Sense and Sensitivity: Is it time for some meninism?

With #meninist taking hold on Twitter, Sarah Wood considers whether meninism could be a good thing for society, a movement that could aid rather than belittle feminism.

Initially created as a joke on Twitter to confront aspects of feminism that are perceived by some to oppress men, the notion of meninism has recently gathered steam and ignited plenty of reactions and passions. It is supposedly based upon principles of male feminists that support women’s social, political, and economic equality. However, as with most social media trends, the joke has (in places) gone too far. For example I presume a lot of feminists would agree with the concept of fathers having equal rights as mothers in custody cases, after all, shouldn’t equality be consistent in all areas of society, including social issues such as this? But when the joke gets taken too far, and comments appear on the feed implying women “ride by too easily in life whilst men have to work” it is easy to see how the approach to an idea that should by no means be downplayed is ruined because of the accusatory and aggressive tone. It doesn’t have to be like this, as I have said, drawing attention to the necessity to construct a positive masculinity, awareness of violence against men, father’s rights, and equal justice in courts and trials is crucial. These issues affecting men are all issues where gender equality should not be compromised.

Meninism still hasn’t gained enough force to become the sexual revolution I cannot help but think it should be. This is partly due to some of the tweets featured under the meninist hashtag. They are termed as ‘banter’ but really they are offensive, and at times derogatory, remarks that unfortunately detract from the seriousness of a movement that actually has a valuable point. In trying to create awareness of these principles, the ‘banter’ has no place within meninsim. However, I want to highlight why menisism could be beneficial for the future of feminism. Personally, I wonder what direction feminism is taking and I think meninism is an ideal example of the need to refresh our memories concerning the true definition of feminism, because it seems to have been lost on these feminist men (at least).

It is essential that the work of feminism in confronting gender stereotyping should continue to strengthen, and of course misogyny is by no means acceptable in society. However, what about male stereotyping? This is arguably just as prominent an issue in today’s society. We simply cannot pretend that male oppression doesn’t exist, just as we cannot accept misogyny. As an example take attitudes to emotional health. Even in 2015, it is still common to hear men being told to ‘man up’ when they are upset or face a difficult emotional issue. This oppressive phrase still circulates in our everyday language. Why should equality be limited to the social, economic, and political spheres? Emotional health does not prefer a gender, or affect one gender more than another. Why should men be excluded from discussing their emotional health? This is an example of where meninism has the potential to gain momentum and encourage a change. The phrase ‘man up’ is archaic and needs to be eradicated from our lexis.

A lot of people will have a problem with the term itself, and at first glance many will fear that it will damage the work of feminism. But let us not forget, this movement is not about diminishing feminism. It’s about equality as well! Placing the two terms together ‘Feminism and Meninism’ personally promotes an image of equality in my mind, and even innovation for the future of feminism. The two are not at war. The movement needs to escape the social media jokes in order for it to be taken seriously because at the moment, joke by joke, the movement is being ridiculed by its own creators and thus is failing to by dynamic. Masculinity on social media needs to escape from the culture of ‘banter’. Indeed, masculinity is arguably just as vulnerable as femininity in terms of being weighted down by the limitations of gender stereotyping and expectations. In order for equality of the sexes to progress, the issues damaging the identity of both sexes need to be addressed. Yes, maybe aspects of menisism are offensive, but come on; controversial and passionate issues are never going to be free from offensive jokes. In places, such jokes spur action and healthy debate. Let’s be positive, other aspects are promising, fresh, and have the potential to assist feminism in a embarking in a progressive direction. If women are campaigning to be equal to men, then men also need to be equal to women.

I am not ignorant of the fact that there are plenty of people on twitter using meninism to propagate hateful reactions to feminism and to women, and I by no means support or wish to promote such attitudes. However, if you cannot look deeper into meninism without associating it with the hateful reactions on twitter, I leave you with a question with the aim of redirecting your thoughts. If we remove meninism from the platform of social media, could we not use it to inspire action and campaign towards liberating each other (men and women) from the stereotypes, oppression, hate, and unrealistic expectations we are both subjected to in our communities today?

Sarah Wood, Online Features Columnist

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