Recently scientist Laura Waters wrote a piece explaining “why I’m an equalist and not a feminist.” Molecular biologist and feminist Andrew Holding responds.
The world is against men. This week a man was turned away from Legoland for not having a child, apparently to protect the families and children that visit. Men are not allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children on planes because apparently they’re all paedophiles-in-waiting. I’ve had my own experience of someone alerting the whole of John Lewis that my daughter was abandoned, because she wasn’t near someone who looked like a mother. Then there’s the old issue that only 8% of children in single parent families are with their fathers. Perhaps all this contributes to high suicide rates in young men. So we need equality not feminism? I don’t agree.
When I was born, my father could rape my mother. Legally. The act was only criminalised in England in 1991. We’re less than 100 years since Emily Murphy fought to be recognised as a person because she didn’t have a penis, and still, in the 21st century, girls have been shot in the head for suggesting the radical thought that we should educate people with uteruses.
If you think feminism is a dirty word, or some kind of female ‘supremacist’ movement, you’ve been had. This slippery-slope sensationalism is the same old dirty trick we see when anti-equality campaigners make ridiculous arguments about marrying their sons in an effort to stop marriage equality, or suggest that giving all genders an equal chance in life is some how going to lead to the oppression of men. It’s ridiculous, and those who protest are typically those who have the most to lose from equality.
There are individuals who dislike men, in a hand-wavingly general sort of way, but that does nothing TO men on the whole. There is no power structure in place – and never has been – that causes men to be systematically disadvantaged compared to women. That is misogyny, the history and the culture and the actions of individuals that pile up to create a hostile environment to women in work, life and play, and in a country where a woman’s attractiveness is still seen to be more important than her achievements it is impossible to miss.
So what about single fathers, young men committing suicide, or suggestions that every man is some kind of Schroedinger’s paedophile? The answer to these problems is more feminism.
Feminism fights patriarchy. It’s this system that is responsible for the fallacy that women need to be mothers in place of men; a lie that can cost fathers their children and women their lives. It places unreasonable expectations on young men, leaving them ill-equipped for the modern world and leading to an epidemic of mental health issues. It runs the entire country, and those that gain from it would prefer that women don’t stand together for their rights because they have so much to lose.
And feminism is pro-men. In discussion of rape and sexual assault, it is feminists who have challenged the myth that men are incited by short skirt, and the belief that the average man can barely stop his penis leaping from his trousers into the nearest woman.
We need a word because it provides focus, a banner to rally behind and, in the case of feminism, a history. Yes, equality is great, but we wouldn’t expect those fighting against racism or homophobia to drop their banner because a few people want to make it into something it’s not. We all need, in the words of Geraldine Horan at Bright Club recently, to ‘grow a pair of ovaries’ and start calling ourselves feminists.
If you’re affected by issues around young men and mental health, CALM offer information and an advice line.
Andrew Holding (@AndrewHolding) is the father of two amazing children, who happen to have four X chromosomes between them.