By Nick McClellan
Reflecting back on the recent global Women’s March where I was part of a massive crowd of people, about one sixth of Portland’s population by some estimates, is inspiring on its own.
But the energy and the atmosphere of the crowd, all united under the banner of change, was really beyond words. It compared easily to the atmosphere at Obama’s second inauguration, buzzing with inspired people joining together for a common cause.
But I’m not going to talk about the atmosphere of the march. I have a different message: Why I believe men should be feminists. What reason is there for a guy, like myself, to stand out in the freezing cold and rain to march in support of a feminist organized movement? Well, I have a one word answer to that question: privilege.
Being white, well off economically, heterosexual, and a male are all positions that hold a position of societal power or privilege. Being most of those things I just listed, I am a very privileged person. But most people reading this will probably already know fundamentally what privilege is; however, not everyone knows what to do with their privilege to address social justice, or even how their privilege really manifests itself in day to day life?
Confronting your own privilege can be daunting and hard to understand without context. But it all starts by being open to a dialogue with someone who does not have your same privileges. I try to listen to other people’s experiences whenever possible. Groups like ISA (Intercultural Student Association), Spectrum, or Gender Lens provide a perfect place to understand my own privilege. Another opportunity is Culture Shock, or the Catlin Diversity Conference. But why is it important to understand your privilege? For me, as turns out, I have another one word answer for that: masculinity.
But what can we actually define as “masculine” and “unmasculine?” Society tends to drive home through movies, TV shows, and social media the message that a man should be strong, isolated, unemotional, not afraid of violence. This version of masculinity calls for a very dominant character that does not leave a lot of room for social change. But, depending upon who you ask, the definition can change dramatically.
To me, the identity of being “masculine” doesn’t mean any of the things that society says it does. Instead, being able to put someone else before yourself might be the largest aspect of how I define masculinity. Therefore, to be masculine as I define it is to stand in support of those who don’t have your same privileges. That’s why I identify as a feminist. And the first step of being an active feminist is to work to understand your privileges.