It feels good to be in a group where everyone more or less agrees with you. It’s strange how one different idea can be shot down with, “It’s not all about you, you know? Consider the rest of us.” I surely am not asking to be pampered, but, when the topic is sexism suddenly I have a wretched case of “feminism agenda” that can’t be cured.
Feminism, or the belief all people benefit in society when women are treated equally, is not a man-hating belief system. Feminism does not ask for nor demand that women receive special treatment or unearned respect. If you have ever once in your life complained you have been mistreated simply for the body you happen to inhabit, then you have been the target of discrimination.
Everyone can relate to being teased, bullied, disparaged, harassed or mocked to some degree. When the problem is females being attacked or criticized simply for being female, then as a society we all have to ask ourselves why this happens and how does it negatively affect all of us- male and female or otherwise identified.
Parental Leave is Lopsided
Widely held notions and traditionally held beliefs are often the guilty parties in cultural sexism, which affects individuals holding sexist beliefs as well as institutions. A great example of how sexism affects men is the lack of paternity leave in America. The average length for maternity leave is 10.3 weeks in the USA; The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) is the only legislation guaranteeing new parents up to 12 weeks unpaid time-off to take care of their baby. The newborn benefits from paternity leave because fathers tend to be more hands-on as parents throughout their child’s lifetime. Fathers also benefit health-wise with less heart problems and living longer lives in general.
Many in the US simply can’t afford to take a long parental leave even if the option is available. Compare this to the fact that 70 European countries have paid leave for fathers either in the form of paternity leave of splitting time with the mother’s leave. Sweden began offering paid paternity leave in 1974, where parents are allotted 480 days of paid parental leave (60 days reserved specifically for Dad). In America, parental leave is lopsided with mothers home with the newborn almost exclusively, and not her partner or father.
Why am I talking about fathers and men instead of focusing on mothers and women? Because, if as a society we devalue the worth of a mother in a newborn’s most precious first year of life, we also devalue the worth of a father. Every parent is equally important.
Men with addiction to alcohol and drugs are encouraged by the #1 non-profit abstinence-only fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous, to put meetings above family. Today, AA members still read in the chapter titled “The Family Afterward,” on page 129 of the Big Book (published in 1939 and the main text of the program: Even if he displays a certain amount of neglect and irresponsibility toward the family, it is well to let him go as far as he likes in helping other alcoholics. The mindset of parenting being more traditionally a woman’s role. The result being men’s treatment centers typically do not offer, as many women’s treatment centers do, the right to have their infant or young child stay with them during treatment. Daycare is a special feature in many women’s residential rehabs, but childcare is not a special consideration for men.
Every Experience is Valid
Too many are rejecting feminism because “not everyone” is catcalled, or “not everyone” makes less than a man because she’s a woman, or “not everyone” has the same beliefs on birth control. No one has to agree on one shared experience, as we all have individual experiences. Beliefs are shaped by our experiences. But when someone speaks out about being catcalled and gets the response: “I’ve never been catcalled,” then one true experience is being compared to another true experience. We participate in social injustice when we act as bystanders, also. We can greatly reduce the number of reports of sexual harassment if all of us focus more on who’s doing the harassment versus who’s reporting the act.
Speaking for All of Us
Women are underrepresented in the government, today only 19% of the US Congress is made up of women. Therefore, the other 81% of Congress needs to be cognizant of the fact they represent women as well as men. This is not pampering women’s special interests, rather, it’s realizing women’s interests are also human interests. There will be some male experiences females cannot relate to and vice versa. However, we all deserve the same rights and liberties.
Sexism is hearing women want more maternity leave and thinking that isn’t fair because men don’t get paternity leave. As mentioned above, that isn’t true, it isn’t fact, and it’s proven men are making more of these unfair laws than women are. Therefore, men need feminism as much as women do. All it takes is learning the truth about legal and social injustices and changing how we speak about the matters. Beliefs can be changed. Laws can be changed.
This post was inspired by The Daily Post: Pamper