Feminism affects men too. Some people might argue that that statement is true because feminism takes power away from men: thus the movement has retroactive consequences for men. Some might try to disprove that statement all together. But what if I told you that men could benefit just as much (and in some cases more) than females by gaining equal rights for the sexes? Would you believe me?
Men are taught to be hard in both American stereotypes and global culture. They must divorce themselves from their fragility. Social stigmas say men should want to go see action movies rather dramas. They are to prefer blood and gore war movies over a sappy love stories. Over a lifetime of being hard, men can grow a cold, authoritative personality that has no moral qualms against disrespecting women.
Author and Yale graduate Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls for change. In a Ted Talk last year, she told her story of discrimination in her homeland of Nigeria as well as her experiences in America and how anti-feminists not only affected her life but the lives of her male counter parts. Adichie shares her life in hopes that one day we will all be feminists. I agree with her message whole-heartly. If we want to better the world, the ideals of feminism should be shared by all.
The story that affected me the most was the one Adichie tells is of her struggles in her primary school days when she was told she could not be the class monitor. She describes the class monitor as a student who got to “write down the names of noise-makers” and carried “a cane.” For nine year olds, this is a tremendous amount of power. In order to receive this high honor, one had to get the highest grade on the test. Adichie worked hard and won the right to the title. But her teacher decided to give it to the student who had the second highest scores because “the monitor had to be a boy.”
While this type of discrimination would make any proper feminist upset for the little girl, not many might realize what effects this might have on the boy. Adichie describes the boy chosen as “sweet gentle soul who had no interest in patrolling the class with a cane.” I would imagine this experience would be one of many where this young man had to learn to toughen up and take charge. This experience also taught him that even though he was second-best, he is always better than his female-counterparts.
This is a horrible tragedy. I know in my personal experience, I have watched my brother go through the same process. When he was younger, my mom described him as a little angel. He was sweet and docile and, in many cases, better behaved than me. He was a little boy who got sad in movies where animals died and cried when our family dog had to be put to sleep. Fast-forward to today, my brother is still very much a nice guy, but he constantly makes fun of me for watching films that don’t have explosions every two seconds. I haven’t seen him cry in years and he’s become addicted to war-based video games like “Call of Duty” (games he used to hate when he was just starting out in middle school) and loves to watch plot-less action films like The Expendables . Society has put its hooks in him and molded a completely different person. It makes me sad some days when I walk by his room and I hear him on his headset calling his gaming bros “bitch” and other derogatory terms against women.
Society as a whole needs to stop pressuring young men to conform to this vicious mold. Adichie makes the point that we not only need raise our daughters differently but our sons as well. She says “Masculinity becomes this hard small cage and we put boys inside the cage”, and by taking away boys right to fear, they become vulnerable; they become a “hard man.”
This speech opened my eyes. There are two sides to feminism. Throughout my blog, I have really only focused on how the word and movement effect women. Now I realize that this fight is for men too, and not as a service to women or a show of respect, but to liberate themselves s well. One of the best points Adichie makes is that humankind makes culture, not the other way around. If we want to let go off the restrictions of our current society, we must come together and push for change. If a man wants to see a movie that doesn’t have blood, bombs, and boobs for a change, let’s (as a society) not emasculate him (both theoretically and physically).