The "F" Word

Feminism is for everybody.

Pauline Tiongson / The Runner
Pauline Tiongson / The Runner

By Aileen Tran

Trigger warning: article discusses sexual assault.

Feminism is not just for women, it is for everyone. However, it is primarily focused on battling against the sexism against women, because they are the oppressed group. Women’s oppression is validated by the fact that it is present in the national, dominant culture and the imbalance in favour to men in terms of political, economic and social power. Whenever I do some feminist reading on the web, there is always someone screaming, “What about men? We are victims too!” This needs to stop.

Women should be able to fight for their rights and equality without having to prove how it will benefit men—even though it does. Feminism is not about putting women on a pedestal higher than everyone else. It is about breaking the patriarchal system, allowing equality for all. Even though (straight) men have always had the upper hand, sexism affects them, too. It affects everyone—gays, lesbians, heterosexuals, transgender and everything in-between. Although everyone is affected by sexism, it roots back to sexism against women. Women are painted as overly emotional, vulnerable, nurturing and the homemaker—everything a man is not supposed to be. So when it comes down to sexism against men, it is with the belittling and devaluing of feminine traits.

Men face sexism because they are constantly pressured to fit the stereotypical traits of “real masculinity.” These traits are often muscular/tall, unemotional, strong, and never showing pain or fear. They are also pressured to be athletic, to prove their manhood by having a lot of sex and to be the protector and provider—basically anything that a stereotypical woman is not. These issues lead to much bigger problems such as fathers not being able to win child custody because they are not considered as nurturing as the mother. Boys who are pressured starting at a young age to not be emotional are growing up to become men who are incapable of crying and are having difficulties developing relationships on an emotional level.

“[The suppression to cry] often leads to the suppression of other emotions — even happy ones, such as love,” says William July, PhD, author of Understanding the Tin Man. We must consider the problems that are produced from telling a young boy that he “throws like a girl” or he should “cry like a girl.” “If it would destroy [a 12 year-old boy] to be called a girl, what are we teaching him about girls?” asks Tony Porter, an activist against violence against women. Even some derogatory insults used against men when they show weakness or fear are connected to female anatomy, such as “pussy.”

These masculinity stereotypes are also rooted in homophobia because gay men are ridiculed for being stereotyped as feminine. Gay men are often looked at as “girly” and “flamboyant” and the concept of a man having an intimate relationship with another man makes those who believe in “true masculinity” to become uncomfortable. Why does it make “manly men” uncomfortable to see all these “unmanly” characteristics in another man? Because all of these traits are too close to the stereotype of a woman and “real men” are not supposed to act like women, right? Because apparently being feminine is an abomination.

Sexism is one of the many reasons why transgender and transsexual people are facing discrimination. Especially those who were born as a male, because nowadays it is way more acceptable for females to wear masculine clothing, but if someone who appears to be a male chooses to wear feminine clothing like dresses, they are ridiculed for it. In fact, crossdressing men and transwomen are way more likely to be murdered and assaulted than transmen and crossdressing women.

Sexism against men causes a major disadvantage for them in the rape culture. Take the recent event of the 28-year-old actor, Shia LaBeouf, revealing himself to Dazed magazine as a traumatized victim of rape. LaBeouf said the incident happened during his art show in February 2014, the perpetrator was a woman who assaulted and stripped him and then proceeded to rape LaBeouf. When the news spread, many people did not believe him. They were finding it hard to believe that a man could be a victim of rape. Some even said “he must’ve liked it.” Men are supposed to love sex all the time, right? Wrong. We need to destroy the idea that men cannot be raped.

Many parts of LaBeouf’s story were criticized. Piers Morgan, a British television personality responded with “Shia LaBeouf is one of the toughest actors in Hollywood. He recently cut his own face with a knife during filming of Fury to make his scars look more realistic. If he’d wanted to stop this complete stranger supposedly ‘raping’ him, all he had to do was physically stop her himself or shout for help. But he didn’t. He just let it all happen.” This is an example of how men are expected to keep up with the “tough guy” persona. This made people wonder why he didn’t fight back, report her right away or why he was even aroused enough to penetrate her to begin with. Like many other rape incidents, it is usually never reported right away because of the embarrassment and the difficulty to accept what happened. Male victims can be raped because they can be physically aroused but emotionally and mentally, they are defiant. Because of sexism in the rape culture, male victims are blamed and are not taken seriously.

So to answer the question “what about men?”—yes, as feminists we are concerned and fighting to end sexism against men, as well as everyone else, too. However, it simply needs to be understood that saying “fighting sexism against women” is actually “fighting sexism against everyone.” While everyone is affected by sexism, it is deeply rooted in women’s oppression. If feminine qualities were looked at as empowering, then they wouldn’t be used as insults. When the day sexism against women is destroyed, the destruction of sexism against everyone else will follow.