Why Feminism is a good thing for men, too

I was heading out to the London Dungeons with my girlfriend last Sunday. We had a lot of fun and the actors were mostly very good, although for some it’s not too hard to see why they’re not West End stars yet. There were a few moments which were pretty good for making you jump, but all was child friendly and the dialogue was occasionally inspired.

However, the thing which has stuck with me was a tube poster – an advert for SurvivorsUK, a charity helping victims of sexual assault and professionals who work with victims of sexual assault. All very admirable, and always worthy of praise and support. What made this stand out against other charities is that SurvivorsUK, as you will already know if you have clicked on the above links, is a charity for male victims of abuse.

It is a singularly sorry state of affairs that support for male victims of abuse is so rare that I feel it worthy of special comment. But it is. This almost sounds like I’m about to turn this blog post in to a heavy-handed, misogynistic “what about teh menz!!1!” type rant and that the title of this post is merely an unsubtle bait-and-switch, but before you judge me, check out the poster itself:

Yes, this is aimed at the rugby-playing, beer-swilling “real men” who would, if given the opportunity, describe themselves as “beer chugging, banter loving, footie watching, womanising man – a LAD“. It is aimed at the people who believe that getting raped, or admitting weakness, or showing emotion, or treating women like other human beings instead of walking, talking vaginas are somehow not proper men.

This is aimed at the men who feel the need to add “No homo” to the end of any internet comment which is in any way not entirely critical of another man. This is aimed at exactly the kind of men who oppose the feminist movement. It is aimed at them because misogyny is hurting them too.

About halfway through writing this post I noticed Jason Thibeault has a great post about this topic, which I recommend reading. His feeling is that the use of the phrase “real men” is reinforcing a harmful stereotype of men:

The “talking about it takes real strength” line does in fact undermine that toxic stoicism. But reinforcing the idea that there’s a Real Man archetype, and it involves being strong, is kind of terrible to those men who do not see themselves as strong enough.

And I agree with that point – but the ad is trying to reach a specific subset of men. And it’s the one which has  already fallen for the real man party line. They make websites crowing about it. Before we can help people, we need to reach them. This is one small way of doing so, but it all fits in with the larger idea of feminism.

I am a feminist because I wholeheartedly support equality for women. But (somewhat more selfishly) I am a feminist because a world without feminism is one with gender roles such as these for men, which ultimately are unbelievably harmful. How many men are harmed by this? According to SurvivorsUK’s own website:

About 3% of men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. 

(National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998)

So quite a lot then, and if these go unreported because of a rape culture in which only women who dress like sluts get raped, then our society is much the poorer.

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Filed under Ethics, Feminism

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