Illustration by Liene Magdalēna

Why Feminism Needs To Include Men

In erasing men from the conversation about gender-related problems, we build a highly exclusive narrative. This minimizes men’s presence and contribution in dealing with inequality.

Apr 19, 2020

When we think about gender based issues such as domestic violence and discrimination, we tend to focus our attention primarily toward women. That is to say, gender issues are commonly treated as being synonymous with women’s issues. Given that gender related problems, statistically speaking, affect women substantially more than men, it may seem as if we are doing the right thing by giving women the center stage in the discussion of gender issues. However, in erasing men from the conversation about these problems, we build a highly exclusive narrative. This minimizes men’s presence in dealing with increasingly gendered problems and only reinforces the power and privilege that is already inherent to the dominant group; it gives them leverage to not participate in conversations about gender based oppression. A situation is set up where, to men, standing up against these issues seems like a favor, when it clearly should not be — it should just be the right thing to do. After all, not standing up against discrimination makes one complicit in their continuation.
When we grant men the excuse to not care about these issues simply because ‘these are women’s issues’, we encourage an environment that makes boys and men ignorant about the problems surrounding gender. Both learning about and tackling gender based problems will then involve the assumption that a greater responsibility lies with women. Men are, as such, more likely to be oblivious to the presence of such problems and of their gravity.
Furthermore, when men are not aware of the subtle ways in which sexism manifests itself, such as in the form of microaggressions, they are unable to raise their voices against them. And it is important that they do, not just because the fight against sexism becomes stronger in terms of sheer numbers, but also because, unfortunately, men’s voices are often heard more than those of women. Given that there exist institutions that systematically discriminate against women and silence their voices in so many ways, it would undoubtedly help to have male voices that are more likely to be seriously heard in such discussions.
Such a divide in dealing with these gender based problems perhaps also makes the fight against these issues seem like a struggle between the genders. When children grow up observing that the fight against domestic violence, the gender pay gap and sexual assault belongs to women and perpetrated by men, it is not surprising that some grow up internalizing the idea that these struggles are essentially fought by women against men. The fight for gender equality is not the fight of women against men, it is rather the struggle of people against inequality. And for people to understand this idea, they need to grow up seeing people of all genders involved in the fight against injustice.
We should not just say, “If your boss gives you a lesser salary than your male counterpart just because you’re a woman, you should raise your voice.” Instead, it is also important to say, “If your boss gives a lesser salary to your female counterpart just because she is a woman, you should raise your voice.” When gender equality becomes a common aspiration and more inclusive of both men and women, it will help create a society that does not discount feminist movements by building anti-male rhetoric around them. If this were accomplished, maybe the #MeToo movement would not be perceived as “creating a scary time for young men.”
Arya Gautam is a deputy Opinion Editor. Email her at
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