Rhiannon Spear: Feminism is as important for men as it is for women - please listen

CommonSpace columnist Rhiannon Spear says that when men are accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression

THIS is something I have been thinking about a great deal recently. I believe if we really understood this we would see a massive breakthrough in achieving true equality. 

A problem I am frequently facing at the moment is seemingly liberal men who are adamantly opposed to positive discrimination for women. Because when you are accustomed to the privileges of patriarchy, equality can feel a lot like oppression. 

But I can definitely identify with the feeling of oppression - I am a young women involved with politics. Every single day I engage with political discourse in Glasgow, in Scotland, in Europe, and globally I am faced with it. 

I am continually screaming out for an acknowledgement that my ideas and my intellect can contribute to something greater in society but when I deliver a speech the feedback I get is how great my legs looked.

I encounter systemic sexism at every level of the political landscape I participate in. I struggle to get my voice heard in meetings, I repeat myself constantly to find my ideas have been hijacked by men. I have had people explain policies, rules and standing orders to me that I have helped write. I am continually screaming out for an acknowledgement that my ideas and my intellect can contribute to something greater in society but when I deliver a speech the feedback I get is how great my legs looked.

For me, I believe the only way to deal with systemic sexism is to manually increase female participation through quotas, to weigh the odds in women’s favour. 

If you think this is shocking or unfair, take a look at the current situation. How some people feel about the oppressive nature of quotas is how I experience the status quo. Decades of patriarchy embedded in society has ensured male advantage, there is no question over that. 

I am also increasingly exhausted and frustrated having to explain the fundamentals of feminist theory to men who believe feminists are oppressing them, or that they experience just the same amount of sexism as women. 

How some people feel about the oppressive nature of quotas is how I experience the status quo. Decades of patriarchy embedded in society has ensured male advantage, there is no question over that. 

The same tropes that we are seeing in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the preposterous idea that white people are experiencing anywhere close to the levels of oppression and police brutality that the black communities are currently facing. They truly believe they are being discriminated against at the hands of feminism yet refuse to engage with the idea of systemic sexism. 

Another trope I hear is a consensus that feminists are ok but it is the radical or militant ones that give them a bad name. I find this argument excruciatingly painful given that in human history the arbitrators of atrocities and war tend to be men, yet they still make up the vast majority of world leaders. 

I find time and time again that those who have very strong opinions on feminism have never read anything close to feminist theory in their lives because they feel it isn’t relevant to them. 

I believe that is the root of the problem. Some young men in politics aren’t engaging with these discussions and theories because they don’t think it applies to them. They think it is a female issue that will be solved through female empowerment. They have no idea what that looks like or how it will be achieved, all they know is they don’t want to be oppressed in the process. 

Patriarchy is damaging to everyone, not just women. It subscribes restrictive gender roles that everyone is struggling to live up to.

However, men need feminism now more than ever. With suicide being the largest killer of men under 50 it is imperative that we change the heteronormative, mass marketed macho society that surrounds us. Patriarchy is damaging to everyone, not just women. It subscribes restrictive gender roles that everyone is struggling to live up to. 

Patriarchal structures within our society are strangling men and women and we should be uniting together to change this. Where better to start than greater representation of women within society?

Picture courtesy of Samantha Carlson

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