Whenever I enter the world of feminist debate, I inevitably end up talking about men. Strange. I think a lot of people see it as a sign of the male-centric viewpoint that we are trying to overcome, but I think it is something more... something that shouldn't be ignored. Feminism is not all about women. Feminism is also about helping men.
However, I want to make it clear that this is the very antithesis of the male-empowerment fad which basically states, "men have problems too, so why don't we get a rights movement?" Not only is this sort of argument incredibly self-centered, it is completely backwards. Society's idolization of the masculine is, in fact, the root of most of these problems! Consider some of the most common complaints about inequality against men.
-Men are expected to support a family.
-Men are expected to treat women with chivalry and pay for their drinks/meals/etc.
-Men are placed under much more restrictive gender-role expectations than women.
-Homophobia against men is worse than against women.
-Men are sometimes treated like sexual predators even when they are innocent.
These are very real, very serious problems. I think it is a shame that some feminists tend to minimize them. In fact, we would do well to adopt them openly as our causes, along with overcoming rape culture and slut shaming, defending our reproductive rights, and breaking the glass ceiling. That is because every single one of these problems is a direct result of a patriarchal society that values stereotypical masculinity as intrinsically superior to stereotypical femininity.
Obviously, solving the problems of a male-centric society will not stem from a male-empowerment movement. Men are already over-empowered. Society as a whole needs feminism to redress these wrongs, regardless of if they are experienced by men or women. When women are expected to earn the same wages and work the same jobs as men, monetary support will no longer be considered the man's burden. When traditionally effeminate behaviors are no longer considered weak or inferior to traditionally masculine behaviors, men and boys will no longer be bound to their strict gender roles by fear of violence or rejection. And when women are no longer objectified as sexual targets, men will no longer face prejudice as sexual predators. Men need women to be empowered. Men need feminism.
Someday, I hope to raise a child. If she is my daughter, I want her to feel comfortable pursuing whatever career or interest she is passionate about. I want her to feel safe on the street. I want her to value her body as beautiful and her sexuality as solely hers to use or not as she pleases. If he is a son, I want him to feel comfortable with his own personality, without having to conform to society's ideals of masculinity. I want him to pursue whatever lifestyle he wants without ridicule or threat of violence. I want him to respect and be respected by women.
I need feminism for both my son and my daughter. Male-empowerment is not the answer... it is the problem. Advocating for women's rights is not destructive to men's rights; it is the path to freedom and equality for both. It's time to stop the self-serving, pity-seeking rhetoric and focus on the root of the problem.