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Why men should be feminists

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In the 19th century, European empires expanded far and wide in search of natural resources, cheap labor and new markets, conquering most of the world in the process. And every time they took over a new area with a large population, they always faced the same question: how do you prevent rebellions? The answer turned out to be more or less the same everywhere, from British India to the Belgian Congo: divide and rule. Divide the local population into groups, based on ethnicity, religion or whatever else, and make some groups more oppressed and others more privileged. Encourage the more privileged to see themselves as superior. Then watch as mutual distrust and hatred grows, preventing unity, allowing for you to get away with plundering their country for its wealth and resources.

This is a formula widely used by ruling classes everywhere, in all situations, not just in long-extinct colonial empires. Slave owners in the American south used it, it was used until recently by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the capitalist ruling class – the “1 percent” – in the United States is using it right now.

The situation in the U.S. is perhaps best summed up by a scene in the movie “Matewan,” in which the main character, a union organizer, urges disparate groups of workers to unite: “They got you fightin’ white against black, native against foreign … when you know there ain’t but two sides in the world – them that work and them that don’t. You work. They don’t. That’s all you got to know about the enemy.”

Yet he forgot a very important division: male against female. Or, to be more exact, that aspect of our society known as patriarchy, which makes men and women treat each other as superiors and inferiors instead of equals.

Those people who are opposed to patriarchy are known as feminists, and that includes both men and women. Of course, women are the ones who suffer from patriarchy directly, and they should always lead the movement against it. Women get paid only 77 percent of men’s income on average, they do the vast majority of work in the home (even when they also hold full-time jobs), they are held to much higher standards of public behavior than men, and they are disproportionately affected by rape culture.

But men also have reasons to be outraged about sexism and patriarchy. Women’s low wages make their entire households poorer, including the men. And the existence of a lower-paid segment of the workforce drives down wages for everyone. Instead of placing the burden of housework on women, that burden could be picked up by socialized facilities (public cleaners, for example), which would improve the lives of both women and men.

Sexist attitudes towards women’s health and reproduction don’t hurt women alone. When Rush Limbaugh went on a vicious rant against a woman who dared to speak up in favor of health insurance coverage for contraceptives, he was in fact attacking married women and their husbands. Married women are more likely to use contraceptives than single women are, by a wide margin (79 percent versus only 39 percent). Contraception is family planning, and that’s important for everyone in the family.

The capitalist lie that an individual’s problems should be the concern of that individual alone is the reason why so many social and economic issues are called “women’s issues.” There are no such things as women’s issues. Women are 50.7 percent of the population, and when you add their male partners and children, you get the vast majority of people in society. “Women’s issues” are people’s issues. Whether we like it or not, all working people are in this together. When female workers are paid less than their male counterparts for the same work, this makes their whole families poorer. When predominantly female teachers’ unions are under attack, all children’s access to education is under attack. When women don’t have access to affordable health care, or when they have to deal with sexual objectification, harassment or even assault, that makes everyone live in fear. Fear of what the next medical bill might be, fear of what the boss might ask for, fear of what might happen tomorrow night.

All ruling classes know that fear is the best way to control people, because collective fear makes the oppressed keep each other in check, so that they do the oppressors’ work for them. When European colonial empires conquered indigenous populations in the Americas, they often resorted to random acts of murder and rape. Why? So that the conquered people would say to one another “be careful, don’t provoke them, watch your tongue, we can’t afford to make them angry at us.” That is exactly the kind of attitude that sexism and rape culture promotes in our society. Men and women alike – husbands, sisters, friends – tell the women in their lives, “be careful, watch where you go, what you wear and what you say, don’t provoke someone to assault you.” The threat of harassment, violence and public name-calling encourages half the population to police their own behavior, to remain silent when they wish to say something that might offend someone, to restrain themselves from challenging authority. That makes us all weaker in the face of injustice.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Injustice done against any of us, whether they are women, African-Americans, immigrants, LGBT people, or any other group, is a threat to all of us. Inequality and oppression should never be the sole concern of the people directly suffering from them. They should concern us all. All of us who work for a living have a material interest and a moral obligation to fight against injustice.

Feminist men need to stand up and let sexists know that whatever they do to our sisters, mothers and daughters, they do to us.

Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at

20 Responses to “Why men should be feminists”
  1. Dr Watson says:

    Sexism prevents women from being drafted, and they should be!

  2. A reader says:

    No one should be drafted…

  3. Dr Watson says:

    Until that day comes all must share the burden.

  4. Alum says:

    Wonderful article Mike!

  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you, Mike! I make arguments like these to my friends all the time, because it seems that most men (even progressive men) think that feminism is all about improving the status of women and has nothing to offer to them. I think too many women feminists are guilty of presenting feminism as a “women vs. men” paradigm. We should make more effort to explain that it’s about equality-minded women AND men fighting together against a system that oppresses the majority of us for the benefit of the few (and where “the few” tend to be men).

  6. A reader says:

    It’s definitely true that a lot of poor or working class white men feel unfairly attacked by present-day feminism. And for good reason. If your life sucks, you’re not going to believe anyone telling you that you’ve got “privilege,” no matter how true it might be in the abstract.

  7. Mike says:

    The 77% of every dollar fact you cite is a misrepresentation. It is a comparison of the jobs men work to the jobs women work. Since the job for men that requires the least education is usually labor it will pay somewhere around 15-18 dollars. The most common job that requires little education for women is usually office wok (secretarial), which pays 10 to 13 dollars. That is where the disparity comes from. If you wanted to talk about equal pay for equal work then you have an argument, but to cite a fact that is a misrepresentation hurts your argument

  8. Daniel says:

    The wage gap is a myth. Sure, on average men make more money than women, but if you look at men and women with the same level of education working in the same jobs for the same amount of time, you find women making more money than men! The 77 percent stat comes from looking at the average income of all men, vs the average income of all women, without taking into any account the choices they made in their lives.

    This article is more marxist than it is feminist, though I know how closely tied the two isms are. It’s easy to call those who are against socialized medicine sexists when they speak out against socialized medicine for women, while the verbal stone-throwers neglect the rest of the argument.

    It’s easy to use feminism as a front for your socialism, Mike. After all, who doesn’t hold a special sympathy for women and their problems? A large, all-powerful state with its tendrils in every aspect of our life, from how we raise our kids to how we run a business, to how we clean our own homes (if your plans ever came to fruition) may be an impossible thing to sell to your fellow countrymen without your shield of women which repels all opposing views as sexist.

    Let me tell you this much, Mr. Tudoreanu, every aspect of your life you give to the state is forfeit forever, the bureaucracy’s primary interest is to make sure there is always a bureaucracy. It feeds off of everyone’s money to provide an inferior service (wonder why Canadians come down here for healthcare when they have it for free up in canada?) and chips away at the individual’s liberty.

  9. Leni says:

    Clearly Daniel, your comment is just a front for your crazy Libertarian agenda. But of course you neglected to mention that, right? So much for disclosure.

    Your stance is not against socialism, it is against women and in favor of privatized oppression.

    Of course the other option is that your comment is simply a very bad attempt at an April Fools joke.

  10. N. says:

    The 77 percent statistic doesn’t take into account factors like education level, field of work, or experience, it simply compares earnings of full-time, year-round workers. If you do take these things into account it almost disappears – down to 1-2%! – which is in a 2009 GAO report:
    Not that some of these factors don’t, in themselves, point to other forms of discrimination happening in various ways, but let’s not get things backwards here. Not many people have a good understanding of statistics, but almost anyone with a political axe to grind finds them easy to toss around and impress people with, even if they really don’t mean what they want everyone to think they mean. In reality the gender pay gap, when adjusted for pertinent factors, is very small and getting smaller.
    The social and economic power of women today can be seen in the fact that feminism has become a cause du jour, leading aspiring fringe politician types like Mike here to attempt to hitch their wagons to it. I don’t agree with Daniel’s libertarianism but I do agree about the opportunistic political connection being made here. I don’t think it’s even a very good front though, since obviously, capitalist society (although let’s face it we have been living in a partially socialist society for a century now) has done plenty to abolish the wage gap on its own! If women can be more economically productive than men, why should capital care? Answer: it doesn’t; it can’t…

  11. A reader says:

    The article used the 77 percent statistic correctly: “Women get paid only 77 percent of men’s income on average.” That is true. Average earnings for women in the United States ARE, in fact, only 77 percent of men’s average earnings.
    No one said anything about education level or field of work. The 77 percent statistic is a comparison of the overall average female earnings with the overall average male earnings, and it’s correct as far as it goes.
    Of course, it is also true that most of the pay gap between men and women comes from the fact that women hold lower-paying jobs, NOT from the fact that women get paid less than men for the same job. That is what N. is talking about. But the question is, so what? Does that make the gap any less real? If women are being discriminated by being pushed into lower-paying jobs, instead of being discriminated by getting lower wages for the same jobs as men, does that mean there’s no problem?
    Suppose someone came to you and said: “We’re going to make it extra hard for you to get promoted or get any decent job, so you’ll be stuck working at McDonald’s. But don’t worry, you’re not being oppressed: you’ll get paid the same as any other McDonald’s employee.” Would you say, then, that the pay gap between you and other people, “when adjusted for pertinent factors”, is zero?

  12. Inaccurate says:

    This article is fraught with misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and outright fallacies. I don’t even know where to begin…

  13. N. says:

    I didn’t say it meant there was no problem, but it also doesn’t mean what you say it means. It means, among other things, that it is actually more complicated and whatever we see as problems cannot be boiled down to a single number. And by the way the pay gap has been steadily shrinking over the decades, and if you break the same stat it down by age, the lower age groups have much smaller gaps, consistent with women continue to rise higher and higher in economic power structure, rather than being pushed down in it as you suggest.

  14. Mike says:

    A reader have you ever held a real job in your life? If you can do the work you will get promoted and if you don’t move to different company.

  15. Brian says:

    Fact: Social mobility in the US is the lowest it has been since WW2, and still declining.

    Statistically speaking, an ever-increasing majority of Americans are staying in the same income bracket as their parents. Most of those who were born poor stay poor, and most of those who were born rich stay rich.

    You want to talk about hard work? I don’t know what kind of fantasy world you live in, Mike, but over here in reality, there are vast numbers of people who work very hard every day in dead-end jobs – and who have no other option except unemployment.

  16. Brian says:

    Also, in response to N.’s comment further above, regarding Marxism and feminism: The connection between socialist politics and feminism is a very old one. There’s nothing opportunistic going on here. Socialists have been supporting feminist causes for over a hundred years. You’ve heard of International Women’s Day, I assume? That was originally an annual event established by the Socialist International back in 1911. “Equal pay for equal work” was a phrase used by socialists at least as far back as 1884.
    A quick google search found this article from 1896…

    …whose opening sentence says that “the social suppression of women coincided with the creation of private property.”

    So, yeah, socialists have been saying this stuff for a long time. Which isn’t surprising, really, since the foundation of socialism is the principle of human equality, which includes gender equality.
    To say that capitalist society “has done plenty to abolish the wage gap” is like saying that capitalist society created the minimum wage, the welfare state or universal health care (in Britain, France, Canada, etc). These things happened IN capitalist society, but not BECAUSE of capitalism. On the contrary, they happened because of anti-capitalist movements. The wage gap has narrowed because of the actions of people who fought against capitalism (e.g. socialists, unions, feminist organizations), not because of “capitalist society.”
    The reason why capital wishes to preserve or even widen the wage gap should be obvious: because the wage gap makes it easier to profit from cheap labor.

  17. This Guy says:

    Ok, so I am a libertarian, and I don’t mind most of the points in this article, but I just have to say one thing: I have no problem splitting housework with my partner 50-50. I think it is just and it makes her day a little easier and that is my duty as her boyfriend. I will just stand in opposition to one thing: I will NOT let public cleaners into my home. It is my home, I will take responsibility for it, and not allow outsiders to invade it. Also, the 77% wage gap statistic isn’t great, but I agree that opposing benefits everyone. Just don’t send public cleaners to my apartment, I won’t let them in.

  18. Bob Wilson says:

    Damn. I was interested in this article but then I saw you cite the wage gap statistic, instantly letting me know that you had no idea what you were talking about. Also…instead of men being feminists, why not have everyone be humanists? Why don’t we all fight for equal rights for ALL people, regardless of gender, class, race, etc. I think that’s a better cause. Feminism, like society, is blind to the big picture.

  19. amy says:

    This is not a myth. Here is a direct comparison, job for job with women getting paid far less than men for the EXACT SAME JOBS!!!

  20. Stefon says:

    The article is propaganda that will give Joseph Stalin ideas in his head to destroy the families.

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