By Shaun Simoneau
This column was previously published on Shaun’s own personal blog page on medium.com. To see this story, and more of his work, visit his page medium.com/@shaunsimoneau141.
This word carries many connotations. Some are great, with visions of pioneers like Sojourner Truth and Malala Yousafzai.
The word also carries a very negative stigma. Outrageous videos of extreme feminists or “feminazi’s,” spewing hate directly towards all men are what comes to mind.
This stigma is the opposite of a true feminist’s desired goal. The object of feminism is to level the playing field for the male and female genders. Equality is the the goal of feminism.
As a young man, I identify as a proud feminist, with good reason. Equality is what we as a society should strive towards, and men need to shift the feminist movement further to ensure equality for all backgrounds in society.
Why should feminism be a topic for men to address, of all people?
I had the privilege of attending the Every Voice Day Summit at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This summit was an advocacy day filled with several speakers addressing the epidemic of sexual violence in the U.S.
At this summit, there were about 24 female speakers. Of these 24, only one had not been a victim of sexual violence.
One-twenty fourth — An atrocious 4 percent.
Statistics from the New York Times show that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are a victim of sexual violence.
That makes me sick to my stomach.
I instantly realized that I had taken my gender privileges for granted. Before you say I’m wrong, if you’re a man, take a step back and think about it.
Fitness clubs and gyms advertise restricted areas for women to workout separately from men. The AAU (The Association of American Universities) states that, biologically, men have a physical advantage over women.
As a male, have you ever had to worry about your safety? As a man, I have a luxury of being able to walk back to my living residence and vehicle without having to worry about the fear of being violated. This is something that I am certain any woman can attest to.
Similarly, this is why many women carry pepper spray in their personal handbags.
As a man I have witnessed a lack of human decency employed towards women. I’ve seen other men stare at women. I’ve seen women be catcalled.
Ignoring a problem because it doesn’t affect you is ignorant and unjust. This is not to say that female privilege doesn’t exist. I’ve had the conversation with other men: “I can’t get into the townhouses because I’m a guy.” But personally, I’d rather get denied from a college house party or club than fear for my own personal safety.
What can I, as a man, do to ensure equality for everyone?
The first step towards equality is addressing that there is a problem in our communities and workplaces. Call out acts of sexual harassment or violence, whether it is the cool thing to do or not. At the end of the day, someone’s sister or mother’s well being and even life could be at stake.
Current societal norms show men from the time that they are young boys, that there is a specific way “to be a man” and act tough. This is also known as toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity is restricting males to certain damaging traits that serve as means to establish dominance, and devaluation of women.
Shedding light on the male crisis of toxic masculinity is a key to moving forward as a man and helping the women in our lives.
Put your own insecurities aside and show an emotion other than anger. Other than aggression.
It is ok to show empathetic feelings. This does not make you any less of a man. If anything, it makes you a better person for doing the right thing.
The key characteristic here is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
In the famous words of Maya Angelou, a famous feminist poet, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”
Male, female, Black, white, Christian, or atheist, all humans have a basic understanding of empathy. It is what makes us human and not robotic.
Taking a stand for what is right can improve the lives of everyone.
Let’s all face the reality that men currently are in a position of power in society. Our government leaders, favorite athletes, and innovators have the platform to shift the feminist movement in the right direction.
This task becomes very difficult to grapple, as the leader of our very country has openly admitted and joked about committing sexual harassment. Politics and jokes aside, every man in power — from Donald Trump, to Elon Musk, to Tom Brady should be helping to advocate for feminism.
These men in power are looked up to by millions of other men around the United States and world. As an active and macho college campus, Springfield College must do its best to look in the mirror and collectively open dialogue about these issues.
We need leaders in Washington D.C., on our athletic fields, and in local communities that are not afraid to go against the grain.
As a male self identified feminist, the fight continues in pursuit of a safety commonwealth community in the U.S. for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.