourself why.