You're all invited
One of the things I love most about this new wave of feminism is how inclusive it aims to be. With the first wave of feminism taking on the issues of enfranchisement and suffrage it was going to be near impossible for them to create the inclusivity we aim for today. It was a struggle for these brave women to even don their sashes, attend meetings, or God forbid—wear pantaloons. 19th and 20th century suffragists quickly realized that to move forward they would need to forge strong bond between their fellow woman as relying on one’s husband, brother, or father, was more often than not discouraging and counterproductive. These ladies meant business and after years of asking nicely from within the confines of their traditional roles, women broke off into a militant splinter group that was tired of closed doors, petty newspaper clippings, and unreceptive government. In the end, the iron-jawed hunger-strikers, horse racing martyrs, and active protesters brought home the victory of the vote through the tenacity of their convictions. Unfortunately, this great success and crucial first step had not furthered a message of inclusivity and left women isolated in their attempts to be understood and valued as members of society.
The second wave of feminism throughout the 1960s and 1970s sought to take on challenges for the modern woman such as the glass ceiling, equal opportunity employment, the right to not have children (or at least access to family planning services), and ending sexual harassment, to name a few. Caught between the throes of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-60s and the Watergate scandal of Nixon, these women had to learn to be alliance-seeking opportunists who showed support in order to gain support. Although the concepts of Civil Rights and Second Wave Feminism truly went hand-in-hand as they both fought for the equal treatment of marginalized groups, the experiences of said groups varied widely and presented a challenge when creating a unified front. The Netflix documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” highlights the fact that while women moved forward, we didn’t all move forward together. Thus, we are entering into what should be known as the “Third Wave” of feminism.
With a new generation assuming the typical age range of the previous wave’s predecessors, and another generation even more politically active coming-of-age on our heels, this wave seems very promising. Not only are we branching out to be intersectional (i.e. covering feminism from the viewpoints of women of color, trans members, and women of differing socioeconomic backgrounds), but we are reaching out to liberate our often tricky, yet undeniably crucial allies: men.
Women are continuing the battle for control over our reproductive systems, equal pay for equal work (and equally expensive education *cough, fucking cough*), representative government and legislation, lives without the last remnants of 1950s ideals, and respect as valuable, sentient beings contributing to the world around them. None of these goals are too far removed from the center of the previous two waves, except now we are fighting for men too.
You may have heard of the phrase “toxic masculinity” in recent years (if you haven’t and are curious check out the documentary Tough Guise 2). This refers to the set of ideals the force men to become fortified steel emotional traps that never show stress, strain, fear, or sadness, and promotes suitable interests that include violent/graphic hobbies, decreased compassion, and a condescension to all things considered feminine. Men are taught through social media, familial (read: generational) expectations/ role setting, movies, television, and magazines, that they are meant to only enjoy what is proper and to stifle joy for non-traditionally male pursuits such as active parenting.
Men have been trapped into being violent and hardened by the same historical tactics they used to colonize centuries ago. Colonialism worked by effeminizing “the other” to justify control because “the other” is unable to think, provide for, or protect themselves, and are thus unworthy and incapable of yielding power and access to their own resources. This new wave of feminism has created a way for men feeling the pressure to conform with the antiquated, destructive, and demoralizing ideals to escape the cycle. Feminists are rejecting this mold by providing safe spaces for men to share their feelings and fears of societal expectation and allowing men to be authentic in how they live and what they enjoy. Feminism, while primarily concerned with equality for all, also promotes everyone’s right to options and opportunities: be they for body image, family planning, career paths, orientation, or lifestyle. Western feminism is proudly pushing for an end to toxic masculinity so as to destroy the seemingly impermeable boundary between “women’s issues” and societal issues. A new dawning has come in which men have begun to join in on the battle for equality, which is essentially what this new wave of feminism is and should be.
Now, as a natural-born cynic, I will say, there are definitely a few men who make us a little weary. Some guys honestly proclaim they’re feminists, but it is obvious they’re really not. They’re not actually feminists, they just know how to get laid. By “I’m pro-women being in charge,” they actually mean “I’d be happy with you on top.” Of course, swiping through Tinder, the phrase “I’m a feminist” or “I’m pro-women’s rights” is going to be more attractive to most of us than a photo of a guy cradling an AK-47 (not saying no gun-toting men can be feminists, just making a comparison), so why the hell not put that in their bio? Maybe it’ll help their eligibility, if you will. But, a few of us will know if they’re full of shit. One strike, and those self-proclaimed femme men are out. The real pinch hitters let actions speak over words.
In college, I had to write a 12-page paper on a topic of my choice. My topic: maternity leave. After some initial research, that topic morphed into maternity AND paternity leave. Paternity leave, in America, may seem like a foreign concept, but in Denmark it is almost to the point of being normalized. Men are granted time off to help care for their newborns alongside their wives (or husbands, we don’t judge and neither do the Scandinavians). Besides being a great benefit for men and the children who are allotted more time with their fathers, it’s also a somewhat indirect version of female empowerment. If a father chooses to stay home and take care of his children, the mother could technically choose to go back to work. It shifts the dynamic of the household making the work balance at home and otherwise more equitable.
I loved learning that there were countries, which viewed marriage this way —as an equal partnership. I also loved the idea that some men would choose to hand the reins over to their partner and allow them the time to excel in their careers. In the past, pregnancy and motherhood often spelled a hiatus or possibly an end to a woman’s career. She had to choose between the lifelong job of being a mother or the career she deserved. These football fathers, drama club dads and PTA papas are one of my favorite examples of “male feminists.” My father filled this role as well. He was a stay-at-home dad who often helped by picking me up from school or being the parent at home when my bus dropped me off. He made breakfast and still makes my mother’s cappuccino every single morning. Mitchell Allen is a pinch hitter. He, and thankfully several men in my life, have proven they are really in this fight with us through the way they love, support and LISTEN TO us.
Mitchell Allen is joined by the ranks of many wonderful men who are proudly and openly declaring themselves feminists. We are seeing these men supporting our social media campaigns through hashtags and selfies, seeing them out at rallies, protests, and marches, and if famous, seeing them use their air time to promote equality. While women now have millions of male allies working to share in our dual liberation, B and I have a couple of standouts that deserve some special attention.
As a well known anglophile, I am always watching British television be it Fawlty Towers, Call the Midwife, Grantchester, 8 Out of 10 Cats, or Countdown. Through the no doubt thousands of hours of watch time, I have come across one British comedian in particular who is an unabashed, politically-savvy, feminist Millennial. His name is Russell Howard and I’ve become a major fangirl (halt your Wiki searches ladies, he’s already taken).
Russell currently hosts a show called “The Russell Howard Hour” in which he comments on world politics and news, interviews renowned guests from a wide variety of backgrounds, and presents hilarious segments with comedy pals. Howard is truly remarkable because he is not afraid to call things as he sees them. His affable nature allows him to blow racist, sexist, and agist phenomena wide open for the world to think on. Reflective comedy may be one of the few ways to combat apathy and emotional fatigue to keep the world talking about the issues that matter.
Below is a link to Howard’s YouTube channel where he posts full episodes online (bless him). The episode I’m sharing hits on what Millennial Pink is all about and reinforces that women have some great allies on our side. Enjoy!
Another celebrity worthy of praise for joining the fight for feminism is comedian and successor of Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show”—Trevor Noah. When asked by Glamour writer Phoebe Robinson in 2017, “...to me you seem like a feminist. Is that fair to say?” Noah said simply:
“Yeah. Without a doubt, that’s because of my mom. My aunt, grandmother. Most of my teachers were female in school. I grew up in a world where authority was female. [But] I never thought to call myself a feminist because of branding. I had this skewed idea of feminist: I thought it meant being a woman who hates men. When I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists,’ I was like, “Oh, this is what my mom taught me. This is simple. I don’t understand why everybody is not this.”
“I don’t understand why everybody is not this.” —S and my sentiments exactly, and only one of many reasons we admire Trevor Noah.
I actually just recently started dating this guy who’d never heard of Trevor Noah, a wrong which I felt called to right. Though I started Noah’s “Afraid of the Dark” Netflix special thinking “Wow, I can’t believe this guy’s been missing out on this comedic gold,” but then I soon realized “Oh my God, this is not only a great opportunity to inform him on the entertainment value of Noah, but see his reaction to Noah’s feminist voice.”In his first-ever Netflix special, Noah tells an anecdote about his Scottish friend telling him “not to be a pussy” when Noah declines to go out drinking with him.
“‘Don’t be a pussy.’ Yes. Because it implies weakness. Do not be like the vagina. The vagina that is weak,” Noah goes onto to say. ‘Don’t be a pussy’ … and yet, in my personal experience, I have found the pussy to be one of the strongest things I have ever come across in my life. ‘Don’t be a pussy?’ Have you ever come across a pussy? You realize vaginas can start revolutions and end wars. You realize, even on a physical level, the vagina is one of the strongest things that have ever existed. Virtually indestructible. Many men in this room have tales of how they once defeated the pussy. Let me tell you now, they have not. The owner of the pussy may have given you the impression that you defeated the pussy, but it is alive and well, my friends. Whenever people say that, I go, ‘Do you understand how impressive the vagina is? Do you understand how strong it is?’ There’s a reason men have sought to oppress it for so long. The vagina is frighteningly powerful. You realize that human beings come out of a vagina. Human beings come out and still it continues to work as intended. Do you understand how impressive that is? A human being comes out of the vagina. And still, it continues to operate, it continues to work, after a human has just come out. You’re saying it’s weak? You just sit on a penis wrong and it breaks. ‘Don’t be a penis,’ that should be the phrase. I wish I was a pussy. Are you serious right now?”
Ladies, if the guy you’re dating gets super uncomfortable hearing someone say the word vagina as often as Noah does in his three-minute rant, you shouldn’t let him anywhere near yours.
The largest benefit to the feminist movement Trevor Noah contributes is how he normalizes talking about what an alarming amount of people would consider “feminist rhetoric” and what S and I usually just call the truth.
One of the main ways for men to pave the wave for more allies is to join the United Nation’s He for She campaign. Started in 2014 with goddess Emma Watson named Goodwill Ambassador, He for She has created a way for men around the world to speak up and take a stand for equality. Men are able to sign up to become proud allies and join the ranks of 1.9 million other men challenging the status quo. He for She provides information and statistics about equality, programs to achieve gender parity, social media activities and promotions, as well as information on global commitments from He for She allies.
He for She, though of great benefit to women, also does a lot to better the lives of men with programs to redefine masculinity, challenge stereotypes, and just overall open up opportunities for men to just be themselves. And if that happens to be a man who supports gender equality, all the better. Welcome to the movement.