An explanation for today’s gender issues.
America was midway through Obama’s presidency. We had achieved gender equality from the oval office. The Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. In 2014 the ban against women in military combat positions is removed, overturning a 1994 Pentagon decision restricting women from combat roles.
At the height of gender equality, women were finding themselves pushing off traditional gender roles of baby rearing and concentrating more on their career. Women were empowered to aim for high positions that were typically only sought after by men. Books like Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg became the go to guidebook on navigating career advancement. This shift in career also shifted the home life. Men became our supporters. It was more socially acceptable for men to be the stay-at-home husbands.
At the same time, droves of women were consuming Fifty Shades of Grey (many negative opinions have been expressed about this book but I’m only concentrating on the phenomenon of why so many women may have been attracted to this narrative and the delicate timing of it’s publication.) With the change in equality, both men and women were walking into foreign territory. Women felt empowered and demanded men to be the supporter as well as maintain their masculinity in the relationship. In the shadows, men were scrambling to figure out who they were. They were taught as boys what being a man meant and kept up as more toxic masculinity was plastered in every advertisement, movie and in the school yards. Michael Ian Black’s essay, The Boys Are Not Alright in the NY Times details the losing battle of masculinity in America today.
“The past 50 years have redefined what it means to be female in America. Girls today are told that they can do anything, be anyone. They’ve absorbed the message: They’re outperforming boys in school at every level. But it isn’t just about performance. To be a girl today is to be the beneficiary of decades of conversation about the complexities of womanhood, its many forms and expressions.
Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to “be a man” — we no longer even know what that means.”
“And so the man who feels lost but wishes to preserve his fully masculine self has only two choices: withdrawal or rage.”
The political environment we see today is that rage personified. Many men who advocated for us just years prior are now unsure of how to support. Feminists like Aziz Ansari have been burned by accusations that lie more in the gray and further exacerbates the confusion of how men should act.
To see a country go from empowered and unified to divided rage overnight speaks to our need to pay attention to one another. In fighting for women’s rights, I feel we’ve lost sight of others around us. I’m not disregarding that women have great strides before we’ve really achieved equality. Rather, I’d like to suggest that supporting men and the boys of the next generation is the same step forward for feminism.
Hope in Society
Rage is met with rage. That is exactly what we’ve seen recently. Everything from the Kavanaugh confirmation to the countless, misogynist remarks from our current president. In a high stakes fight, our logic goes out the door and we see red. It brings out the worst in people. But what if we could change that? What if we responded with love? What if we listened and tried to understand another person’s anger?
When the person our nation is supposed to look up to doesn’t step up to as a leader to unify the country, we need to count on each other as a society to bring us back. Remember, we’re on the same team.