Masculine ignorance lingers in many facets of our society. In 2018, our president is a sexual predator. How do we then proceed? Feminism, by denotation, is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. However, on a cultural level, media and social outlets are ignoring the established definition, creating a stigma around the word itself. Feminists are often labeled as radical, man-hating, and unreliable. To explore this topic, I interviewed ten random male-identifying students around the Pratt campus on their own perspectives of feminism.
To encourage honest discourse, the students were briefed on the interview’s potential publication in the Prattler and its focus on feminist issues. Each series of questioning began with What do you consider to be feminism? Nine out of ten students provided plural meanings of the word. One man explained how “feminism is the ability to look at another person and see yourself in that person,” but the movement has transformed into “hating men.” Another student claimed there are people who believe in “social and economic equality” for women and people who believe in “numerical equality.” According to him, “numerical equality is problematic.” He does not go on to clarify what “numerical equality” is.
One step further into the interview, the ten students are asked Are you a feminist? Eight out of ten volunteers consider themselves feminists. Two men describe feminism as a “human issue” that concerns anyone with “compassion.” On the contrary, one interviewee states, “I’m not a feminist because I am a man.” Another refused the label because of its “connotation.”
In order to direct the discussion to a more urgent reality, the men were then asked What would you do as a witness to sexual harassment? Three out of ten stated they would report the incident to a higher-up (in a workplace setting) or to the authorities. Two claimed they would interfere directly: “Shit man, I better do something!” Three said they would talk to the harassed party privately. One student answered that he would not interfere at all. Another student provided an explanation of his personal opinion of sexual harassment, claiming that society needs to differentiate between “malice” and “stupidity” in reference to this type of sexual wrongdoing. The student argues that intention is the ultimate indication of culpability. He is a self-proclaimed feminist.
One of the goals of these questions was to put the students in a temporary position of social urgency—a hypothetical reminder of injustice. Dialogue is a necessity. Personal conventions and everyday beliefs are meant to be questioned in formal and informal settings. Regardless of their established attitude on the subject, each of the ten students, for a moment in time, re-thought a preconceived belief on feminism. Such a practice is essential, and, truly, a part of living.
Image by Andi Poretta