Why is it that men are so hesitant to speak out in support of feminism? That’s easy: they don’t know what it means.
Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality. If you agree with that, you’re a feminist. However, when many men hear the word “feminism,” they think they’re being attacked and automatically go on the defensive.
According to an Economist/YouGov poll, only 15 percent of men identified as feminists before hearing the word’s definition. After hearing the definition, the number grew to 51 percent. Though this figure is still disappointing, it goes to show that a simple misunderstanding can cause significant division over this important issue.
But more than just vocally supporting feminism, it’s time that men took responsibility for all the harm that men have caused and continue to cause to women and take steps to reverse it.
Onstage, comedian Louis CK asked, “How do women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? Globally and historically we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them.”
Just for comparison, the comedian continued, “You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.”
But a woman doesn’t have to be going out with a guy to experience that harm. There’s a reason why only 62 percent of women compared to 89 percent of men said they feel safe walking alone at night in the area where they live, according to a 2012 Gallup report.
Maybe it’s because, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”
Or perhaps it’s because “approximately two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.”
But to top it all off, RAINN reports that only 3 percent of rapists will ever serve time in prison.
The numbers are disconcerting. Women are embedded in a culture where the threat of assault is tangible, where someone they know or trust might be the perpetrator and where the justice system fails them far too often. And people still have the gall to victim blame and slut shame.
Let’s shift the blame to the men who commit these terrible acts and encourage the men who don’t to speak up in condemnation of that type of behavior.
Many men are racked by a childish sense of entitlement, like a little boy throwing a tantrum in the toy aisle. Men, you are not entitled, for any reason, to have sex with someone. You paid for dinner? How generous. But no, that’s not a ticket for sex.
A woman you saw on the street was wearing a short skirt? So what? Unless a woman is literally asking for it (i.e. “Do you want to have sex with me?” or some other variation of consent), she’s not “asking for it.”
A woman is not a bitch because she won’t go out with you. And if that’s your response to rejection, she obviously made the right call.
A woman is not a slut because she had sex with someone who isn’t you.
And why do we need to teach men not to rape? Seriously, don’t rape.
All of this should be common sense, but in a power-hungry patriarchal society like ours, any blow to a man’s ego that touches a sense of inferiority is bound to send him reeling.
Changing this hypermasculine paradigm will be a difficult but admirable goal. But for men who want this change, too, it’s time to speak up and shame this immaturity that leads to atrocities.