While women were mostly considered as the representative of the domestic sphere in history, men were the public representatives. A woman was supposed to take care of the household, cook and clean and many still do, while the men worked to earn their bread and butter. In fact, in mediaeval Europe, women were not allowed to own property, to study, or to even have a public life. They had no basic human rights, let alone have a life of their own. Men had control over them and they couldn’t even step out of the house without the permission of a man.
At the end of the 19th century, in France, women were compelled to cover their heads whenever they were in public spaces and in certain parts of Germany, a man had the right to sell his wife if he wanted to.
Even during the 20th century, women did not have the right to vote or hold elective office in Europe as well as the United States. They were prevented from engaging in business without a male representative, whether her husband, father, son or a legal agent. Apart from that, they had no control over their own children without the permission of their husbands. They had little or no access to education and were not allowed to practice most of the professions. And such restrictions still exist at some places till date.
With such constraints and limits that bound women, it was quite obvious that they would stand up for their rights one day and be fearless. However, feminism is not all about women and not just for women. Men can gain a lot from feminism if they try to be a part of it as it talks about equality not superiority. Have a look below and find out about the history of feminism and how men can be a feminist, while not only helping out their female fellows but also understand why feminism is needed by men as well.
History of Feminism
The Ancient Times
According to some evidence, during the 3rd century BCE, Roman women organised a protest such as filling in the Capitoline Hill and blocking all of its entrances to the Forum when consul Marcus Porcius Cato had resisted to repel laws limiting women’s use of expensive goods. According to Cato, if women become equal to men, they will soon become their superiors. In the late 14th century and early 15th century in France Christine de Pisan, the first female philosopher, called out women to get educated. Another feminist, Moderata Fonte came into the picture by the end of 16th century by publishing ‘The Worth of Women’. It was hotly debated, as some called it superficial and immoral, while women called it courageous and intellectual.
The Second Wave
The second wave of feminism was all about the rights of women in the 1960s and 70s. Women’s concerns began when the US President John F. Kennedy prepared the President Commision on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to lead it. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 provided the first guarantee, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to bar employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. This led to the women’s rights movement along with the civil rights movement.
The Third Wave
The third wave of feminism erupted in the mid 1990s. It was made possible through the power and status that women had already achieved during the second wave. The Third Wave Direct Action Corporation was founded by Rebecca Walker and Alice Walker in 1992 and later named The Third Wave Foundation in 1997. It supported groups as well as individuals who were against gender, racial, economic and social injustice.
The Fourth Wave
It is believed that the fourth wave of feminism started in the year 2012, when a woman in India was brutally gangraped and later died. Local protests erupted but with time, there was an international outrage.
The focus of this wave was on rape culture, body shaming as well as sexual harassment and to free women from it. Meanwhile, after Donald Trump’s entrance into the white house a grandmother proposed a march at Washington D.C. on Facebook. This post on social media caught attention by many especially regarding gender equality. Known as the Women’s March it was not only demonstrated all over the States but globally as well on 21st January, 2017.
However, a more significant #MeToo movement was launched in 2006 and gained attention in 2017, where not only the common people talked about their sexual harassment episodes but even celebrities. However, it wasn’t just women who disclosed their sexual assault cases, but men too. This caught attention soon that men had been harassed sexually and had been silent about it.
During the fourth wave many men joined the women and protested along with them. They were feminists and proudly said it out loud. While a lot of men were still anti-feminism, they were the one who wanted to fight for women’s rights, their safety as well as equality.
Feminism and Men
Even if one male feminist stands with a group of female feminists, it can bring a change. Men are often told as kids that boys don’t cry or don’t run like a girl which only creates gender inequality in them as they grow up. However, there is always time to learn and change the way you see the world.
If you notice, feminism is not all about improving the status and position of women in the society but also freeing men from the restrictive code that holds them back. It can actually help them in shifting towards a more co-operative, equal relationships as well as friendships.
While not all men indulge in sexual violence or sexist behaviour (yes, we know not all men, but do take a look on the statistics), however, by being a part of feminism they can support the other gender and show that they are battling for their rights as well.
While some men still mock feminism and say that it’s not needed, there are plenty of men who are feminists and take a stand for women who, all this while, had been fighting alone. A pro-feminism male is a proven strength for female feminists as they value and promote change.
How Men can Help
You could do a variety of things to defend women’s rights, whether online or in person. What counts is the effort you make. You could be out there protesting with women instead of sitting in your comfy chair watching the news and sipping coffee. Apart from that, there are little differences that you could make in yourself to show some respect to them.
As employers, you could provide them equal pay, as a partner you could support them as a feminist by joining their group whether online or or not. As friends you could strengthen your friendship by treating them as an equal and not the ‘the weaker sex’. No matter what you opt to do, make sure that you do it for their rights as well as for the women who have suffered all along the movement since centuries. Also, if not women, then do it for your own right to be you.
It won’t question your masculinity if you become a feminist. Although many men believe so. You will only be laying down a better foundation for your daughters in the coming future, so that they won’t have to ask for basic gender equality but will also be making sure that your son becomes a better human being. Men have an equal responsibility in feminism and while some are trying to ignore this fact, you can take this task on your shoulders and carry it forward.
No matter what your age or race is, feminism is a welcoming movement and many men have already joined it. You can spread awareness about gender equality and sexism, support national or local campaigns opposing sexual violence against women. In fact, you can challenge other men who indulge in sexism, misogyny as well as violence by calling it out, supporting its victims or bearing witness.
Why Men need Feminism
We have all gone through experiences where men in our lives were not able to express themselves and felt that they should not be emotional, whether they had a break-up or had a death in their family. As human beings it is natural to feel all kinds of emotions whether negative or positive in different types of situations.
However, men were mostly raised to be taught that they have to be tough and strong which led them to believe that expressing emotions is not for men, but for ‘the weaker sex’. The so-called masculinity has actually made men restricted towards their feelings and emotions and they have no emotional freedom.
However, as a feminist men will be able to gain that emotional freedom that they had earlier lost and will be able to express themselves freely. As humans men as well need to showcase their emotions. It is also required for professional relationships so that you can carry on with your work in a healthy environment.
You might be able to notice that women are not being talked about here at all. That’s because feminism is for men as well. It will only improve your view of seeing the world as well as functioning in a new way. Tell your son that showing his feminine side does not mean he brings shame, tell him to accept and be confident of whoever and whatever he might. Today’s feminism talks of acceptance and that is something even men need, whether accepting their own sexuality or accepting that being vulnerable or may be even loving make-up as a hetrosexual men should not be shamed. We as a society need to move on from giving gender to things where it is not even needed or required.
Even if you were raised as an anti-feminist, you can take a leap of faith and join the family!
Feminism, which is a historical movement, is known to be a complex set of ideologies and theories but all it asks for is gender equality, such as equal pay for the same type of work. If you think that it began a few decades ago, you might be living under a stone. Feminism has been around corner since the 3rd century and has a huge history that includes giving the right to women to vote as well as property rights. It is still a long way to go as male privilege and gender inequality still exists. However, we have come a long way.
Feminism first began at the end of the 3rd century BCE in the ancient times with the women’s movement that played an important historical role, although being overlooked. While many people proclaimed that they are pro-feminism, unequal pay and gender inequality still exists in many countries of the world. As men it is the call of this century to be more open minded and accept feminism; ditch the taboo.