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Feminism. An increasingly familiar concept that has captured the attention of millions of people worldwide. But has it gone too far?
Up until now, the concept that women should be treated the same as men has been an alien idea to most cultures throughout most of history. It is only really the last few decades that have seen the emergence of thousands of females determined to collectively achieve equality to men.
Personally, I believe in feminism; rational, reasonable feminism. Women should have the right to be treated the same as men; for example, if a man and a woman have the same job title and role, their salary should be the same, and so on. Socially, politically, economically, legally – people are people, and rights are rights.
However, I also believe that feminism’s parallel concept is overlooked; I mean, has anyone even heard of masculism? Does anyone know a self-proclaimed masculist? Even typing this into the word processor, I get a squiggly red line underneath those words. Yet it recognises ‘feminism’ and ‘feminist’. It’s difficult to research masculism because the only websites that mention it are blog pages, Wikipedia sites and so on – the infamous URLs that lecturers would have you hung, drawn and quartered should they appear in your bibliography.
People need to realise that it works both ways. Yes, some things are unfair on women; they are patronised, stereotyped, objectified, discriminated against. But so are men.
I know several feminists who complain about objectification. Women are ogled, whistled at and whispered about, but let’s face it ladies – we’re not entirely innocent of checking out a good looking guy, are we? Or even giggling about him with our friends? I’m speaking generally, but often men tend to take this as a confidence boost, not an insult. And for those who don’t, what if they’re made to feel just as self-conscious as a woman might? Perhaps subtlety is the key in acknowledging a hot stranger, and that’s where some men (and women) fall short.
You can barely go near a Hollister branch without seeing a middle-aged woman or an awkward teenage boy clutching a bag featuring a topless male looking windswept and seductive, yet it’s always the use of slim, airbrushed female models in advertising that are criticised for being harmful to women’s self-esteem. What makes people think that men don’t compare themselves to these ‘beautiful’ images just as much as women do, and feel inadequate because they’re not tall, tanned or toned?
Stereotyping raises further issues. But we have always stereotyped people, and we probably always will, secretly, to a certain extent. The most common female stereotypes include that women are ‘over-emotional’, ‘bad drivers’, and ‘family-oriented’. Women used to be – and in many cases still are – expected to be domestic goddesses, experts at cleaning, cooking and bringing up children. But these stereotypes are not necessarily true, and I know a good number of academic, career-focussed women who drive perfectly well and don’t even cry watching Titanic (a skill that some men, my three male housemates included, haven’t mastered).
‘Sex-obsessed’, ‘chauvinistic’, ‘domestically incapable’ and ‘macho’ are amongst many stereotypes often attached to men, which are often totally false. How many times have you heard the words ‘men can’t multi-task?’ Equally, men are subject to assumptions. The age-old expectation that the man should work to earn money for his family is still commonplace. How many ‘househusbands’ do you know? Do some men not feel intimidated by the pressure of having to bring in enough income to support both themselves and others? Although career-oriented women have increased in numbers and progressed significantly, housewives are still far more common than their male counterpart, showing that men often bear the responsibilities of financial stability and reliability.
I reiterate, I’m all for feminism, and I think it’s really important that discrimination and inequality should be viewed universally as wrong. My point is not that all feminists are man-haters, but that some should be careful to consider their issues from a male perspective. Sexism affects both genders in a multitude of ways, but can you imagine the uproar should a group of men start preaching masculism, holding protests against male discrimination and insulting women in the way that extreme feminists sometimes insult men? Just remember that men have feelings too, and can be equally made self-conscious by ogling eyes, or put down by numerous images of idealistic male models, or offended by stereotypes, even though they might not show it. So perhaps, in these cases, we shouldn’t be arguing for equality for women – perhaps we should be arguing for equality for people.