fem·i·nism

noun

“the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.”

Sometimes when I speak on feminism, I feel as though people are actually hearing me say “I hate men”, but I don’t. As women, I believe that we have a lot to educate people on about gender expectations, but it is important not to ignore the fact that men deal with it as well.  I don’t think that women are better than men. I wholeheartedly believe in equality and the importance of conveying that when we talk about feminism. When I talk about equality, it is important for me to start a conversation about the gender expectations for both sides. I could talk about gender stereotypes about women all day long, but I want to talk about men right now.

Emma Watson’s speech on gender equality at the UN for the HeForShe campaign really taught me how men need to be involved in this conversation as well. Emma brought up an important point that is sometimes forgotten, boys and men are also at times imprisoned by male stereotypes.

Emma said, “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”

If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled

Like Emma, I have seen men around me who feel the need to suppress their feelings in fear that they will be considered “less of a man.” Men seem to be pressured by society to be strong and not let their vulnerable side show. Emma added, “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man. … Men don’t have the benefits of gender equality either.” Forget the gender and focus on just being a human being. All men should feel comfortable with vulnerability and they should not hesitate to reach out when they need help.

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From a young age, men are trained to believe that women are indirectly less than them. For example, boys are taught to be a gentleman to girls while growing up. They are told to hold the door for girls, always pay the check, hold a girl’s school books, etc. I am not saying that these gestures are anything bad, but a man should not feel required to do them. I had a discussion about this with my husband and he told me that he felt like a “jerk” today because he wasn’t the one to carry the to-go boxes when we left the restaurant this evening. He said “I wondered if people thought I was a jerk because I let you carry the boxes.” He should not feel bad because I decided to carry some to-go boxes. Men need to realize that there is nothing wrong with them if a women decides to carry her own items, opens her own door or pays for dinner, etc.

Not all men may feel like they are pressured by gender stereotypes, just like many women. I asked my friend, Matt, if he felt less than a man if a women decided to asking him out and pay for dinner. He said, “Not at all. But I feel like I should be the one paying because that is who I was raised to be, a gentleman. But I feel like that culture has died.” When I asked how so, Matt said that he had been chastised several times for holding doors for women at his college. He also added that he was taught to treat women with utmost respect and to do nice things like that, but when he moved here and went to college he felt berated for doing those types of things. It brings up the question, should we blame men for trying to be the “gentleman” that they were taught to be? Just like women were told to be a certain way in society, men too were told.

I think it is vital that we ask this question when the topic of equality is brought up. I encourage you to talk with your friends, family or your significant other about this topic. I also encourage you to watch Emma Watson’s speech at the UN. Women and men need to work together to encourage each other to advocate for more gender equality.

– Rebecca Correa

*photos by Cristina Elena Photography

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