Feminist. What is a feminist? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a feminist is a person who believes in feminism, and tries to achieve change that helps women to get equal opportunities and treatment.
Feminism is a movement for equality for all women which does not sound like anything horrible or scary… but yet so many people afraid of this movement and the majority are men.
However, there are men who realize that feminism is not something that points a finger at them but something that brings awareness to the inequality that women face and want to change the narrative.
A part of this change are the men who participated in “Men in the Movement” panel discussion that was hosted by the Gender and Sexuality Center in the University Center Senate Chambers for Women’s History Month on Thursday, March 7.
Four men, Elijah Brown, Melvin Mastishin, senior Philip Andujar and Dr. T Storm Heter alongside moderator, Curtis Dugar, the director of Residential and Dining Services sat in the front of the room and shared their opinions and views on feminism and the different issues that surround the movement like privilege primarily in work settings.
“People hear ‘privilege’ and think ‘Oh, I’m not getting anything from being a man,’ but it’s the fact of not having to certain challenges that women have to go through,” said Elijah Brown, “It’s the lack of hinderance as a man we don’t have to navigate the challenges that women do.”
Dr. T Storm Heter followed with an explanation of one of his methods to understanding women’s struggles which is maybe shocking because it is so simple: active listening.
“One of the practices that I try to advise as a feminist is to be a better listener—to listen frequently,” he said. “There has been a long history in feminist theory of women saying we’re not listening to them and saying, ‘Could you just listen to us?’”
For centuries the voices of women have been fighting for equality and their right to things such as fair and equal payment to close the gender pay gap which Dr. Heter expanded on.
“The definition of equality falls into feminism. If you think of the gender wage gap, we’ve had this issue for 60…70…80 years and yet there is still a lot of denial about it often it is understood that women 60 to 70 cents lower and that’s just white women so if you factor different structures such as race, its much lower,” Heter said.
According to the AAUW (American Association of University Women), in 2017 a woman’s median earnings were only 80 percent of a male’s median earnings. Keeping this in mind, even if a woman has the same accreditations as her male colleagues, puts in the same amount of time and money into getting the same credentials she will be paid 20 percent less simply because she is a woman.
The gender wage gap wasn’t the only issue discussed as issues of why the word ‘feminism’ referred to as the “F-word.”
Almost instantly, the “F-word” when first hearing and thinking about it is a word that might earn a side eye and a scowl as most people might automatically think of the curse word, so why refer an equality movement like feminism to such a thing?
“Hearing feminism, people think of ‘feminazis’ and extremists when its women that are deciding to really stick up for themselves and society is so used to not hearing their [our] voices that it’s become kind of like ‘Woah, this is not expected,’” said audience member and freshman, Jasmine Aue.
“I think that that is another thing that makes people so afraid of the whole feminism thing,” Aue said. “People also think that they have to give up privileges in order to be a part of a solution and they think it’s to tear males down when it’s just to lift ourselves [women] up so they can hear us.”
“People are getting complacent and when we accomplish something and start on accomplishing something else it’s like, ‘You already got this, okay? You’re done,’” Aue concluded.
The panel later answered handful more of questions which led into discussions and thoughtful opinions like that of panelist and senior Philip Andujar, a social work major with a minor in psychology.
“As a social worker, one of the requirements is to advocate for human rights. I truly, truly believe that when we are advocating for women’s rights,” said Andujar.
“It sounds very cliché but when we look at the systematic oppression that women face, we can apply some of those theories and understandings to how people get oppressed, The Birdcage Theory by Marilyn Frye1, it indicates that if we don’t look at the intersectionality of how people get oppressed, we limit what our scope is. We have to be able to be critical as a society of people to talk about ways people are being oppressed,” Andujar said.
The “Men in the Movement” discussion panel proved that women are not alone in their journey for equal rights and there are men that are willing to start a conversation and listen.
“We need to see more men active in the movement. We need to be engaged in our communities and know what it means to be a part of the movement,” said discussion moderator Curtis Dugar.
“We’ve created a standard to how men function that doesn’t connect with being drivers of inclusion to all people and these faces are giving us an opportunity to do that and get it together in the future,” Dugar said.
To be a part of the movement as well as celebrate Women’s History Month, the Gender and Sexuality Center are hosting more events in honor of women for the rest of the month of March. The next events will be a Feminist Book Club on Friday, March 29 in the Gender Sexuality Center at 3 P.M. and “Painting with a Fema-Twist” the same night at 8 P.M. in the University Center.
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