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Why men need to be feminists – and why I’m tired of selling it to them

It’s not because they’re related to a woman – surprise. If your reason for supporting a feminist cause is that you have a sister, guess what – you’re not a feminist, you’re reinforching patriarchal family structures of women having to be protected by men from other men.

Ok, now that that’s out the way and my mental image of Mitt Romney talking about his daughter is gone, there are actually many ways in which feminism benefits men. Suppression of vulnerability and emotions leads to harrowing consequences – for example that the significantly biggest group of suicide victims in Austria is that of elderly men*, men* of all ages are at least three times as likely to kill themselves as women* and there is a dramatic jump up from men* under 20 to men* over 20 (statistics here) and in the US, young men* between 20 and 30 kill themselves the most (statisticsย here). What both of those groups have in common is that those groups are the groups where men* tend to live outside a monogamous relationship structure and outside a family structure and therefore not have immediate access to females who take care of them.

Let’s take the group of young men*. In their early twenties in these regions, most of them move out and leave behind their role of the child they previously had at their caretakers’ place. But they’re also often not yet in the one social structure where they’re societally admitted to open up at least to some extent – a committed relationship. Of course, the other end of this emotional love bargain is that women* are then responsible to care both about their own and their partner’s well-being. So the ideas we have about emotional labor being a woman’s job harm both women* and men*. De-gendering this emotional work (and trust me, I’ve been there, it’s hard work) should be important to all men*. And this is only one example.

Another would be that getting rid of gendered expectations abot sex alleviates performance pressure (I hope that’s a word – if not I’m making it one) from men, it relieves them of having the sole responsibility to initiate sexual contact while simultaneously giving male rape victims a chance to be believed and it allows for men to articulate the need for tenderness and vulnerability. Sounds like a pretty awesome world to me.

There are countless other examples, but I’ll stop now because I’m falling into the same dilemma I always find myself in when I explain the advantages of feminism for men*: on the one hand I know that all these possibilities for a better life as a man exist and that it’s high time for them to become reality. On the other, shouldn’t it be enough that people are treated unfairly and being belittled and done violence to for someone to start caring? I don’t think I should need to explain basic empathy. So even if feminism benefitted “just” women, everyone should still care – after all, we’re talking about the oppression of over half the population here. The LGBTQ-community has largely understood this even though it is only now slowly being included into feminsm, with some feminist groups still being responsible for its oppression. What’s lacking is the broad support from men*. So, especially cis and straight men, where you at? Where are both the broad solidarity (with each other and with women*) and the loud outcry?

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