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Feminism through the male perspective

While teaching his Global Issues class earlier this year, Social Studies Teacher Terry Gladis asked his students what they thought the biggest issues facing society in 2018 were. Each group had to come up with a list of seven topics to present to the class. One group of two girls and two boys wrote that they believed sexual violence against women was one of the most prevalent issues. The student presenting the group’s ideas to the class was a stereotypical jock who in the past many would presume would not be particularly interested in an issue such as gender equality.

Gladis noted that the shift in mindset was coming from a representative of a group of students who historically have not been involved in this conversation.  Although he does not “explicitly” identify as a feminist himself, Gladis hopes through his actions people can see he believes in gender equality. “To me, feminism is about men and women being on an equal footing,” he said.

He explained that he has had to unlearn the misogyny that he grew up with. “I’m trying to navigate my comfort and sometimes discomfort with these gender stereotypes that are so ingrained into our society,” he said. “It’s an uphill battle, and I hope I’m doing a good job.” Gladis feels as though misogyny was almost “normalized”  when he was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. “I can remember [playing on the] basketball court and guys would be saying things that were very misogynistic, but it was just something that everybody did,” he said. “If` I could unravel and unlearn what I’d learnt in the past, I would probably be a better dad, teacher and husband. I still make mistakes…. [It’s] no excuse, but these gender stereotypes were so ingrained into society when I was growing up.”  

Similarly, Social Studies Teacher Chris Wolf, who does identify as a feminist, echoes Gladis’ sentiment about men from older generations having to “unlearn” sexism. Wolf attended an all boys school from Grades 7 through 10 and recalled what would happen when the cheerleaders from the sister school would participate in sports rallies. “I remember they would come into the gym and there would be this ridiculous and offensive catcalling,” he said.

Akin to Gladis, Wolf has noticed the ripple effect feminism has had at ASL. When he started teaching in the High School four years ago, Wolf noticed that the majority of class discussions surrounding gender equality were dominated by his male students. “I felt the young women at ASL were very used to being mansplained and taking a back seat in the classroom, letting the boys speak first,” he said.

However, over the past few years, Wolf has noticed a change in the way female students participate in class. “I would credit that to what’s going [on] in general culture, but also to the female faculty that we have,” he said. “There’s been a change based on their contribution to the community.” Wolf believes the way in which the female faculty have brought issues regarding gender equality into the culture of the school has been very “positive” and “proactive” in pushing for change.

On the other hand, Jose Lecaros (’20) does not identify as a feminist, but instead an egalitarian: someone who believes in equal rights for all people. “I don’t want to just fight for women’s rights, I want to fight for both men and women’s rights,” he said. “I am completely for equality between the genders. I don’t think anybody should be dehumanized because of their gender or what gender they identify with.”

Lecaros agrees with the definition of feminism, the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes, but disagrees with the movement. He thinks that feminism has turned into a “man-hating” movement, using aspects like the gender wage gap to justify the movement. “Feminism has strayed from its definition and isn’t something that is fighting for gender equality anymore,” he said.

Comparatively, Will Fox (’18)  does identify as a feminist. “I am a feminist. I believe in the movement, their goals… and achieving equality for both genders,” he said. However, Fox agrees with Lecaros that parts of the feminist movement can be “anti-men.” “I think 99 percent of the [feminist] movement is for equality, but some parts of the movement [like] the way in which some feminists try to push for gender equality can be anti-men,” Fox said.

Fox believes that having aspects of feminism be “anti-men” might be a reason why men in particular feel “dissuaded” to identify as feminists and instead choose to identify as egalitarians. “If you’re an egalitarian it encapsulates feminism,” he said.

Wolf believes another reason why men do not choose to identify as feminists is because it can be ego bruising. “I think, in particular for young men, [being a feminist] can be problematic because they are struggling to self define and comply with the norms of society, instead of change the norms of society,” he said. “There’s so much going on in the world today that there is something comfortable in relying on the normal stereotypes of gender. I think people find it easier to live a life of inequality instead of regularly…finding ways to make systematic changes that are conscious and respectful.”

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    Martorell AnaMay 31, 2018 at 9:56 am

    It’s thought provocative to read some male perspectives on this particular subject. It was interesting to read what teachers as well as students think, covering a wider age range of experiences.