As I begin writing this article, I am acutely aware of, and rather dismayed at, how noteworthy some may see a male writer attempting to contribute to the discussion of feminism in the women’s week edition of The Gryphon. For those people, let me first clarify my position: I am a feminist and proudly identify myself as such. If it helps, think of it as similar to my pride in identifying myself as ‘not a racist’ or ‘not a homophobe’. Those opinions come just as naturally to me. And yet, I somehow feel that it is far less likely that I would be asked to write an article on either of those equally deeply-held views of mine. Why? Because they are views that I am expected to have. Somehow, as a young, straight man living in Britain in 2016, it is seen as an ‘interesting’ or ‘different’ thing about me that I do not hesitate to call myself a feminist, and to understand why this is, my experiences as a man could be helpful.
I can understand the argument that, despite my identification of myself as a feminist, I cannot truly understand what that means because I do not experience the oppression which the movement works to eradicate. However, there are some instances of sexism which I do experience first hand, and notice because of my feminism: among young men today there is a certain encouragement, an expectation even, of sexism. I do not feel any societal encouragement be a feminist. On the contrary, in my position it is easier to fit the mould as a misogynist (or, as their idiotic self-proclaimed ‘Bible’ so coyly puts it, a ‘Lad’).
Scanning the Misog… sorry, Lad Bible for just a moment, it is quite simple (and very distressing) to compile an image of what 2016’s young man is expected to be – the perfect ‘Lad’ will be into sports (particularly the gym), he will play video games, he will enjoy clubbing. All perfectly fine, respectable hobbies. A little simplistic, but fine. However, when it comes to women, it seems the modern man should have little interest besides that which is sexual – and of sexual interest, he must have swathes. Scrolling back just two days-worth of posts, there are three separate stories on the Lad Bible for which the accompanying photo is Kim Kardashian’s nude Instagram. And, strange as it may seem, none of these articles are suggestive of female empowerment. Furthermore, there is a veiled kind of disapproval at the young man who allows a woman to tie him down. The ideal girlfriend, or ‘keeper’, is presented as a figure who is seen-but-not-heard, who buys the latest FIFA game for her man, then quietly and dutifully waits for him upstairs. Romance is a no-no in the Bible.
While I have used the Lad Bible as the focus of my ire, it must be said that it is simply reactive to, rather than the causation of, these attitudes. But whatever the reason behind them, their existence still proves that feminism is as vital a movement as ever. Yes, in Britain there are not such clear-cut goals any more as getting women the vote, or allowing them into university, although tragically in some parts of the world these kinds of changes are still needed. But here, we are in murkier waters now. Attitudinal changes are far more difficult to make than legal or political ones, but I do see a bright future on the horizon. With considerations of gender becoming gradually less concrete and more conceptual as time goes on, it can only be expected that the feminist cause will win out. But all of us need to believe in it first.
Image courtesy of He For She