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Redefining Feminism: Male Participation in Women’s Rights Movement

April 4, 2016

Weiting Li ’16 – Women in Leadership

Though the women’s rights movement is rising, the word “feminism” has remained controversial and often been avoided. People usually will feel uncomfortable when called feminists, because it relates to the image of alienation, separation, or even men-hatred. Emma Watson reports that she was encouraged not to use the word “feminism” in her HeforShe speech. But, what does feminism really mean? By definition, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. To achieve that participation and effort from both sides is encouraged. In other words, rather than divide women and men, feminism is suppose to unit both sexes to fight for gender equality. Men’s participation in women’s rights movements is just as important as women’s.

After many decades of struggle and fights, it is exciting to see that the feminist movement has gained huge successes. The development of feminism has gone through three major stages. The first-wave of feminism started in the late 19th century. First-wave feminists have won basic legislative rights for women, such as gaining women’s suffrage. The second-wave of feminism focused on issues regarding education, the workplace, and family. Carrying on the mission of the second-wave feminist movements, the third-wave feminists represents more women of different races, religions, nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Nowadays, we can see examples of successful and professional women in various fields ranging from Sheryl Sandberg to Sonia Sotomayor.

With the extraordinary success and influence of feminism, an increasing number of women have realized the issue of gender inequality and have joined the movement to fight for their equal rights and opportunities. Although the women’s rights movement has gained large support from women throughout the world, very few men are willing to stand up for women and identify themselves as feminists. There are a large number of men who still hold the traditional views of women and try to hold on to their male privileges. Donald Trump can be a great example. As a Republican candidate for the presidency, he has made comments publically against women, saying “looks obviously matters, like you won’t have your job if you weren’t beautiful.” Moreover, if we look at the micro level, we barely see equal participation of both genders in class, programs or other activities relating to feminism. Take an example of Women in Leadership Program we don’t have many male participants as female students. It is hard to accept, but it is the truth right now.

“We want to end gender inequality, and to do that we need everyone to be involved.” This is a quote from Emma Watson’s speech for HeforShe campaign. One of the great points she makes in her speech is that gender equality cannot be achieved until both men and women are involved. Not only men’s opinions and participation are significant to women’s rights movement, they also help themselves. Emma explains in her speech, just like women, men are also trapped in their stereotypes. The success of the women rights’ movement will also benefit men in terms of releasing them from those fixed expectations.

Men and women need to stand together to continue this movement, people should not be afraid to be called feminists, they should feel proud about it because we all are fighting for humanity and for a better society. That should be the new meaning of feminism.

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