Can Boys Be Feminists?
By Natalie Montanaro
When you ask both men and women in countries around the world whether gender inequality exists, the majority of both genders agree that it does.
But what is its link to feminism? The idea that women and men are not equal, by perception—or in a more tangible way, such as with unequal pay or leadership positions—is largely due to gender roles; roles that have developed generationally and have a clear impact on adult behavior.
Feminism, however, in concert with the ideals of equality, goes further. Feminists encourage women to aim higher in their careers, to reject negative behavior stemming from the concept that men are stronger and more powerful, and to accept that they themselves are equal in the home, at work, and elsewhere.
Boys are not immune and should not be excluded from this way of thinking. Feminism can be embraced by males both young and old. Children are not hot-wired to choose traditionally ‘girl toys’ like dolls or traditionally ‘boy toys’ like trucks. Rather, they respond to the cues adults impose on them. In schools, girls hear that they are not as smart as boys in math, that boys are better at more intense sports, and that classes like mechanical engineering or cooking are more suited to a specific gender. Roles and mindsets are nurtured in this way to create the gender divide between boys and girls that follows them through their lives.
The feminist concept then, is that not only should females be in a place of empowerment too, but that the males’ respective advocacy is part of the equation. This is the definition of a feminist man.
Can Boys Grow Into Feminist Men?
Increasing numbers of men are tuning into the fact that women can perform equally in the workplace, that they are equally capable of developing their intelligence and insight, and that they can be appreciated for their differences, which do not take away from their own societal or home status. But it could be better.
There are ways in which parents and other adults can encourage boys to grow into adults, having more respect for equality and supporting feminism. Here are a few examples presented by the New York Times:
- Providing good role models and examples of supportive behavior towards women.
- Encouraging friendships between boys and girls at an early age.
- Teaching caring and concern for others’ welfare, regardless of their gender.
- Sharing responsibilities equally in their relationships and promoting dialogue as a means to achieve this.
- Showing that both women and men can be breadwinners and child-rearers.
- Acknowledging that they have feelings and that expressing them is okay.
- Showing them how to care for themselves and their home environment.
- Training them to reject stereotypes and negative behavior towards women.
The road to equality began long ago and is ever-so-winding. Boys, when armed with feminist principles, can grow into men whose behavior supports feminism and feminist ideals and, in turn, makes for a more well-adjusted outlook toward women in general, forging better relationships. By respecting women, helping them to be successful, sharing, caring, and communicating in a way that does not include shaming, degradation, or subjugation, praising women for their accomplishments and appreciating their differences, men are mirroring feminism. Boys, as well as girls, can flourish in a world where healthy attitudes towards each other are nurtured; separatists views can be discouraged, and boys can be instrumental in improving the lives of all in a feminist way.