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Feminism Isn’t an Invitation Only Party

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November 7, 2013

Yesterday I read an opinion article by a colleague that caused me a bit of distress. In the article she discussed issues of restricted access to abortion as well as feminism in general, saying that men need to stay out both, using a bit more colorful and trans* shaming language. It struck me then that people truly believed that men have no place in the feminist movement.

I’m worried. I’m worried because there seems to be a misunderstanding of how overreaching feminism is and how it is very much a world issue not just a cisgender woman’s issue. We have to make space for everyone in the movement otherwise we marginalize certain groups from the benefits that feminism can bring to them.

Almost two years ago, in my home state of Florida and just about thirty minutes from my alma mater, a young black man was shot and killed while walking home from a gas station in Sanford. The boy’s death was sensationalized and turned into a political talking point. Many rallied around the boy’s murder and the subsequent count decision which found his killer not guilty. Most understood it as a race issue. But when I introduced the idea that Trayvon Martin’s murder was also a feminist issue to my friends I was met with groans and chuckles of disbelief.

The reality of the situation is that our society’s emphasis on masculinity, specifically the masculinity of men of color played an absolutely pivotal role in the death of Trayvon Martin. Just as the over sexualization and objectification plays a role in violence against women, the over masculinizing of black and latino men can lead to many problems for those communities, such as the rising number of people testing HIV positive, police brutality, and racial profiling. Trayvon’s death has to serve as a reminder to us that the movement for gender equality cannot stop at aiding women and must acknowledge that other communities, even mostly male dominated communities, need to be present in our movement.

Privilege, no matter what form it comes in, can always be manipulated to benefit the oppressed. That is something I have learned a lot over my past few years at university. And teaching people how to use that privilege is exceedingly important in a social movement of any kind. Male privilege can and should be used in this way, not to overpower or silence a female voice but to compliment it and convey the same messages that feminism itself is trying to convey.

Men belong in the movement because we all deserve better. Women deserve better than being bullied and owned and men deserve better than being expected to treat women this way. We deserve better than being mocked because we do or don’t conform to gender roles and we deserve better than half-assed sex education in our public school system. Men deserve better than being told they have no place in the debate over abortion when there are many men out there who need abortion access themselves. It’s time we take a look at our own definitions of feminism and see who we are excluding and why and what those people deserve.

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