I used to believe that the word “feminism” did not sound right. Is it not counterproductive to have manifestations and speeches about how differently are women treated? Men do not do that, why should women differentiate themselves doing so? But men don’t do that because they don’t need that.
A feminst, by definition, is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of both sexes. Men can and should be feminists too. Addressing the topic with male friends, you get responses such as “I do not understand the feminist movement, we already achieved equality, what about men’s rights?”. The reality is that we still associate “feminist” with negative connotations, with hatred, when it should not be so. And, yes we achieved conditions that are better for women compared to 100 years ago, but there are still things to work on.
Usually men are not aware of a “gender problem”, because most of what makes the the problem is considered normal. Sadly, it is the result of how the society has been functioning. But that is the heritage of a period when power and success were based on physical strength. We developed from that now.
Still, girls are generally educated to think that they have to look nice to please the opposite gender, that they have to be careful all the time, selecting who to hang out with (“you never know what could happen”) and always dress “appropriately” to the occasion. We are used to treat men as if they were savages, with uncontrollable desires that is better not to awaken. You do not want to put yourself into an “uncomfortable situation”, you know. We teach girls too much about what can happen, rather than teaching boys what is not acceptable to do.
On the other hand, boys are taught to be masculine, strong. It is common that they feel they have to pay at thir first date, only because they are boys. This means that from very early on, we associate, even unconsciously, masculinity with money, therefore with power. Why do boys have to pay when neither them or their girls are economically independent yet? Boys should not have to demonstrate anything by paying.
And then there is the issue of femininity. Why do we, as women, always have to stress out about what should we wear for a certain occasion? It seems whatever we will put on will define who we are. For a job interview, if we look too feminine is not right, since we might not be taken seriously. But we cannot wear a suit either, that is too extreme. And if ending up wearing a skirt, it has to be not too long, not too short. You don’t want to send the wrong message.
Men are not savages, in the same way women are not. We do not prohibit men to wear shirts at the workplace because they look too sexy.
What we should start to do as women is to point out to men what is wrong to do or say. And men should make the effort to understand that, yes there is still a problem with gender and that it is on both women and men to change that. Together. It is not uncommon to hear appreciative comments about a woman’s look and adding that she is “also intelligent” – how rare! Or “really, are you an engineer? You do not look like one” . Boys do not even think that it is wrong to say that, they usually mean it as a compliment. Is by pointing out those little annoying things that we can both work to reach equality.
By treating each other as equal from the beginning, trying to avoid those stereotypes that can be hurtful, by stopping to judge. Our generation has the power to change all those conceptions that have been taken for granted for too long.
Both women and men will have the same rights to reach higher positions,to become who they desire, based on merit, not on the gender they belong to.
Click here to watch a poweful TedTalk about this by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This article has been inspired by the TedTalk