As a gender we men are in crisis but feminism might just help us out

I tried my best to live up to the masculine stereotype, more often than not quite successfully, despite it making me painfully unhappy

Jake Mills
Sunday 27 November 2016 15:58 GMT
Depression and suicide are disproportionately common among men under the age of 26
Depression and suicide are disproportionately common among men under the age of 26 (iStock)

Let’s just get one thing straight: feminism is not anti-men.

Feminism is not about women receiving preferential rights, it isn’t about taking away the rights of men, or what is rightfully theirs. Feminism exists purely to challenge and fight inequality: inequality that affects both men and women.

The benefits of feminism aren't exclusive to women and by embracing the concept men can shed the negative expectations that come with being male.

The reality is, as men, we’re struggling. We’re depressed and we don’t know where to turn. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men between the ages of 21 and 45 in this country. We are our own biggest threat.

As a gender, we are in crisis: at the root of this crisis is this idea that, as men, we have to conform to stale and damaging expectations of what it means to conform to this stereotype. By forcing ourselves to abide by ridiculous guidelines, we’re hurting ourselves and those around us.

The simple fact is that by embracing feminism, by empowering women, by welcoming equality, men will liberate themselves from the harmful attitudes that are preventing them from being who they really are. Embracing egalitarian attitudes means that gender roles can be re-defined, or abandoned altogether, which can only be a benefit to the many men suffering because they do not feel “manly” enough.

As a man I struggled with the masculine stereotype. I didn’t feel strong or powerful. I didn’t feel capable of standing my ground to protect myself or others. I didn’t feel as though I could provide for a family and I had never even seen an episode of Top Gear. The stereotype was a daily struggle that I tried my best to live up to, more often than not quite successfully, despite it making me painfully unhappy. I felt incompetent, weak and pathetic.

I always dismissed feminism as an idea, maybe believing the perception that its entire existence was to undermine men but the more I started to learn about it, the more I began to realise just how wrong I was.

The likes of Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, the He for She project and absolutely every single word ever written by Caitlin Moran, changed my life.

They opened my eyes, not only to the genuine fight that women face every single day, the outrageous inequalities that are staring us all in the face, but they made me reassess my own life.

The more I read, the more obvious it became that feminism and gender equality can directly challenge the redundant expectations of men as well as women.

As a dad to a beautiful little boy, I know that I cannot allow him to adopt the tired old misogynist attitude. I hope that he will see his dad, and others, stand up to comments and actions and point out what is wrong and why.

As men, we have to stand up to the behaviour we know is wrong, but we have to do it together. We have to stand side by side with our mothers, sisters, cousins, aunties, friends, girlfriends and wives and we have to say, we will fight with you, for your sake and ours.

I may well be accused of mansplaining or taking a women’s issue and making it about men but the reality is gender equality is impossible without men being brought to the table. But while we have a public conception that feminism is anti-men, we will never be able to truly challenge the injustice of outdated gender roles that are hurting so many and fuelling a masculinity crisis that is ending, for many, in suicide.

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