Modern men are indebted to feminism. To some, this might seem like a strange sentiment, as folks often imagine that feminism is a zero-sum game - in the sense that the gains of a particular sex come at the expense of the other. But gender equality - otherwise known as feminism - is a positive-sum game. When a certain gender advances towards equality - often seen more concretely with women due to systemic disadvantages - we all benefit.
Men, therefore, should welcome the inexorable rise of feminism and, particularly, the current permutation of mainstream feminism. Mainstream feminism is an inclusive movement. It invites everyone to play a role regardless of their class, sexuality, race, religion and, perhaps most importantly, gender. This inclusivity encourages all involved to question how gender constructs affect their lives. Feminist movements have pursued such universality in the past, of course, but never has such a wide-ranging, inclusive feminism rested so comfortably in mainstream political and social thought.
This inclusive form of feminism, as exemplified by campaigns such as HeforShe, is effective. There has been an evident emergence - owing a great deal to the present nature of the mainstream struggle for gender equality - of men embracing feminism.
Male feminism isn't simply an act of solidarity with women. It certainly isn't an act of altruism. It isn't selfless. In fact, male feminism invokes a degree of selfishness. Men are becoming increasingly aware that, while the masculine gender construct remains profoundly deleterious to women, it is also detrimental to men.
Masculinity - that strange concoction of superficial toughness and brutal stoicism - prompts men to hide their emotions, bottle everything up and remain 'strong'. The dominant culture continues to promulgate the masculine identity - a brief perusal of almost any popular media outlet will ratify this notion. Society wants men to disguise their feelings through some deluded fidelity to a false ideal of strength. Society ostensibly renders weak the emotive male - those that refuse their expected hardness and agonising stoicism. And this sense of allegiance to the social construct of masculinity leads to often debilitating psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety and, in the worst case scenario, suicide.
Conversations about gender constructs precipitated by feminism brought to the fore the huge psychological problems that confront the modern man. And feminism has already achieved a great deal in the fight against these issues: we have an emerging discourse surrounding the concept of masculinity, men are becoming increasingly unafraid to display emotion, and the stigma surrounding the male fight for gender equality is dissipating. It is obvious, however, that we need to go further.
To confront the issues facing modern men, we have to promote further discourse, raise awareness and spread a positive message of gender equality. We have to continue to challenge the masculine gender construct that is profoundly detrimental to both men and women.
We want men to feel comfortable leaning on a friend's shoulder, rather than storing everything inside and hoping it dissipates - fully aware that it won't. We want men to display kindness without provoking cynicism. We want men to be altruistic without accusations of weakness. We don't want to men be tough for the sake of toughness, or hard for the sake of status. We want to liberate men from constricting social expectations.
Furthermore, we want men to stand in solidarity with women, as women stand in solidarity with men. Both sexes, if properly committed, are unsurprisingly equal in their pursuit of fairness. And, of course, we want men to discuss female gender constructs and challenge the wider system of female oppression that continues to exist in our society.
The modern man owes a debt to feminism precisely because we profit from gender equality. Perhaps men have ignored that fact in the past. Nonetheless, there presently exists a mainstream feminism that asks both men and women to question, challenge and confront issues regarding gender. Within this paradigm of mainstream feminism, men and women are fighting not against each other, but with each other. In the fight for gender equality, we are united. That, I suppose, is the point.