As a man I have been spared the harassment and sexism faced by women daily. Men in my experience tend to have little knowledge of how common sexism is. Whilst many of my female friends and partners have been victims — being followed home, groped on nights out, or worse. And through my experience with the Misogyny Is Hate campaign I have learnt just how scarily common these stories are.
The obvious impact of misogyny is the mental and physical effect it has had and continues to have on women. But a lot of men don’t realise that misogyny also hurts them as well.
Since my childhood I have been told not to cry, to “man up” and not be such a “big girl”. I was discouraged from showing emotions or talking about things personal to me as they weren’t macho enough, or were deemed girly or cowardly simply because they encouraged men to talk about deeper issues than football or ‘shagging’.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK. I can’t help but feel that this is in part due to the culture of ‘toxic masculinity’. Men are taught not to open up or talk about their feelings like girls are. There is a massive difference in how men and women handle mental health problems.
While female friends have encouraged me to talk about how I feel and learn more about myself, male friends have often suggested going out for drinks or other drugs to numb the pains I feel. Females have shown me how to help others going through tough times, whereas males, including some as close as my own father have gone to great effort to avoid any closure.
What some men don’t realise is that true feminism is about all genders being equal. It’s not about men being ‘overthrown’. Women face sexism and misogyny. It is behaviour that needs to be talked about and ended, but it doesn’t have to be a one-sided affair.
Men can benefit from the knowledge and behaviour women have to offer: how to form closer relationships; how to open up to others and talk about issues and tough times to help recovery, rather than just getting inebriated; to not be afraid to do something they enjoy because its not a typical manly thing to do, as opposed to trying to be someone they are not, just to fit in.
Half the battle is just changing the minds of these men as they are often exhibiting sexist behaviour because they learnt it in youth or from people they idolise. Often these men have their own battles going on that they refuse to let anyone see because it will make them appear weak.
Feminism is about empowering women. But it can also empower men in a different way, helping their mental health and encouraging them to grow into themselves, rather than rigid and tired gender roles.
I encourage every man to explore feminism and see the benefits it can have for themselves as well as women, so that we can finally put an end to toxic masculinity and let boys be boys in their own individual way rather than trying to match the archaic ‘macho man’ mould.