The Tower (Princeton New Jersey)
When I first heard the term “meninism,” I thought it was some type of religion (I was confusing it with “Mennonite”). As it turns out, I was very wrong. Meninism began in the early 2000s to describe a semi-satirical movement opposed to sexism and in support of women’s equality. It has since become an ideology mocking radical feminism, claiming that men, too, suffer from gender-based oppression. Highlighting issues like “men’s rights,” “violence against men,” and “victimization by women,” it has taken the idea of feminism and flipped it on its head. And that’s where the problem is.
Meninists seem to target misandry and the hatred of men rather than proper, basic feminism—not hatred, but rather the idea that all sexes and genders deserve equal rights and opportunities. They claim that men, too, are victims of sexism, that they have to conform to unrealistic social expectations: they must be tough, never emotional; they should like soldiers and superheroes and never princesses. They insist that boys and men are injured in sports and combat while trying to live up to societal expectations, that stereotypes hurt men, too—and, in these respects, they’re not wrong.
Society’s strict gender roles and stereotypes hurt everyone involved—girls shouldn’t have to be pink, boys shouldn’t have to be blue. Lately, a popular debate has been that of gendered toys; why not give little boys Barbies and little girls racecars? I don’t see any reason a child should be prevented from playing with a toy because it is labeled “just for girls” or “boys only.” While women have their own set of stereotypes, men are often expected to be tough and athletic, not sensitive or emotional. These ideals continue into adulthood: mothers are stereotypically the stay-at-home parents, while fathers are off at work, never seeing their children. When I was a kid, my father was a stay-at-home dad and my mom the breadwinner of the family. I saw both of my parents plenty, but it never occurred to me that it was unusual for my dad to be the one who made us dinner every night.
While these concerns are all valid concerns, they don’t amount to sexism.
Sexism is typically defined as prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination on the basis of sex. Men may suffer from stereotypes and even encounter prejudice from some especially heavy-handed radical feminists, but they don’t encounter discrimination. Men are neither oppressed nor a minority group, counter to the claims of meninists. They are privy to better jobs and better pay; while stereotypes may color what is deemed acceptable behavior, they don’t affect a man’s career. Men are far less likely to be victims of sexual assault than women, and when they are, they’re not told they were “asking for it” based on their clothing. They can usually walk down a busy street without being catcalled and ride public transportation without harassment. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, women are nine times more likely to be sexually assaulted than men. Statistically speaking, it is safer and better to be a man than a woman.
Universities typically offer women’s studies; men’s studies are usually just called history. The majority of lawmakers, world leaders, and business owners are men. There is no such thing as “men’s rights,” because men—at least, white men—have almost always been guaranteed the most rights within a society. In contrast, American women couldn’t vote until 1920, and every single one of our presidents (and most of Congress) has been male. There are girls around the world who are forcibly denied education due to their gender. Even now, men are trying to pass legislation on abortion, controlling what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. Until men experience this kind of systematic discrimination, this under-representation and lack of voice, they cannot campaign for men’s rights. There is nothing to campaign for.
Meninism may have begun as its own fight for gender equality, but it seems to have lost its way. At the end of the day, gender equality is about just that: equality. There needs to be a level playing field; no one should be victims to violence or discrimination or stereotyping based on their gender identity. Men, women, and all people in between deserve the same rights and opportunities. Feminism isn’t about tearing men down; it’s about giving everyone a chance to be heard. That’s why we don’t need meninism.
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