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Embed code for: Final Research Project SOC 427 Miranda Lopez 1
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Can Men Advance the Feminist Movement?
Department of Sociology
California State University of Long Beach
Throughout history, women have faced many challenges in their road to equality and self-fulfillment of their gender. There have been numerous road-blocks on their path to achieving their goals through society and the law itself. Our generation today is finally stepping up and truly advocating for social change for not only women, but men too. For the definition of feminism is "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes," (Merriam-Webster, 1828). Feminists want society to know that their movement is not about man-hating, it is about achieving the same rights and privileges that men have. Until men take responsibility and realize that this is their problem to solve too, there will be no change. The past movements of women have paved the way for a new generation to rise up and take their place in the fight for equality. But in order to achieve equality, we must have both sexes informed and ready to understand each other. Emma Watson, an actress in Hollywood today and Feminist Movement Activist says, "Gender equality not only liberates women but also men from prescribed gender stereotypes. #heforshe." It begins with the realization that men and women can break the gender-roles and constructs that society has so carefully crafted for them. They can do this by fighting together instead of against each-other. We can examine the steps taken by activists in the past in order to inform ourselves on how to create a better future for this movement.
What is Feminism? The Feminist movement has been heavily researched and debated over the last couple of decades. Many people in society argue over the exact definition and what it means for women as well as those they seem to oppose. As mentioned above the actual definition of feminism is "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes," (Merriam-Webster, 1828). This means that those who advocate for feminism hold the idea of equal rights and opportunities for both males and females is necessary in order to achieve balance in society. They believe that men and women should be treated equally in all aspects of social life as well as political and economic. For example, an extremely important topic in the feminist movement is the need to achieve equal pay in the work-force for both sexes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,"In 2014, women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $719, which was 83 percent of men's median weekly earnings ($871). Women's earnings as a percentage of men's varied by occupation. Women's median usual weekly earnings in construction and extraction occupations ($691) were 91 percent of the earnings of their male counterparts." (U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). There is a clear discrepancy in the earnings of men and women in today's society that definitely calls for attention. A feminist identity can be described as a "multi-dimensional concept that encompasses feminist self-identification, feminist consciousness, and gender-role attitudes," (McCabe, 2005). In the article, "What's in a Label.." Many women are surveyed on their identity formation with feminism and how they came to label themselves as so. A variety of history and cultural aspects in their families played a significant role. Many women ascribe to this identity while others choose to stay away from it. This can be affected by cultural norms held by individuals, such as religion and other beliefs. The study found that women with higher education and liberal political stances were more likely to be feminists. What is fascinating, however, is, it also found that "demographic factors, particularly race, family life, and work status, do not significantly predict self-identification as a feminist," (McCaabe, 2005). It is often believed that these demographic factors play a significant part in identity formation, but in this case it is not. Every woman is different in their decision-making process due to their individual life experiences. What could be a core identity to a woman who grew up with these values held highly in her home may be quite different for someone else. Not every woman holds these ideals in high regard, but they may still believe that it is a rather important issue.
There is this perceived negative connotation associated with the word "feminism." Many people today will say the word resonates a negative feeling in them that has been present for some time. As women, we all want to stand up for our group identity and support our fellow group members, but we often shy away from doing so. This is because of the negative backlash many feminists have received in our social worlds today due to their negative comments and hateful speeches against men. Though many feminists feel the complete opposite, they are often lumped to together with the rest of them and as a result are generalized as "spiteful women." In the study "What do Feminists Believe?" (2006), 71 women were asked to respond on how they viewed themselves in terms of feminism and how they thought a "typical feminist" would respond. The women rated themselves on the Feminist Perspective Scale (Henley, Meng, O'Brien, McCarthy, & Sockloskie, 1998). The study found that most women view the "typical feminist" as more radical and extreme than they are. Both the self-identified feminists and non-feminists agreed with the ideologies that feminists held but did not believe that they had such a radical stance as them. They believed that these typical feminist women had very different approaches to the idea of equality that promoted negative attitudes towards men and anyone who supports them. It is clear that they wanted to separate themselves from the typical stereotype of a feminist women because that is what they have learned. They have learned that feminists are not looked upon positively by society in many ways. They are often seen to be criticized for causing too much "trouble" or shifting the status quo. Through their socialization and cultural background, somewhere along the line they chose to not associate with the feminist women because that is seen as undesirable. So many women are so hateful and set on destroying men that society sees this as Feminism's main message. Their lack of ability to convey the need for equality without destroying it in the very same instance is the reason our progress is shortened.
These negative stereotypes of feminists not only affect the opinions of women, but men as well. With their group as a main source of frustration for this movement, they are constantly feeling attacked or blamed for the unequal treatment women face. Many women are quick to believe that all men share the notion that women are "below" them and undeserving of being their equals. But not all men buy into this misogynistic narrative that our society continues to promote through economic, political, and social means. Today, many men have been stepping outside of their comfort zones in order to advocate for women's rights. In 2013 a study was done testing the effect of positive portrayals of feminist men on other men's views of feminism. In the study, "Positive Portrayals of Feminist Men Increase Men’s Solidarity With Feminists and Collective Action Intentions," a sample of 102 men were recruited to be exposed to one of three different articles. The first article portrayed feminist men positively, the second negatively, and the last article included just a brief history of feminism with no mention of males at all. The study found that men who read the negative portrayal believed that feminist men are perceived negatively by society. Their negative beliefs may have possibly been reinforced by the exposure to a negative view of feminist men. The men who were exposed to the positive article as a result felt more positively about feminist men. In fact, there was a significant amount of solidarity felt by the men to feminists in their movement. They reported much more of a willingness to support them and participate in collective action.These responses suggest that, 'whereas male feminists are generally seen in a negative light, these beliefs can be reversed by emphasizing that men can be feminists and that feminist men possess many good qualities," (Wiley, et al. 2013). In accordance with this study, we can see that in order for men to become more involved in this movement, it is important that we convey to them how great it is to be a feminist man. It does not mean that they lose their "manliness" in any way, shape, or form. In fact, being a feminist make them even more of a man, a strong, courageous man at that. Any man that can stand up and say "I am no better than she" has ultimately achieved success.
In order to create a successful future for the Feminist Movement, another movement must be advanced as well. The movement to encourage men to take their role in the fight for gender equality is increasingly becoming more and more vital to the success of feminism. I will call it the "I Stand With Her" Movement. In order to create social change, it is important to create a message that you want to tell the world, and spread that message through social spaces around the world. People must be able to connect with the message and understand why it is necessary for all of society to get involved. Our message will be: Men can be feminists too. Gender equality is both a woman and a man's responsibility. If we do not resolve this issue, men will continue to assume their authority and power over women in every aspect of their lives. We have come such a far way as a society that it would be a shame to stop now. We want men to realize the position that they are in and use that position for the good of women too. We can promote this through social media, public spheres, and scholarly journals. A hashtag like Emma Watson's "#heforshe" could be created to spark the fire of our cause, for example, "#iamwithher." A feminist capstone class could be added to the general requirements for all college students in order to graduate. This subject needs to be talked about by professors who will teach unbiased history of the movement. Future studies could survey women on their attitudes towards feminist men. They could be presented articles or portrayals of feminist men and respond with their opinions about them. It is important to examine their willingness to join with men and work together towards a common purpose. Men should be encouraged to take part in this movement and we as women should be doing so alongside them. We are in this together.
Feminism is growing into a global movement where all women and men are invited to join along. We must attempt to erase the stigma that comes with it in order for there to be real social change. People have to feel valued and safe to accept this identity and all that comes with it. If they can see that being a feminist without being "radical" is possible, the future possibilities could be endless for them. Sometimes all people need is a little exposure to the things we could achieve if we worked together for the good of all groups in society. We can spread a message of positivity and transformity to the world in order to really invoke critical thought and discourse. This discourse can lead to some pretty amazing change in the lives of many around the world.
Feminism. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism
Liss, M., C. Hoffher, and M. Crawford. What do feminists believe?. (2002).Women and Language, 25(2), 59.
McCabe, J.. (2005). What's in a Label? The Relationship between Feminist Self-Identification and "Feminist" Attitudes among U.S. Women and Men. Gender and Society, 19(4), 480–505
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) Women's earnings 83 percent of men's, but vary by occupation.
Wiley, S., Srinivasan, R., Finke, E., Firnhaber, J., & Shilinsky, A. (2013). Positive Portrayals of Feminist Men Increase Men’s Solidarity with Feminists and Collective Action Intentions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37, 61–71. em and participate in colle