By Leora Lihach, President’s Office Intern
As the millennial generation begins to take center stage in the world, the feminist movement is at risk of severely slowing down. Too many young adults believe that feminism is off-limits to men and a dangerous word for women—”the f-word”, a word that could mean anything in the realm of extremist tactics to shame and disempower men.
But I ask this generation not to abandon the feminist movement and forsake “the f-word” as a taboo synonym for man-hating. This stereotype is far from what it means to be a feminist—to believe in the inherent equality between individuals as human beings. With this premise, as we go forward and take on the world, let us reestablish the face of feminism as one all-inclusive unified movement—an alliance between men and women for gender equality.
We are starting to see this alliance in the celebrity scene. Young women like Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Laverne Cox (to name a few) are clearly carrying the torch of feminism into the era of the millennials. Even a number of celebrity men are confidently bearing the badge of feminism. In fact, The Cut questioned 15 celebrity men about whether or not they’re feminists, and most of them said yes!
Yes, men have a place in the feminist movement. Controversial? Perhaps. However, here is the truth that has only in recent years become a hot topic: gender inequality affects men too. And our purpose at NOW is to help bring all non-gender conforming individuals into feminist activism. We are committed to building a diverse and inclusive movement. I encourage everyone to join this stance between men and women for gender equality.
It is true that women’s experience in patriarchy is different from that of men’s. And women’s experience cannot inform men’s activism. But men have their own experience to draw from: men are subject to stereotypes, stigma, standards, and more all at the behest of patriarchy. “Joy” actor Edgar Ramirez explained to HuffPost Live last December why men should be feminists:
Feminism benefits men because it liberates us and it releases us from many stigmas imposed by the macho culture on us as well. So if more of us could understand that it’s nothing but equality, I think many agendas in terms of equality would have advanced quicker because it really helps us as well.
And in a 2014 interview with the Daily Beast, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt explained why he identifies as a feminist:
What [feminism] means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are — you can be who you want to be. […] If everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone.
On a global scale, patriarchy denies a man the right to define his own identity—something we women have been discussing and challenging for many years as our own issue. I invite men to join the conversation.
Finally, we must not forget a fundamental concept in feminist theory, largely developed by theorists Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, and Leslie McCall: that all the systems of oppression—gender, racial, class, and so on—are interlocking. To forward gender equality is to forward all equalities because feminism at its heart is a movement for human rights. We at NOW are committed to racial justice, economic justice, and LGBTQ rights as well as gender equality. So the African American man subject to racial oppression, the poor man subject to socioeconomic oppression, the gay man subject to sexual oppression, they all have a place in our movement for equality. We are on the same side.
I would like to extend Emma Watson’s invitation to men from her 2014 United Nations speech. Men, you have an undeniable place in our movement. To all millennials, who we count on to carry forth the feminist movement, consider joining Young Feminists & Allies, the first virtual chapter of NOW, for which men and women use the power of social media and online activism to leverage offline feminism.
To all millennials and feminists of every age, let us follow the lead of the “He for She” campaign. Let us modernize our movement—put to rest the stigma associated with feminism, the image of the man-hating activism. Let us maximize our numbers, our strength, with one all-inclusive unified movement.
Let us form an alliance.