Appealing to both sides of a starkly contrasted argument is difficult.
Appealing to friends and family who vastly disagree within that argument is tough.
Appealing to all your friends and family when they disagree and emotions are running high is next to impossible.
Never did I think feminism or the metoo movement would be at the center of such a debate. Just the mention of feminism and everyone in the room has an opinion from which they won’t budge. When I realized it was so misunderstood and such a cringey topic for most, I asked myself, how do I cater to both sides when it comes to explaining it? Is there a common denominator? (Then I thought, yes! fractions!)
This is the predicament I found myself in just yesterday. I wasn’t in a room full of family and friends discussing feminism, as fun as that sounds. Instead, I was speaking with a young male friend of mine who, from an outsider’s perspective, seems educated, respectful, and kind. However, his view of feminism piqued my interest because it completely contradicted what I had assumed his view would have been given his progressive background.
I assumed he would have been happy about the metoo movement and the new wave of feminism but instead he said he wasn’t interested. He said he thought my blog, and others like it, exist solely for the purpose of bringing men down. He thought I would have articles upon articles discussing how men are no longer useful and ultimately, there was no purpose for him to read any of my posts.
I was surprised. Here is a young man who loves and respects women and respects me as a person. I thought maybe if he knew my background and knew where I was coming from that he could maybe see things differently.
No. That didn’t help. Besides, he knew my background before I started Balance The Scale.
Statistics didn’t help.
Trying to explain the importance of feminism on an international scale didn’t help.
He was convinced I and all other feminists thought all men were to be discarded. On the contrary! Men… Good Men are to be celebrated right along with good women! Fortunately, eventually the conversation turned for the better and my reputation with him superseded my “feminazi blog”.
Because I believe male allies represent a large portion of the solution to the gender gap, I asked myself, do all men think this way and how can I reach the good men who don’t want anything to do with feminism? I started to ask my male friends whether or not they thought similarly to my surprisingly anti-feminist, yet not sexist, friend. The answer was astonishingly yes! (Not necessarily about Balance The Scale but about feminism in general.) Somehow quite a handful of the men in my life, an incredibly diverse group, think most, if not every, feminist is anti-male and that feminism has nothing to do with them.
Being solution oriented and wanting to invite clarity, I created my own definition of feminism.
Very simply, feminism according to me is being pro-women.
Meaning, I will fight for a woman’s right whether that’s a right to choose, a right to an education, a right to health, a right to nutrition, a right to safety, and so on. I will stand up for what is just for another female if need be.
Though I will admit a few women have taken it to extremes by attacking people who don’t agree with them in public forums thus giving feminism a bad name.
Separately, though, I am also pro-men.
All of what I will do for a good woman, I will do for a good man - fight for their rights if need be.
Good, good men, please understand feminism is merely a form of solidarity among women. And you’re included if you want to be, it is not exclusive of men! We are not male bashers, we aren’t haters, we don’t think men are trash, we love the men in our lives!
I suppose it wouldn’t be a stretch for a man to think that feminism is perfectly fine but has nothing to do with him and therefore wants nothing to do with it. I will point out not only do we need you (Dr. Jackson Katz’s TedTalk explains this best), we want you to be with us in this movement. And, I will not ask you to think of your daughters, wives, or other females in your life. I will ask you to think of yourself and your buddies - think of the men in your life. What kind of world do you want to live in?
I ask because I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that there have been individuals, groups, even systems that participate in sexism, or worse, in both directions (although historically more so towards females), causing trauma and PTSD in its wake. I believe the produced emotion from the culmination of these experiences is the common denominator among all of us.
Meaning, the common denominator is pain.
We have all experienced pain by a person, a group, or a system/institution that we can easily associate with another broader group (take feminism or the patriarchy, for example). In this case, when women are hurt by men and vice versa, the wounded tend to lash out at entire groups of men or women, respectively - the good and the deserved. This is the derivation of the bitterness and division.
Hence, I ask, what kind of world do you want to live in?
It’s easy to see, then, when a good man or woman is lashed out at, seemingly undeservedly, that they now have a negative association with the group the attacker is representing (in real life or online), and thus the cycle continues in this fashion.
So, in order to end this cycle of division, bitterness, and exclusion, I ask all people who are reading this, if anyone is fiercely contradicting your viewpoint, love them. Try to see their point of view. Take a diplomatic stance. You don’t necessarily have to change but you might want to be willing to try. Educate yourself on their causes. Present your side lovingly. When you do this, typically the other person will soften also. (Naturally, only do this when it’s safe to do so.)
When we give people a chance to see our humanness, their ability to see beyond the labels like “feminist”, “democrat”, “liberal”, “snowflake”, increases. And, when we also see them through the human lens and not their expected labels with corresponding attributes, we can come together as humans and hopefully progress each other’s minds and hearts.
So, when you think about feminism, ask - what kind of world do you want to live in? Do you want to participate in the divisiveness or do you want to work together by attempting to understand through love so that we can create a more connected, inclusive world?
I don’t normally give homework, but I think these commercials express beautifully what I have only attempted to do, so please watch them at your leisure and you will see the levels of humanness I want for our world.