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Why Men Should Care About Feminism

Updated: Mar 26

Dear Asian Youth,

As far back as I can remember, I have always believed in feminism and the feminst movement. Even before I truly understood what it was, I always considered it a movement for good—something that everyone believes in. This is why I was really shocked when I first found out that one of my male friends in high school didn’t believe in feminism. This worsened when I got to college and met several people (mostly male) who thought feminism was a ‘bad word,’ and that feminists were “crazy.” This is when I realized how, one, many people don’t understand what the feminist movement is about, and two, as a male, I need other men to understand why we should care.

First, I would like to address what the feminist movement is actually about. Contrary to some beliefs, feminism isn't a movement against men. Feminism is a movement against the patriarchy. The patriarchy is the term used to refer to systems within our society that prevent women from being able to attain the same opportunities or achievements as most men. The patriarchy is also used to refer to societal standards and stigmas (often conceived or historically perpetuated by men) that harm or endanger women either exclusively, or to a greater extent than men. The patriarchy is also used to refer to the privileges most men get to enjoy by default of their gender, which is almost never extended to women or is only extended to women in rare circumstances.

Feminism is a movement towards equality. Not just for women, but for men as well. While the patriarchy is a concept that historically has been perpetuated and enforced by men, the reason why feminism is a movement against the patriarchy and not against men is because the patriarchy is also incredibly harmful to men as well as to other identities across the gender spectrum.

The patriarchy is harmful to men just as it is to women in the same way as it enforces damaging gender stereotypes. These stereotypes build associations of certain character traits or physical traits that are either “masculine” or feminine.” When we associate certain colors with gender, such as pink as “girly” or blue as “boyish” or use terms such as “sissy” or “tom boy,” we imply that there is an issue with those who don’t fit the stereotype associated with their gender or biological sex. When we say, “you run like a girl” or “you dress like a boy” we give a certain message that one sex is inherently weaker or stronger and that a certain physique is considered “ideal” depending on a person's sex or gender.

These gender stereotypes extend to reinforcing unhealthy behaviors associated with the gender as well. For example, the phrase, “man up” or “big girls don’t cry,” marks crying or showing emotion as a sign of weakness that is reserved only for little girls. This sends a negative message condemning the expression of emotion, which is inherently mentally and psychologically damaging.

A Washington Post article titled Why the Patriarchy is Killing Men by Liz Plank explores how patriarchal standards in society harm men from different angles, focusing on mental health and well being. She discusses this in the following: “... the life expectancy gap is what scientists literally call man-made diseases. These are cultural: men are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, engage in high-risk behavior, and have accidents at work. A report from the World Health Organization points to three reasons men don’t live as long: the way men work (they endure greater “exposure to physical and chemical hazards”), their willingness to take risks (thanks to “male norms of risk-taking and adventure”) and their discomfort with doctors (they’re “less likely to visit a doctor when they are ill and, when they see a doctor, are less likely to report on the symptoms of disease or illness”).” Plank states how issues such as these are literally “man made diseases.” By attempting to reach the patriarchal standards within our society, men are destroying themselves in the process.