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Why today's men need feminism

2nd December 2013

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"My girlfriend scored a free kick against me on FIFA, so I dumped her….ain’t no way she learnt that sh*t on her own”.

“Get back in the kitchen!”

“Go and make me a sandwich!”

Forgive me if you’ve heard/seen those before. They're just some of many of the supposedly ‘hilarious’ jokes made by today’s ‘lads’.

Despite living in the 21st century, the pretence that we have advanced in attitudes towards women and feminism is wearing thin once you open your eyes. In an age where we are led to believe that everyone is equal, there are still some shocking attitudes in our own generation that are very much prevalent.

I am of course talking about my own generation’s pretty rampant sexism. The emergences of “UniLad” and “The Lad Bible” have been notorious in promoting the objectification and marginalisation of women.

Indeed, as a 21 year old man, the “lad” tag is something I prefer to avoid, and indeed, only embrace in the most ironic way possible.

The emergence of “lad” culture has been something that has been detrimental to both genders; women are seen as “wenches” (to use a term I’ve seen on one of these sites), and the men as beer-downing, football-obsessed Neanderthals. I don’t think that “lad” culture necessarily equals rape culture, however, the highly questionable morals and frankly disrespectful attitudes that are encouraged towards women are extremely off-putting.

There is an incredibly interesting article showcasing the scarily blurred lines between the advice ‘lad’ magazines give versus testimonies from actual rapists. You can read it here. This is the first example of just why this laddish approach towards women needs to stop. The first people that can do this are of course men themselves.

The fact that these publications are highly circulated and gain a lot of notoriety is a very prevalent problem. The most worrying and disturbing example of a new type of website emerging is the borderline women-hating “Return of Kings”, which advertises itself as “a blog for heterosexual, masculine men.”

It has hilariously inept and ridiculous ‘rules’ such as “Socialism, feminism, and cultural Marxism cause societies to decline because they destroy the family unit, decrease the fertility rate, and require large entitlements that impoverish the state.” They have vile articles such as “Act as if Every Girl is a Slut” – wherein, we men are instructed that it is vital that we should always “structure dates so you can get laid” and assume “that she is already f**king other men.” There is also the horrendous “Top 5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder”. They also say how feminism is a “cancer” and how “women should not be allowed to fight in the army because they are weaker than men.” The usage of “Kings” in their title is woefully mistaken, but the fact that this is a website that is gaining traffic and notoriety means that more and more people are clearly reading it, including younger generations. More and more people are being exposed to its harmful messages, and its jaw-dropplingly sad that these types of attitudes actually still exist and are given a platform.

But why is this happening in 2013?

Firstly, I think that men from a young age aren’t being educated enough about feminism, or the struggles that many women still face today. I would point to myself as playing a role in this, because prior to being with my girlfriend, I had no idea about feminism. We men need to be educated from a younger age about it in our schools. I was privileged enough to receive a private education between the ages of seven and eighteen; however, in eleven years of history lessons, I can recall covering the Suffragettes and women’s struggle for the vote maybe once. I never really learnt to question why women are portrayed or treated the way that they are for years. Whilst I steered clear of belittling women and making them feel inferior to myself, I never really stopped to question the amount of sexism that is very prevalent today. Being raised by a single mother and being surrounded by women as I grew up meant that I could never ridicule women in the same way as some of my peers, however, I was certainly far blinder to the plight that young women in particular face today. The fact that I have a younger sister going to university next year has made me far more conscious of the fact that she will be facing the same kind of sexist mentality that I’ve seen girls my age struggle with.

The first place where one could probably start would be the seemingly age-old ‘joke’; “Go and make me a sandwich/get back in the kitchen” that is used towards many girls frequently today. Where did this joke come from, and why has it become such a go-to remark for so many young men?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that it is clearly meant to mean that any girl should be in the kitchen serving the men, and don’t argue with them sweetheart! Upon typing this phrase into Google, I have found t-shirts with the slogan written on them as well as the story of Stephanie Smith, a New York Post journalist who is making her boyfriend, Eric, 300 sandwiches so he will propose to her. This is one of the worrying high-profile examples that feed this ridiculous joke. Eric has been quoted as saying “You women read all these magazines to get advice on how to keep a man, and it’s so easy. We’re not complex. Just do something nice for us. Like make us a sandwich.”

This ‘man’ is incredibly content as his girlfriend makes him a sandwich each day, whilst he dangles the engagement ring in front of her face. Whilst it is seemingly something that she is choosing to do for him, the fact that this is an example of an intelligent woman becoming sycophantic to a seemingly unlikeable man feeds the stereotype to younger generations that this sort of subservient behaviour for women is ok. Yes my girlfriend will on occasion cook dinner for the both of us, but I would not document it on the internet or try to use it as an example of “my woman serving me.” So firstly, this outdated stereotype of women belonging in the kitchen and serving men needs to end. The unfunny, tiresome jokes are just boring now. Also, being able to cook is not only pretty important, but also pretty fun, so boys, get off your backsides and maybe get in the kitchen every once in a while!

I’d argue as well that there is no need to buy magazines such as FHM, Nuts, Zoo or indeed, ogle Page 3. These magazines seem to want to dictate that all men are Neanderthals who want but three things: cars, football, and girls. If anything, it is somewhat of an insult to the reader’s intelligence. Our own Prime Minister, in typically spineless fashion has backed down from banning Page 3 due to it being laughably compared to some sort of institution or journalistic stalwart. It isn’t. It’s an excuse for men to ogle women time and time again, and it’s unnecessary. We don’t need constant titillation, and in such an appallingly gratifying manner. I’m not saying that it’s evil and that these young women are forced into doing it, but it’s the men who look at it who need to think about what they’re getting from it, which is nothing. So stop buying these magazines and putting money into the pockets of those who don’t think of you as being above a caveman intellectually.

Internet porn is dangerous as well, because of the fact that we now have immediate access to gratifying material where women are being objectified and exploited. Yes it is true that some women choose to get into porn, but on the flipside, it is incredibly hard to get out of an industry like that, and these women at the first sight of dissidence, have their income and voice taken away. Whilst I would like to emphasise that I am far from a prudish man on a mission to censor everything, I just think that it is worth considering what we as men in the 21st century can do to set an example to others that women should be treated equally, and are not subservient and don’t have an immediate duty to serve men anymore.

It is also now important for men themselves to take a stand for feminism and not be afraid of being called “gay” (which is beyond childish), or being “that guy”. Think about this for a second: I am in my final year of university and this is the first time that I have voiced my feminist politics publically. This is not a good thing.

Yes it may be a bit awkward if you’re having a night in with the boys, but piping up and saying you don’t agree with what is being said takes far bigger balls and a bigger man than one who belittles women. You are no less of a man for believing that women are equal to men. You are not a “shitlad” if you don’t pander to sexist stereotyping, so stop staying quiet out of fear of retribution from your friends. Men wouldn’t like being told constantly to “shut up and go and build a shelf”, so why should women have to constantly fight against stereotypes?

Put simply, our generation still has a long way to go in terms of making sure that women truly become equal to men. Statistics aside, our attitudes need changing and soon. Because think about it boys:  how would you feel if someone told your mother, sister, or girlfriend that she should “shut up and get back in the kitchen?”

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