By John Lee
There is a stereotype wrongfully placed upon the feminist: that all feminists are forever hostile misandrists who spend their days on Tumblr extracting any sign of the male-dominant society in everything that they see, simply as an excuse to have someone to antagonize.
Men who accuse all champions of women’s rights of such radicalism are as ignorant as those atheists who generalize all Christians to be homophobic members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Women have enough reason to be infuriated. There is no denial that women everywhere undergo the societal expectations to be beautiful mothers and nothing more. And with an ideology as systematic as sexism, the sisterhood movement does merit assertive action.
Thus, feminism has become an extremely misunderstood development. Their words and actions, which have the deserved potential to promote a movement so desperately needed at this point in time, are constantly misinterpreted as bigotry.
But perhaps the same could be said for the way feminists view men.
On a global scale, women have it worse—much, much worse. However, one must question if such aggression and hostility will really have a beneficial impact on this divided world. Belligerence and insurrectionary voice will only convince the government; the same cannot be said for outside the courtroom.
Recent years have seen the rise of a new movement: men’s rights. Acting as a counterpart to feminism, men’s rights advocates (MRAs)—also known as masculists—work to bring more attention to the problems suffered by males. Their belief is that women’s rights has only manifested a new inequality, in which universities provide women’s studies but not men’s studies, and the White House has a council for women and girls but not for men and boys.
Without a doubt, this is breeding ground for critics. The MRAs are accused of using “mansplaining” as an excuse to bolster misogyny and blame women for their own travesties. They rapidly developed a reputation as a group of boys throwing a tantrum over their personal experiences with failed marriages. Ironically, radical feminists are the most outspoken disparagers.
Yet, the problem with the men’s rights movement is that, much like its antithesis, it not only has the potential to rapidly delve into unnecessarily radical doctrines but also has to bear the misunderstanding and quick judgment of any outside observer. Such is the case with any fringe group.
The greater problem with both of these movements is their respective names. Feminism or meninism, women’s rights or men’s rights, misandry or misogyny, sisterhood or brotherhood—these groups are all so self-centered, and the evidence is simply in their names. They claim they support equality, but their gender-exclusive titles say otherwise.
To quote Shakespeare’s infamous play, Romeo and Juliet (I say infamous because of its outrageous portrayal of romance, female naivety and male competition): “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
No matter what we call it, feminism and the men’s rights movement were originally created for the same goal, and that is equal treatment as a human being. Thus, the quest for equality should not be approached by comparing the length of our chains. To modify my previous conjecture on how women deserve assertive action, the notion of one gender being indebted to the other will only result in a multitude of other unanswerable questions: how do we measure the owed amount, how do we know when to stop, and what do we do if the scale is tipped over to the other side?
The existence of extremists in both groups is undeniable and inevitable, just as there will always be the jihadists of Islam or the proponents of the Black Power movement. We must not give into those sweeping generalizations of carnivorous misogynists and bra-burning masochists; rather, we must look forward to a time when we will no longer have to identify and isolate ourselves as male or female, but instead as human beings enduring the same struggles together.
Only then will we be able to progress, past the naïve idea of empowerment of one gender over the other, and towards the elevation of humanity as a whole.