Gender and Sexuality Column

Men should step up, embrace feminist values in college

With the high tensions surrounding the upcoming presidential election, it seems that many have taken to voicing their opinions on social media platforms without first educating themselves on what they are speaking out against.

While some Americans are marveling at the possibility of Hillary Clinton becoming our first female president, others are scoffing at the idea that a woman could effectively run the country. Even on a daily basis, terms like “feminazi” are thrown around on Reddit and Twitter at the women who don’t apologize for their beliefs on gender equality and it’s almost as if “feminism” is a dirty word.

President Barack Obama recently made his stance on the feminist movement crystal clear in his essay on feminism published in the September issue of Glamour. Obama wrote that it is “absolutely men’s responsibility” to join the fight against misogyny and that men need to “work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.” The president touched on an important gap in understanding the gender equality movement: by standing up for one another, we become more united.

Somehow, in this Internet age, the fourth wave of women’s rights movement became synonymous with man-hating for a lot of millennials. But that’s not what it’s all about. Young people’s fight for the empowerment of women should never imply the oppression of men or setting of social standards across genders. Instead, conversations on gender equality — whether in the classroom, among friends or on social media — should be an opportunity to bring men and women together, and create a more welcoming campus climate at Syracuse University.

Obama isn’t the only man in a position of great political power taking a stand for women’s equality. Just last fall, SU alumnus and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden came to Syracuse to teach us a little lesson on feminism and anti-sexual assault efforts with the “It’s On Us” initiative. The activism of both Obama and Biden demonstrate that your identity — in this case, gender — should not make you indifferent to the struggles of others. In fact, it should make you more willing to raise your voice for those who can’t.

Joining the fight means being an active advocate for the cause and educating those around you so that the message is heard. Some fraternities at the University of Maryland, have shown their solidarity with women by educating their members on consent and making it clear that they do not tolerate sexual assault. By supporting legislation such as the “Yes Means Yes” law, men can begin to change the conversation from “not all men” to “no men at all”.

These efforts take place on our very own campus with organizations like A Men’s Issue that work to spread awareness of sexual and relationship violence. As a former three-term president of A Men’s Issue, 2016 SU graduate Anthony McGriff is a prime example of why it’s vital that men use their voice to bring light to these issues.

“As an outspoken, male feminist, you get to see how male privilege allows me to move in this work,” said McGriff. “I’d tell men to embrace it: feminism leads to a healthier masculinity.”

It’s not that women haven’t been preaching these ideas for decades, but the importance of these beliefs are more likely to be heard by the masses when it’s brought up by men — who have the privilege of their gender to give them a different reason for speaking up.

As we enter college and begin to form our own sets of beliefs, the men who support concepts like equal pay and a woman’s right to her body should not be afraid to identify as feminists. On the other hand, the men that hesitate to stand up for social, political and economic gender equality should re-evaluate their feelings and take the true objective of feminism into consideration.

We see every day why we need feminism on college campuses. Whether it’s her personality, her sexuality or her intelligence, it seems that women are always “too much” or “too little” of something, but never quite enough. The young women that step foot on SU’s campus should be able to do more than just exist in the classroom or the workplace: they should be able to thrive and rise as high as they hope to with their education, without a glass ceiling getting in their way.

And in the same way that women should be allowed to make it as far as they dream, they should also able to make their own decisions about their bodies. SU students, both men and women, made a radical statement about sexual assault and slut-shaming when they organized the first ever on-campus Slut Walk. Initiatives like this are so important for the state of feminism on college campuses because they push back on rape culture and blaming victims.

“Being a man” does not mean that one has to promote the mistreatment of women or the idea that women are somehow lesser. It’s about having the courage to stand up for women’s rights, even when it doesn’t fit into traditional ideas of masculinity. So, to all men on campus: it’s time to “man up” and be feminists.

Ivana Pino is a sophomore political science major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at ivpino@syr.edu.

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