Late last week and over the weekend I was having giggles over a trending hashtag on Twitter: #INeedMasculismBecause. “Masculism” in this case means an opposite to feminism – a new brand for men’s rights activism, which has been acronymed as MRA. Men feel discriminated against and want to call out on these inequalities.
This hashtag got hijacked by, well, people – whether self-identified feminists or just “hey, why can’t we all be equals” types who don’t see “feminism” and “women calling out systemic bullshit” as a threat to men. I read a number of joke tweets using that hashtag, and I made a couple myself (“
#INeedMasculismBecause I’m not allowed to tell a woman she’s PMSing, but she’s allowed to say she’s PMSing!”). It could easily be used as a mask for misogyny – and, as so many MRA-type arguments have been, primarily about restricted access to a woman’s sexuality. It’s about person-to-person conflict, mostly, and it’s an us versus them mentality.
Feminism has been accused of that from the get-go – if you want equality, don’t single your gender out. The abundance of complexly laced issues in that mentality is too much to address in any single piece of writing. The primary criticism is that under the law men and women are considered equal – we can all vote, own property, practise freedom of expression, et cetera. Now that it’s written down, equality has been reached. The establishment has upheld its end of the bargain and now it’s the individual’s job to reach heights someone of her gender may not have reached before.
But that’s not the case. There is still antiquated sexism in legislation that hurts everybody. Cultures around the world still consider women the “other”, the Eve created after Adam, the caregiver (i.e. family servant), and overall second place to men. It’s embedded in so many places that we can’t give up feminism because there’s so much more to uncover, and to tackle, and everybody can take part in this process.
As far as the serious uses of this hashtag are concerned, I read a few genuine comments from “masculists” who think gendered expectations of men are wrongs that need to be changed. Expecting the man to pay for dinner on a date – yes, I encourage men who don’t wish to do this to assert their opinion. If their character is judged based on that then their date is unlikely a suitable partner in the mean time let alone the long lifespan ahead of them. That isn’t something that feminists have pitted against men. That expectation is part of the patriarchal culture that existed before the moves of feminism came, and feminists have asserted the same rights of men. The root of the problem from the perspective of “masculists”, though, is that they are at risk of not having sex if they don’t pay for dinner. You can see how the reversed direction of this logic exposes that when men pay they expect women to have sex with them afterwards. Since everybody owns their own body and sexuality it’s a fairer starting point to not assume anything about sexual intercourse until it is brought up. Paying the bill at a restaurant has nothing to do with sex.
Women shouldn’t expect men to pay the bill on a date unless it’s been arranged beforehand; it’s a fairer starting point to not assume somebody is going to treat you. I’m incredibly stubborn and argue to drunken shouting matches (it’s true; I have a number of references) about paying for my food if not also yours. I do this because I want to assert my own independence, my individual responsibility, and I want to respect the equality of others. So as a feminist, I certainly agree – it’s not fair for men to always be expected to pay for dinner on a date.
Other honest complaints about gender inequality towards men were two sides of the same coin – imbalance granting of child custody to the mother, and on the other side expecting a man to support a child the woman chose to have even with the option of terminating the pregnancy. These are again based on long-standing assumptions about family responsibility that have not worked to either gender’s overall advantage. While on the whole it’s women who get criticized the most and harshest for their family planning choices (after all, women are told to keep their legs shut before a man is told to keep it in his pants) the paternal role and expectations also need to be looked at under scrutiny. But this is not in conflict with feminism – it’s a part of the dialogue that seeks to dissect these prejudices and stigmas because the outcomes aren’t equal.
What these complaints about male disadvantages have in common is that they’re about the heterosexual dynamics of male-female intimate relations. Such seems to almost entirely comprise “masculism” and the MRA movement. A man shouldn’t be expected to hold open doors or pick up something a woman has dropped beyond common courtesy that should be extended to everyone. A man shouldn’t expect that by holding open doors or picking up something a woman has dropped that a woman will consider him a more desirable sexual partner. Not everything between men and women is about wooing – heteronormacy aside – because there is more to life than that. We have jobs, we have friends, we have hobbies, we have our health, we have public discourse, and we should all be able to cooperate equally in those realms without sexual politics interfering. That’s where women still face the barriers we need to fight. It’s in men’s interests to join that fight, and “masculism” doesn’t do that. “Masculism” seems to be complaining about getting turned down for sex, complaining about individual interpersonal interactions that don’t end happily. Feminism is about institutional barriers, and shouldn’t be directed at or taken personally by individual men. If you’re personally a misogynist, I don’t even need the f-word to justify my disgust at your character.
(Note: I can’t even begin to get into the parallels and intersections and just overall intertwined bundle of sexism and other systemic discrimination that ignores the inequality of other “others” or expects there to be a White History Month. I only have 17 days left in February and I don’t know if I can even tackle that specific issue in that short period of time. We may need a This is Why There Shouldn’t Be a White History Month Month.)