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Equality is masculine

| Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I’ve never really identified as a feminist until I began taking two classes: “Marriage and the Family” and “Economics of the Family.” After reading a couple of research papers, I come to the conclusion: women have it rough. The list of woes that women face is lengthy: the objectification of women, the expectations of women being the primary parent, discrimination in the workforce and many more.

Since beginning this term, I’ve become more cognizant of what people write and say. It bothers me. Men casually talk about their previous nights’ hook-ups in the dining halls. They ask each other about whom they’ve been with and whether or not the girl was good-looking. There was a men’s dorm that distributed shirts that read, “A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.” Parties are frequently described and promoted by saying there will be a lot of women available, “single and ready to mingle.” This is a culture we need to change.

There are people who tell us to look at how well we are doing compared to the society that existed decades before us. That’s like getting a 65 on an exam and telling your parents that the lowest grade was in the single digits. We should be striving for that A. We should be comparing ourselves to a society where men and women are equals and make that our end goal.

As men, we can help achieve this balance by being more wary of what we say, more conscious of our actions and more willing to speak up for our female peers. There’s an on-campus group called Notre Dames, and they discuss issues that affect women whether here at Notre Dame or around the world. I implore you to sit in on their meetings and hear what they have to say.

A lot of guys aren’t identifying with feminism because they fear it encroaches on their masculinity or manliness. I’m sure women aren’t asking men to give up their rights or to bow down at their feet. They are asking for more fair treatment and equality that they deserve. By not being a feminist, you are not helping anyone. In fact, the silence perpetuates the problem since you are inadvertently condoning sexist, misogynistic behaviors. The world needs more male feminists to speak up.

In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx message, she says feminism is striving for “the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” Believing in equality is the masculine thing to do. Fighting for equality is the epitome of being a gentleman.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Wei Lin

Wei Lin currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. He served as the Photo Editor on the 2014-2015 Editorial Board. He is a senior Accountancy, Economics, and Chinese triple major living in Knott Hall. He hails from the borough of Queens in New York City.

Contact Wei
  • Male Feminist

    “A lot of guys aren’t identifying with feminism because they fear it encroaches on their masculinity or manliness.” I think it’s more that radically anti-male feminists are the face of the movement because of the echo-chamber effect of the community and the nature of more sensationalist feminist articles to ascend to prominence. A feminist front that demands equal rights and equal treatment without vitriol or anger (though both are well deserved at this point) will gain far more support because it won’t alienate, just integrate. Good article though, just my thoughts.

  • Troy

    “A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.”

    We here at Steds like to shower with our dads.

  • Anonymous

    Girls talk about last nights hook ups, too, bud. Girls talk about wanting to goto a party to meet cute guys. What world are you living in?

    • Liv

      I hear what you’re saying and agree. The examples given, as well as the call to action of “being more wary of what we say” could apply to anyone of any gender. I don’t think this discredits his overall point, though. Equality is equality. People shouldn’t objectify people. Feminism’s cool.

    • Isabel

      A world in which guys will get high fives when boasting about their previous night hook-ups, while girls will be called whores and be subject to slut shaming when doing the same thing.

      • dreamjoehill

        That double standard is ridiculous, but it is certainly not a problem of immense proportions. Also, it is a double standard that is fading, and has been fading for a couple of decades.

        • Anonymous

          So fading for the couple of decades after the emergence of feminism…

          • dreamjoehill

            Yes. there is no doubt that this is one of the outcomes of the feminist movement, with help from the counterculture of the 1960’s, sexual liberation, Kinsey & the pill.
            It’s my humble opinion that articles like this belittle the very real struggles of the materially and physically oppressed, by implying that boys bragging about their sexual prowess is one of the more odious aspects of the current social order.
            Other than that, my POV on this article is aptly summarized by Gertrude Stein’s famous bit of pith
            “There is no there there”

          • Michelle

            If I may jump in, I would argue that many feminists are working to ameliorate the very real struggles of the materially and physically oppressed, in this country and all over the world. I would argue that some of “the more odious aspects of the current social order” include things such as rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, etc–issues that a majority of feminists (such as myself) work to eradicate. I absolutely think that feminism needs to intersectional in realizing that people can be oppressed in different and multiple ways, taking into account the struggles of the materially and physically oppressed.

            That said, I don’t think that these previous issues should erase the fact that the objectification of women is a important issue as well. It may not be as serious, but that doesn’t mean that we should just accept it. We can work towards getting rid of objectification AND these other issues.

      • Grumpy Old Man

        That’s an old worn out script…Sophomoric relative to mature men and women. How about joining the adult conversation.

  • John

    Thanks for your insights, Wei. There were many good points in this article. However, I feel that I need to correct an inaccuracy. While some guys may be worried that identifying as feminist may lead to loss of some of their masculinity, most men, at least at a respectable institution like Notre Dame, probably are simply afraid of associating with this most current definition of feminism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-wave_feminism#Prominent_issues . Essentially, feminism has become an excuse to justify unchaste clothing (or, sometimes, lack of necessary clothing), foul language, unrestricted sex, contraception, abortion, and even occasionally pornography and prostitution (this final point is obvious from this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism#Pornography ). Clearly this is not what you intend, but unfortunately it is what men often hear. This is why I say, “I support true equality between men and women, but I am not a feminist.”

    • I’m Sorry But…

      Your wikipedia articles about feminism show how deeply you actually understand contemporary feminism… Feminism is not an excuse to justify those things you list, but rather feminism provides a framework in which we can examine our own roles (even women’s) in perpetuating harmful values towards women and examining society’s impact on our beliefs and actions. Feminism has a complex relationship with all of those things, and you will find upon further research that every feminist has differing opinions on each of them (we’re not a monolithic group). Feminism is about empowering women of all walks of life to freely make their own choices about their bodies, lifestyles, careers, etc. and not judging when those choices may not fit squarely with our own. I highly recommend you read the essay “We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or watch her Tedx talk. Feminism is not so easily placed into the box that you would like to place it in.

    • Katie

      Which culture/religion do you belong to? Can you specify? When you speak of “unchaste” clothing do you realize that, to some, it can mean anything less than a full burqa? Being so, I think your definition of women’s “unchaste clothing” belongs to you and you alone. If you support the enforcement of your idea of “chaste” clothing for women, then you do not support true equality between men and women. And for the love of God, anyone that does not support contraception for women (if they choose it) does not support equality. How would you like to spend your whole life unwillingly being pregnant and raising more many children than you can handle? Stop thinking of mid-to-upper class Catholic women who have the resources to willfully birth and raise multiple healthy children. That can be a cute and happy family, right? Of course! Instead, think of dire circumstances where the women don’t have choices in their family planning, society, or life. Contraception isn’t even a women’s issue at this point – it’s a humanitarian issue.

    • John

      I apologize if I have been unclear with my original comment. First, and perhaps most importantly, I do not mean to define what feminism actually is, but what it is perceived to be. Second, I also know that most people on campus will take a different view from mine with at least one of the issues I listed in my original comment (for reference I stand with the Catholic bishops on every issue I mentioned), but I hope that people can still agree with the point that there is a negative perception of the term that goes beyond sounding feminine. Third, I know that there is still an inequality problem, and I strive not to be a part of it. To, “I’m Sorry But…,” I watched the TEDx talk, and I believe this third point makes me a feminist by Ms. Adichie’s definition. Unfortunately, those who abuse the term (i.e. those about whom my original comment speaks) are quite loud and can scare others who disagree with them into not identifying as feminism.

      • Katie

        Man haters aren’t feminists. Feminism is equality for men and women. Only a shallow man is afraid of equality because he hears a man hater calling herself a feminist. Also, “taking a different view” on most the issues you listed is the difference between being in favor of equality or not in favor of equality. I encourage you to look at these issues objectively, without a religious context, and understand which can realistically promote the health and empowerment of women (and therefore the health of society, because women raise and are part of society, right?). Remember that Catholic Bishops denounced the distribution of condoms in Africa during the AIDS crisis – in short, they denounced saving lives. They’re people (very respectable, holy, and well-intentioned), but they are not God. Finally, if our interpretations and perceptions of the word of God don’t support women, then we don’t support women – simple as that. We can’t be feminists just because we say we want equality, we have to actually strive for equality and support that which promotes equality.

  • Gordon

    A year ago, I came to realization that of my three closest female friends, spread across three different college campuses, one had been sexual assaulted, and the other two had been raped. And when I listened to the stories of how those campuses responded I began to realize how something is simply cultural broken in this country when it comes to gender relations.

    Since then, I have proudly worn the male feminist label, and am happy to hear someone else fighting for that cause. Kudos Wei.

  • Damian

    It’s extremely elitist to first declare that women are victims — and then talk about “objectification” as evidence, in a world where there ARE people who suffer real abuse, real crimes committed against them, and so forth.

    You really need to have spent your whole life living a privileged, protected, and coddled existence to actually think those are real problems you have a right to bellyache over and whine about like you are some princess who is a victim because servants didn’t snap to attention fast enough after you gave them orders.

    In a world where there is war, poverty, famine, disease, etc.

    • Gordon

      So by your logic, I can walk up to you and punch you in the face. And if you try to complain or retaliate, I can say to you, “In some parts of the world, people are being tortured right now. You have no right to whine or complain.”

      Your argument is ridiculous. It is in fact possible to take a stance on multiple issues in the world, big and small. Yet for some reason when women’s right is discussed someone always says there are more important issues in the world. There are literally a thousand trivial issues that we debate in politics. And yet this is the ONLY one for which there is a systematic response about there being “bigger” problems. So you don’t really have a leg to stand on here.

      Side note: Do you not think that things like rape and sexual assault are real world problems? Because while you might think you can somehow lock up all perpetrators of such crimes, most people wold argue that unless you deal with the root causes (like say “objectification”) this societal problem won’t be going away anytime soon.

      • Damian

        The root causes are not “objectification” the root causes are corruption and crony capitalism. Meanwhile to pretend it is all about “objectification” and similar minor trivial annoyances of the kind only coddled rich women would face is precisely what disenfranchises real victims of actual real life awful experiences. When real life victims come forward and explain about ACTUAL abuse, nobody listens to them because they are tired of hearing the trivial little complaints rich women are flooding the blogosphere with, you know, Princess and the Pea types.

  • Sam I Am

    A few years ago, I watched a TED talk that changed my life, Tony Porter: A call to men.

    To disagree with a previous comment, I believe that while certain instances of double standards are unimportant, some of them are symptoms of an underlying cause that is.

    The idea that we live in a society where genders act and are treated differently is not a new one. However, the call to action in not just how we (men) treat women, but in how we treat ourselves and others of the same gender was eye-opening for me. There are genetic differences between the sexes and some forms of equality aren’t equitable (imagine, for example, if men and women would race each other at olympic level short-distance racing — males generally have more muscle fiber and therefore typically have better sprinting capacity). But where equality is possible, such as in salaries and promotions in the modern workplace, I believe we should strive for it.

    Despite what feminism stands for, the connotations it receives are many. Perhaps in part due to this I choose to identify myself with something that is clearer to me: an equalist who strives for racial, social, and gender equality where it is possible.

    I think that the conversation of what feminism is should not be as important, and neither should the conversation of who is and who isn’t a feminist. The power behind feminism stems behind how it strives for equality; perhaps we should concentrate on this above all definitions.

    I think Wei’s third paragraph is a really good point not just for gender equality, but for all movements that strive to better lives. We should not only appreciate our successes so far, but also take a step further and realize we can shape an even better future today.

  • Hippiefreak

    You say a lot of guys aren’t identifying with feminism because they fear it encroaches on their masculinity or manliness.

    Stop calling it feminism. Strip that female label off of the so-called equality it is purported to be and watch how feminists respond. You will learn what the guys already know.

  • Rachel Meyer

    Thank you for your article. I guess the questions I would like you to ask yourself are, “What do I mean by social equality? Economic equality?” Do you mean that there should be no difference in the social roles of men and women whatsoever? Does that mean that women will have the traditionally male role, along with men, that men will have the female role, or that both will be somewhere in the middle? As a woman, I don’t think that men and women can or should have the exact same social role. For instance, in the family, the smallest and most important society: Am I to stop nursing my baby because my husband can’t? It’s certainly a social activity. Is it wrong to have a bride and a groom at a wedding? Economically – is the goal to get men and women to behave exactly the same way, even if they don’t want to? To get them to want to be the same?