Feminism, has been a vehement topic for many today. It has become hard to define feminism because everyone has a separate interpretation of this critical word and people continue to define it as per their convenience. As a matter of cultural discourse, many complicated arguments have arisen according to one’s personal choice of vocabulary of feminism. Out of the many disagreements, one very crucial issue remains if men should me included in feminism. We assert that they shouldn’t. Feminism speaks about one group being affected and the other being the one who is the cause of the effect. The Feminist movement, initiated by women attempts to abolish patriarchy and free them from the misery of male dominance. So, how can the group who has been oppressing women also help in liberating them?
In the corrosive society that we live in, a space for women to voice their demands barely exists. Women studies was a discipline that was designed by feminists during the Women Liberation Movement in the 1960’s. This movement made them realise that there are no systems which directly address the question of women oppression and male domination. However, even this study is now referred to as ‘Gender Studies’ because gender seems to be a safer and more convenient word. However, feminism is about women and in order to keep it that way, we must restrict it to a space for only women. A woman only feminist movement reduces the chance of their voice to sink. It provides women with a stage to voice their opinions. It simultaneously reduces the constant male gaze that women are pressured to live under. Men who are trying to be allies must do so by letting women have this space. Women, being the oppressed group here must have the choice to demand that men, the oppressors must be excluded from this movement. However, many women and men fail to understand this.
Since time immemorial, there have been numerous protests for various social, political or economical causes. Each movement was initiated by one class to fight against the injustice caused to them by the other, more privileged class. One of the offshoot of these movements was to create a safe space for the oppressed class where they do not need to be apologetic in any manner and where they felt liberated from the more powerful opposition. For instance, the civil rights movement was a struggle started by the African Americans who experienced racism under white supremacy. It was a movement initiated to abolish the social inequality that people of colour went through. Similarly, the Trade union movement of 1935 was initiated by labourers in order to improve their working conditions. Now, as observed in history, neither did the blacks include the whites in their movement, nor did the employees include the employers in theirs. This was because they were well aware of who held power in that situation. Then why does this desperation to be included in the feminist movement exist amongst men?
If we understand how hegemony works, we realise that men feel threatened when they are excluded. The dominating class will do anything in its power to be included in every conversation. It requires every dialogue to revolve around them. The oppressors will not remain on top if their power is taken away. Recently, the chatter of “we must include more men in feminism” has been growing. If certain women refuse to give in to this preference, they are
termed as “man-hating”. It is classic of men to want to make feminism about them and their issues. But the whole point of the women’s movement is to challenge this male authority and to take away the privilege that they earned as a birthright. Men want to be at the centre for the sake of self-pride, which is fuelled by privilege and power. However, women should see this threat
as an asset. If the oppressing class is not made to feel vulnerable under their existing authority, then the chosen definition of feminism is incorrect. Feminism is effective if it continues to create such threats that pierce the patriarchy. If feminism is a threat to men, so be it.
The #Metoo movement emerged in response to the sexual oppression of women by men. This movement was initiated by women, to empower women. It was meant to be a female centred movement where women were given the chance to express the harsh living realities that they experience on a daily basis under male superiority. They shared disturbing instances of sexual abuse that they faced as women. However, many men seemed to feel excluded and tried to turn this movement into a male centred one. Now we do not deny that men do not experience sexual violence, but this violence is also imposed by other men. According to a recent nationally
representative survey on sexual violence, it was found that 81% women reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment as opposed to 43% of men (GfK, 2018). The truth has always been that the social system has always leaned towards men’s advantage. Patriarchy has led to men policing over other men too, but that is not the responsibility of women and this is not what feminism should be made about. What makes #Metoo different is that it portrays the sexual harassment that women have faced due to a structural hierarchy. Women clearly face inordinate amounts of sexual abuse as compared to men. This movement was meant to display the magnitude of male power in a social setting. These disputes about extending this movement to men, prove this point.
As a woman, I personally know at least 10 other women who have been assaulted by men in the past month. However, if I would be asked to name a few male friends who have experienced a similar kind of abuse, I will barely be able to name any. And this most definitely isn’t out of sheer coincidence. Sexual harassment is taken more seriously, but women still experience it in larger rates than men. If one compares the rate of work a woman does at home, it still is always more than a man does. It is evident that men as a class advantage from oppressing women. But men still use the power and dominance attached to their identity to prove their worth and
if they are denied this right then they get aggressive or offended. Saying #NotAllMen does not change the fact that male supremacy exists and constantly ruins
a woman’s life.
In the misogynistic society that we survive in, both women and men know that men oppress women in countless ways. This includes traditionalist men as well as progressive men. However, often both these men will disagree to this claim made by other women. This is usually done to either gain control of the woman’s life by inflicting even more restrictions or to have more access to the woman’s body than they earlier did. In both cases, the purpose remains as restoration of power. This is one of the reasons why men can not be included in feminism. It has mainly to do with the shared experience of oppressing women. Men inherently have the privilege to be ignorant of what a woman experiences on a daily basis, even if the man puts in his sympathising intention. It is perilous to allow men to be advocates for women’s experiences.
Exclusion is seen as a horrible word today. Cis-men hold the right to 99% of the world’s public spaces, yet excluding men from feminism is seen as bigotry. Men fighting against being excluded in the women’s movement is just a display of their male power. When men label other women as “sexist” for excluding them, it just piles up to the existing sexism that their class has originated. Women being derided for their movement unless men are included in it portrays the hostility that patriarchy creates. People often forget that the effect of exclusion had begun long ago. Women, by the nature of their oppressed group can not use sexism against men. Calling a woman sexist automatically diverts the attention from this female centred movement to a man’s feelings and his unattended problems. Men will undermine women for exclusivity by calling them ‘misandrists’, but this is just another tactic to keep women silent. Feminism is the liberation of women, for women and as women from the existing male class and exclusion is just a demand that must be granted.
There is something fundamentally wrong with men trying to define feminism. The proof of his male entitlement can be examined when men try to shame women for fighting a movement for women. Men should attempt to understand their privilege before they try to understand how women are oppressed every day. Women are now exhausted of men who demand to be included in the feminist movement and who shame other women who do not adhere to this demand. If men want to show their support to this movement, they must do so by being observers, listeners and learners. They must observe the violence that exists against women, they must listen to women when they speak about their oppression and they must learn to be decent human beings. There is a difference between a feminist and a male ally. A male ally can critically examine his male privilege, where as a feminist has no choice but to be oppressed by the same patriarchy. Allies must support women and acknowledge their privilege but should never attempt to take over this movement for their own benefit. As feminist Andrea Dworkin said, “Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us.” What feminists really needs is respect, not preemption.