For a very long time, even after I started advocating for Gender Equality, I was afraid to call myself a feminist (as ironic as that sounds). It was a word that scared me, one that I personally connected to aggression. I suppose a part of the reason why it scared me so much was because I did not understand the consequences of being called a feminist; that I did not fully understand what it was that the movement was demanding. I did not want to be a part of a culture that called for shift of power from one gender to another, which is all that I had heard about feminism, growing up.
Things changed for me because I indulged in conversation. It took me some time to understand and comprehend what feminism was calling for, and how it wasn’t – not about shifting the power to women from men, but a call for an equal distribution of power that is currently only held by one privileged gender. The first time I was called privileged for being a man, I remember being deeply offended. It was very difficult for me, a cis-man born in a relatively comfortable middle class urban, mostly progressive family, to understand the idea of privilege. It seemed like an overburdening, highly complicated idea, that I was somehow a part of a culture that oppresses half of the people in the world, without actually having done anything. This brings me to the most powerful quote by Emma Watson from her speech, one that has stayed with me since I first saw it:
“My life is a sheer privilege because my parents did not love me less because I was born a daughter.”
This quote felt extremely alien to me, I find myself struggling to comprehend it. The reason was simple, it was difficult for me to understand the idea that the reason I was privileged was because I never actually had to think about it at all, that I never had to be thankful to my parents for not loving me less because of my gender or sex. It was a thought that never crossed my mind, something that I never really had to spend a second of my life worrying about.
It is just as important for men and all other genders to talk about feminism as it is for women, for it is because of patriarchy that men are not allowed to be expressive about issues that are often considered effeminate. This is the reason men today feel “burdened” and develop resentment towards the idea of feminism because they feel there are pressures on us men to “run the family”, pressures that are not always socially linked with women. The fact is that this stems from the same problem that feminism is fighting against, the idea that men and women need to be conditioned differently, that men run the house and must not cry whereas women should not have opinions and should “listen to” men.
I call myself a feminist today, and I am really happy that Emma Watson said everything she said. I can only wish that more people would hear her speech and question the notions that they were brought up with as well.
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