The first thing any movement needs is a good name. As the title suggests this is a movement that will contrast starkly with the current state of gender studies. A quick Google search, however, revealed that there is already a man-centric approach to the gender discussion, known all too predictably as masculinism, that is diametrically opposed to militant feminism. Luckily for us the second thing a movement needs is for some logic to join the cause and provide some good ideas. I therefore offer my unsolicited services, along with an even better name more worthy of the standard that I believe will unite us in a good cause: FeManism. Pronounced FEE-man-ism - it's a stretch but "humanism" was already taken as so we'll work with what we've got. You might be thinking that this movement must not be very well established if it's already changed names but I would argue that it's just very progressive. Indeed you might say we're already in our second wave. Now that the name and the introduction are sorted out let's begin our discussion of the tenets of the proposed FeManist Movement.
The guiding principle of FeManism is that all -isms should be eradicated, with a special focus on sexism (including feminism) in favor of a more inclusive view on societal issues, both global and local. Essentially I propose that we acknowledge problems as they exist or arise in societies and cultures as phenomena whose causes and affects are not isolated to one gender, and that we consider solutions with a broader view of all the players involved. That's it. I concede that no respectable list should only have one bullet point but this one does, so if you don't like it then join the cause and add to it. It may seem quite obvious, but I believe that such common sense often eludes us as soon as discussions of this topic arise. If this one statement were the guiding principle of all gender discussions I believe the world would be a different place and many a debate would take a different tone.
So far this whole presentation has been rather vague and really quite unimpressive so allow me to give you some details of what I mean. Everyone knows that sexism is about how the proverbial world hedges up the way against women. For millennia women in most cultures were deprived of basic human rights and in many areas abuse and oppression have continued uninterrupted. There's a wealth of statistics suggesting that they're underrepresented in some fields and they make less than their equally qualified male counterparts. That's not to mention the unquantifiable inequalities they experience in role expectations. Where there is injustice there needs to be improvement and I am in no way opposed to addressing these issues and striving for a world where everyone is free to pursue their own happiness in an equitable manner. I also insist that this is only half of the story on sexism.
Are we aware as a society that the percentage of male college enrollees has steadily declined for the last 47 years? Did you know that boys are 82% more likely than girls to be diagnosed with a learning disability? Does it mean anything to you that the delinquency rate among boys is three times higher for boys than girls? How about that males age 20 to 24 are 5 times more likely to commit suicide? The problems boys and men face are not limited to education and psychology - the burden of unemployment is increasingly born by men. This may seem like a natural and innocuous consequence of women moving into various work forces. Unfortunately the machine of society is not as gender neutral as it tells all of us to be and we observe that marriages and families with female breadwinners are less likely to result in mutual happiness as compared to those where the father fulfills the traditional role of earning the families income. There are MANY other categories that men and boys fare worse in that I did not list but I encourage you to check out http://whitehouseboysmen.org, as well as some of the sources they cite, and see for yourself. Indeed society discriminates between the sexes - it may not always be the way you assumed though. And yet in the face of such glaring disparity it seems that some sectors just haven't caught on. To prove this, I invite you to choose your favorite institution of higher education and look up their "gender studies" curriculum. What themes do you notice? It seems beyond question to me that the challenges, issues and difficulties of both genders are not equally represented. I strongly believe that we as a society are not seeking out the problems that both sexes face and trying to improve and correct them. If course titles are any indication then they strongly support that conclusion.
Before anymore progress can be made in convincing people of the necessity and plausibility of such a change of thought I would like to allay the concerns and fears that undoubtedly arise in the heart of any feminist who may read this. The FeManist Movement is designed such that any just cause can and ought to be subsumed under its name; thus if your motives and ideals as a "feminist" are truly seeking the best interest of society as a whole then they automatically form a portion of the idealogical foundation. It must be clearly stated however, that any cause undertaken must be considered from the perspective of all members of society and one sided coins will no longer be counted as legal tender. I must admit that I am not well-informed on what true feminism entails but I do sincerely believe that in most cases the motives are good and in-line with the principles of the FeManist Movement set forth above therefore all are welcome to recant feminism and join FeManism.
It's time to change our approach! If you have sons - there may be bigger fish to fry then whether the female bank presidents make as many millions as the male bank presidents. If you have daughters, you ought to be very concerned about whether there will be any boys around that you can trust and depend on to make your daughters happy and to raise your grandchildren. Even when considering such grave issues as sexual assault, spousal abuse or the right of women to speak and act on their own will in certain cultures ought we not investigate and consider what pushes the perpetrators and what could possibly prevent or mitigate such motivations? I invite you to consider the plight of men and boys and then to ponder whether our thoughts and discussions of gender would be better served by considering both boys and girls and men and women at the same time. Let's all lean in to sincerely and justly address the challenges of our day that affect each and every member of society.
Now that you are all convinced that we ought to be more conscious of how males are affected by the world around them today let's examine one societal phenomena that I believe is traditionally viewed with a strong female bias. I trust that none of you can get through too much of your day before being reminded that there is a crisis of sexualization in our world, and an attending, wide-spread epidemic of body image problems. I'm also confident that we have all been apprised of the damage this is doing to the girls and women in our lives. It seems to me that the mainstream of society is aware of this problem and many have stepped up to reinforce positive and constructive approaches to the way females view their bodies. The vibe I'm getting is that we as a people are fed up with the sexual propaganda that is forced upon us and we collectively and regularly voice our rage along with constant reassurances that we appreciate women for who they are. (Unfortunately our rage stops at lip service and we effectively guarantee the defeat of the opposition by continuing to fund the trillion dollar media industry who authored the hoax... but that's the stuff of another post.) This is undoubtedly a huge problem facing women with drastic and far-reaching consequences - one would have to be quite out of touch not to see that. One would also have to be out of touch to not see that in rampant sexualization lies the machinations of male destruction and degradation.
Has anyone else noticed the ads that pop up on a male's facebook page? They are one of two types - pictures of attractive females with ridiculous promises of being hooked up with a local single (why doesn't their ad optimizing algorithm pick up the giant checkmark on my account that says I'm married?) or a picture of a giant and fictitious man with muscles so large it's illegal (I'm not trying to be funny - that's what these clever marketers come up with, "how would you like to take a supplement that will make you as huge as this man. Please hurry because said supplement is not safe and is already going to be a banned substance.") One of the great mysteries of my life is who it is out there that actually clicks on these things. There must be quite a few of you because they make enough money to plaster their inane ads all over the world! Moving on. Riding my bike to work is what informs me of societal trends these days. There are a lot of ads in downtown Los Angeles. Huge ones painted on buildings, little ones infiltrating the minds of passersby (is that how you pluralify that word?) on the sides of buses and on the bus stop covers. One of them right now is some clown with suspenders, no shirt and a large set of muscles - I don't know spanish but I think he's advertising a spanish language TV station. I go to the gym most mornings to hold my weight gain and high blood pressure at bay - at least I try to remind myself everyday of this purpose. No matter how many times I go I'm still shocked every time by the number of young men in the locker room shaking their supplement-laced protein shakes in their trendy little blender bottles and weighing themselves while shamelessly checking their muscles and grabbing their belly fat in the mirror. Finally: even though I use social media very sparingly, even I was still quickly made aware of the number of so-called selfies being published of scantily clad men and boys along with statements about their muscles, weight, looks or leanness.
How long will this go on before we realize that boys are having a body image crisis very much the way that girls are? Eating disorders among males are reaching numbers never before seen - yet the body image narrative still focuses on women and girls alone. Thor and Captain America are inspiring boys and men everywhere to defend and protect, all the while teaching them that the girls and the people at large want and expect them to be ripped to shreds and look good in nothing but oil. Sadly these attempts to redefine the ideal male figure go largely unopposed because there is no establishment dedicated to the overthrow of male oppression.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that too often the take home message for boys about the medias portrayal of the sexualized female is that they are to blame. Whether we meant to or not the way we have hitherto addressed this problem has sent a message to men and boys, loud and clear that they are bad and girls are good - the perpetrators and the victims of sexualization are aligned perfectly along gender lines. This along with other messages to boys and men that they are good for nothing at work or around the house except to make people laugh with their unintelligent and perverted comments leaves males with very little feeling of leverage, ability or necessity to address this topic from their perspective.
As I think about these problems along with the better understood and more widely publicized problems that women and girls face I wonder if there isn't a solution that might spare both genders the pain and shame with which oversexualization presents them. I wonder if we might reconsider the way we talk about the issues women face such that we make men and boys feel more like part of the solution rather than just perpetual perpetrators. I wonder if we might look at the way history has often treated the man as an object of his own sexual passions and desires and do everything we can to avoid presenting females with the images and themes that will ultimately lead to the acceptance of such falsehoods for their gender as well. I hope we don't wait for the image and sexualization crisis to become more statistically obvious amongst boys before we start to counteract negative images and ideas with positive, uplifting and encouraging ones.
Accept this discussion of the media's portrayal of the ideal man as a single example of how gender issues need to be considered from both gender angles before a course of action is decided upon. Perhaps the traditional or widely accepted feminist ideals are not the all-encompasing solutions to the world's gender problems that we seek - though they are certainly a good start. If we have society's best interest at heart we may need to incorporate concessions for men and boys into our gender solutions, or we may need to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a problem for women alone or a problem exclusively for men.
(Thanks to Silent Thunder for his discussion and suggestions - some of his ideas may have made it into this post)
(Thanks to Silent Thunder for his discussion and suggestions - some of his ideas may have made it into this post)