For most of my life, I had not been exposed to feminism in a concrete way. When I was younger, I didn’t have an opinion about it because the idea seemed irrelevant to me, since I had not experienced gender-based inequality.
Now, I think about how foolish I was. Feminism is not primarily about advancing women’s rights; the movement is about equality. It is a very complex and contextualized concept, so defining it is difficult.
Regardless, I have learned that men are not as involved in feminism as they should be. And even when men believe in gender equality, there may only be a handful of this set who publicly act on these beliefs. If there is continual disregard for the rights of women and minorities, then successive generations will not adopt a more accepting attitude towards others. As generations sprout and wither, positive ideologies need to be perpetuated through conversation.
In my family, my mother was the only source of influence on feminism. Feminism was not explained, but in the way that she conducted her life, it was implied. My brother and I acknowledged that women were regarded with traditional respect, and my mother delivered a short retort anytime we breached any form of respect. I came to understood the true nuances of feminism when I went to college.
College made me aware of many different viewpoints. When I started to meet people, both men and women, majoring in women’s studies, championing their passions in feminism, and discussing gender inequality, I learned that feminism was a global initiative. In a conversation with a mentor, I was told that considering gender equality is a characteristic that can define masculinity. One cannot show true signs of perspective and wisdom without considering feminism. The intrinsic understanding of equality does not suffice because the world needs to see empathy in action.
Family roles and power have shifted greatly since ancient times. In the medieval era, it was acceptable and admirable if a women were a housewife. Even at present, the father is often the sole breadwinner while the mother takes on the responsibility of rearing children. In the past, life was simpler, so relationships were simpler. After technological booms and human rights movements, relationships have become more complex.
One of the biggest issues with gender inequality is intersectionality, which describes how discrimination affects different categories of people. This kind of discrimination can be explained by the income gap. In 1973, women made 57% of the money that white men made in the same job. In 2013, this statistic increased to 78%. Gender inequality is even more unacceptable when women of minority races are considered. Based on studies done in 2014 out of all races, Asian-American women earned 90% of the income that a white male would have, but African American women only earned 64%. This even varies by state and gets worse when we consider age.
I have been hearing about women making 78 cents for every dollar that they should be able to earn, and I’ve always wondered why. According to the American Association of University Women, even after considering factors like family responsibilities and education, there is a seven percent gap that defies explanation. To any human being, this should be a matter of great concern.
Despite how seemingly difficult it is for women to earn the same as men, what will I do if my future wife makes more money than I do? In a society where masculinity can be stereotypically categorized by a man’s income, would I be concerned? And I do believe that I would not. After all, a difference in income does not equate to a power differential. In such a case, I would think of ways to remove any preconceived notions or disconnects that occur between a husband and wife. Both of us would need to anticipate personal or emotional conflicts that may arise from our relationship. For instance, male ego, insecurity, and family obligations are significant factors that can harm relationships. Cooking meals, taking care of children, and working a job are responsibilities that should be shared, regardless of a difference in salary. Even as a student, I know this as a fundamental concept that marriage should be founded upon.
Feminism is more than just a stand for social justice; I consider it a mission to stand for minorities. Just as much as other civil rights movements like #BlackLivesMatter, feminism is and should be hashtagged.
Of course, I cannot speak for every man about what feminism should mean; that would be generalizing, which is culturally insensitive. However, I do know that feminism in my life has a sense of progressive thinking that is more aligned with youth in the 21st century.