In the common gender discourse, it’s easy to vilify men. Women are often the pushers of gender equality, but for it to be successful on a global scale, men have to be a part of the conversation. Writer R.W. Connell says just that in her article Change Among the Gatekeepers. It’s ironic that a group trying to achieve gender equality would not only exclude men, but also characterize them as the problem. To achieve the equality that these women’s groups are suggesting, they need to start seeing men as just as complex a group as women.
The problem is not men themselves, it’s patriarchy. Many men do not overtly share the beliefs and practices of a patriarchal system. A man who won’t allow his wife to earn more than him is certainly participating in patriarchy, but if the wife obeys and takes a lesser job is participating just as much. What many gender equality groups and women in general forget is that even though many men are advantaged, the benefits are not spread evenly over all men. Only the few, powerful and wealthy men possess the true benefits of being a man, without incurring any of the disadvantages. When you think about it, there are several disadvantages to possessing a “Y’. Men occupy the most dangerous careers, suffer the most industrial injuries, pay most of the taxation, and are under heavier social pressures to be and remain employed in a typically “masculine” job according to Connell. Many of the men who occupy the dangerous careers are not the ones with stay-at-home wives or a high salary.
The irony of the situation is demonstrated pretty well in an episode of Parks and Recreation in which Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson take the Pawnee Rangers and the Pawnee Goddesses on a weekend trip to the forest. Ron is in charge of the Rangers, the boys’ group, while Leslie is in charge of the Goddesses, the girl group. In the Rangers, Ron emphasizes manliness, which consists of silence and surviving by just sitting and staring into the fire while eating beans. The Goddesses partake in several fun activities like making s’mores and having pillow fights. This sparks envy within the boys in the Rangers and they beg to become Goddesses. At first, Leslie refuses them saying they belong in the boys’ group with Ron, but then the girls argue that segregation is always inherently unequal, citing Brown v. Board. They also say that excluding the boys is against everything their feminist heroes have fought for: equality among the sexes. Leslie then decides that the boys have every right to become goddesses and they’re all initiated into the group. They celebrate with a puppy party.
Even in fictionalized situations, it’s obvious that men and women have to share ideas and respect each other for the truth of gender equality to be realized. Excluding men is the same as excluding women, both are social injustices and demean human character. Rather than take revenge on the entire male population, many of whom probably haven’t a true sexist bone in their bodies, we have to move towards a mutual respect that perpetuates the idea that when together, we can accomplish great things.