Over the past two years, the feminist movement has been the centre of attention for most of the world. With the #MeToo movement sending tremors around the globe, women are now strikingly more vocal to come out and talk about feminist ideas and the problems they have to face because of the simple fact that they weren’t born men.
This movement has finally made it to Pakistan. For a teenager like me, I see it in the form of girls posting Instagram stories about feminism, tweeting their experiences, and talking about it with their peers. So while watching all of this, the question arose. Why is it only girls talking about feminism? What about guys like me? I mean I’m sure most guys at my college don’t have misogynistic beliefs, right? Hence, I decided to conduct a short survey on campus and here’s what I gathered on why most guys may be reluctant to label themselves as feminists.
To start off, I got a wide range of opinions on this matter but since I have three assignments due next week and for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to divide them into three categories: the agreers, disagreers and the inbetweeners who couldn’t decide (yes, there’s a reason why this article took me two weeks to write).
One answer I got from a guy was that he doesn’t support Feminism because he believed women already have equal rights and the issue with the feminist movement is that it demands more than just equal rights.
“It’s more of a man hating movement now then an equal rights movement,” he said.
He tried to the justify the ‘fact’ that women are already getting equal rights by stating that women and children get to go first in queues because they apparently have more privileges and rights than men.
Now, let’s break it down. Unsurprisingly a substantial number of people share the same view: women have enough rights because their comfort is prioritised. They argue that if a feminist woman wants the same rights as men, then she should also share the same responsibilities as men. For example, in an average Pakistani household, it’s always the men who have to go to the ‘local naan (flatbread) store’ and stand in long queues, waiting for their naan while most women aren’t given these tough responsibilities. Those who do have to go to the naan store don’t even have to wait in line! I mean. That’s literally oppression on men, right?
They claim that if a feminist woman was asked to do the same and share the same responsibilities as men, she wouldn’t. Hence, this is why women already get equal rights and in most cases more rights than men.
Other responses I got were a simple – but reluctant – yes. Now, most guys made it clear that they’re all for equal rights but that didn’t mean that they were part of the ‘man-hating’ in Feminism. They also made it clear that even though they would call themselves feminists, they wouldn’t support it enough to publicly go out and do campaigns on it because they simply didn’t feel strongly enough for it. However, this category of people seemed to be more well-read about feminist ideas and women’s issues, so yes, these people do exist but no, they won’t post stories about how enraged they are about women’s issues and patriarchy in society, and I’ll tell you why I think this category doesn’t feel strongly about it towards the conclusion of this article.
Finally, the last opinion I got was the most common and interesting one, and this is where the conclusive part of this article starts. The majority of guys answered that they won’t label themselves as feminists – however they were totally in support for equal rights for women. They repeatedly mentioned that equal rights for both men and women should exist and that misogyny should end. But when asked why they wouldn’t label themselves as feminists (since all of this is literally what the feminist movement is about) they argued that the feminist movement is now, less about equal rights and more about hating the opposite gender – that being men.
However, things still didn’t add up with most guys wanting equality of the sexes yet being reluctant to wear the label of feminism. Hence, I added one more question to my survey which was whether or not men considered it a female-only issue. Towards which I received a reply in the positive. It started making sense then. Most men wanted equality of the sexes but feminism is something most women associate themselves with. Not men.
The reason for this being that, currently the Feminist movement is predominantly female and has a demeaning attitude towards men (man-hating) and here’s why it’s problematic. The female majority followers lead to it being perceived as a female-only movement. So, even though most guys agreed to the idea of equality between the sexes, equal opportunities for women, and were against misogyny and patriarchy, they simply didn’t feel the need to label themselves as feminists because it’s mostly women who call themselves feminist.
To solve this issue, the feminist movement needs to start becoming more inclusive towards men because in order to have a society which accepts equality for all genders, all sides should be part of the debate – not only women. If self-proclaimed feminists continue to bash men on every ‘masculine’ trait they have, then there’s more harm than good to feminism as more men are then drawn away from the feminist movement because their anti-feminist sentiments are validated. Discourse on gender issues should include, both, men and women. Inclusivity is key for progress and success.
Lastly, referring back to the first category of men. The disagreers, to a certain extent, were right in pointing out that women get more privileges. This is something Huffington Posts Writer Sarah Setlaelo mentions in her article about the inconsistencies in the feminist movement (I’ll link it below) too. She talks about the confused and inconsistent approach of feminists towards men. So on one hand, a self-proclaimed feminist would want the man to be a ‘gentleman’ meaning that he would be the emotionally supportive one in the relationship, he’d pay for their dates, he’d physically protect her from harm, etc. However, on the other hand she would challenge him for every other trait deemed she ‘masculine’. If we backtrack to the first example about the guy buying naan or flatbread from the local store and not the woman, we can see that it applies in Pakistan’s context too. If you want total equality then take the same duties as men which includes going to the local store, waiting in line, and buying naan or flatbread. It’s time feminists start developing a consistent approach towards how they want men to act. And it’s time the feminist movement starts becoming more inclusive towards men.
Class of 2020