If you want gender equality, stop telling men to ‘man up’

There are various things which – particularly as a woman – you grow incredibly tired of hearing. We don’t like being told to smile, we tire of the media telling us ‘how to look 10lbs lighter’ and being slut shamed for our sexuality is so 1950. Feminists (and I profess to be one of them) wax lyrical about ‘double standards’ and sexism. Campaigns like Everyday Sexism poignantly highlight the insidious as well as flagrant forms of prejudice that are thrown at women on a worryingly regular basis.

This breeds a society of fearless females who are fierce in their demands for equality and for their voices to be heard – that should only be celebrated. But because of all the groundbreaking efforts towards equality for women, men are often shut down when they speak out about sexism they’ve faced. It creates and ‘us VS them’ mentality, rather than a starting a mutual conversation.

Often, any subtle complaint from a man about sexism he may have experienced is met with unsympathetic rebuttal from women ranting about ‘male tears’ and ‘male privilege’. It is unfair and damaging to pretend that men don’t face their own fair share of problems because of their gender. Perhaps the sexism and objectification that men face is of a smaller scale compared to that faced by women – but that doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t speak out. Feminism as an ‘equality for all’ movement – as it has recently been coined – is deeply flawed if it fails to address the more male-centric inequalities. And both genders end up losing out.

On many nights out, I’ve seen excitable ladies full on grope men’s bums, chests and various other parts. And it’s laughed off and put down to ‘cheeky’ behaviour. If a man does the same, he’s a predator and if a woman does it, she’s simply a bit of a minx. This obviously is a warped view as unsolicited groping is just plain wrong in any case!

On dating shows like ‘First Dates’, men are more often than not expected to foot the bill for the entire meal. Sometimes, the girls on this show react with outrage if a guy decides to split the bill! It’s not just unfair – it’s confusing. As women, we can’t demand to be taken seriously as financially independent and career savvy individuals if we recoil in horror because a bloke won’t pay for our dinner!

When footballer Andy Woodward spoke out about being sexually abused as a youth player, an investigation was launched into sex abuse claims, alleged to have happened within football clubs. It prompted Eric Bristow to rant on Twitter: “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when I was a kid as I got older I would have went back and sorted that poof out.”

Comparatively, when allegations emerged about Donald Trump’s alleged sexual assault of women – there was public outcry, and rightfully so. But no one took to social media to tell these women to just ‘sort him out’. In light of Bristow’s comments, it made me wonder if there’s discrepancy between how society treats male and female survivors of abuse. It’s unbelievably scary to think that men should be able to cope with abuse just because they’re men and ‘sort it out’ with violence.

Perhaps the saddest part of sexism against men is how they’re expected to negate emotion and just ‘deal with it’ or ‘man up’. On a few occasions I’ve seen young boys told to stop crying; ‘toughen up’, they’re told, ‘that’s not what men do’. I’m no psychologist, but I can only assume that forcing men to constantly bottle up their emotions – or risk being labeled ‘sissies’ – has harmful effects on their mental health.

In anycase, sexism is wrong – whether it is directed at men or women. Both sexes should be allowed access to a platform where they’re able to talk about their experiences without being shut down. Then, and only then, can actual gender equality be achieved.

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