Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights?
– Of course!
Do you believe we should fight for these rights?
– Of course!
Then you’re a feminist as well!
– No I’m not! Why should I fight for women’s rights?
You have to see the fake comfort that you benefit because of patriarchy and fight against that.
– Women should fight for their rights and they should earn it. Why should I bother fighting for them?
Are you talking about the rights that patriarchy took from women? The rights that they should’ve had from the beginning?
– This is none of my business, this is not my fight; it’s the fight of women.
This was a dialog that I had with a man I once loved. We had argued on discussions like this for many times. I tried to justify his resistance. After all he was a man and he did not understand the respect that he automatically gained by being born with a penis. I was unable to bring myself to accept the fact that I was with a man who was not a feminist, so I blamed the penis and tried to justify him. Heterosexual feminists who have penises. Is that even possible?
Now he and others like him decided to support the women’s resistance in Turkey after the murder of Özgecan Aslan. Actually, they’re more in solidarity for stopping femicide, rape and sexual harassment in Turkey. This is a good start; yet how will they solve this problem without including themselves into the problem? Of course I don’t imply that all men are rapists or all men are potential criminals. What I’m saying is that without bringing patriarchy down, we cannot solve all the problems we face because of patriarchy, including rape.
Let’s make this clear first. Women are not under the custody of god like Erdoğan, the president of Turkey claims. Nobody is under anybody’s custody, and nobody owns anybody. It’s not the men’s responsibility to protect women. When you see women as a secondary gender who needs protection, you’re declaring women as impotent. You cannot stop rape by the possessive perception such as “how would you feel if this was done to your mother or sister?” (Unfortunately this is a very common perception in Turkey.) What will happen to the women who are not mothers or sisters? What will happen to those women you call “unclaimed for”? Do you think rape will end in a system where you have to stake out a claim for your mother, your sister, your wife? What will happen to them, when you fail to protect them? Someone said “we will stay in the bus until the last women on the bus gets off.” What will happen to that women after she gets off the bus? You think women get raped only in buses? What will you do for the fathers who say “why can’t I taste the fruit of my own tree?” and rape their daughters? There’s a TV campaign from KADEM Turkey which says “Real men don’t hit women, be a real man!” How wrong it is to believe violence will end by the help of the “real men”! This definition itself is masculine; it’s a part of patriarchy. There’s also this video from India that got viral in Turkey. A young girl is walking by herself in the street and two men corner her. She gets scared and she cannot do anything. All of a sudden, other men arrive and they form a circle around her and the harassers escape. A women, is saved from a man, by another man. Isn’t it enough that you’ve pumped up your egos by saving princesses? Of course, this entire paragraph was for those men who do not comprehend the feminist ideology, those who define “manhood” upon power and those who are macho and possessive. They’re called “benevolent sexists” in literature. They do not commit sexual harassment or rape; yet they do not help to solve the issue either. They’ve already left reading this paragraph in the middle so let’s continue with those who are still here.
When we see the violence against women, rape and femicide as an individual man’s issue, when we label those men as “sick” or “psycho” we refuse to accept the sociological and cultural dimension of this problem. This problem can only be solved by the change in the collective perception of both men and women. This problem can only be solved by understanding what patriarchy is and accepting feminist ideology in order to fight against it.
I’ve defined feminism so many times before. Let me do it again: feminism is defining, building and defending equal political, economic and social rights for both genders. I do not understand those men who don’t see themselves as a part of this fight and those women who don’t want men to be a part of this fight, as this fight would enable equal rights and treatment for both genders, and it’s beneficial for both genders. Of course there are those men who hijack feminist protests and try to manipulate the feminist ideology by turning this fight into a men’s fight with their masculine and possessive behaviour. Let’s ignore those. How much of a feminist a man can be? This is debatable as well, yet I’d like to explain why men should be feminists.
We have to elaborate the definition of the primary seed of patriarchy: misogyny. Because misogyny is not only hatred or dislike of women, but it’s also humiliating and ignoring anything that is feminine and female. At this point, any adjective that is associated with femininity – emotional, passive, quiet, kind, self cautious, innocent, weak, nurturing, soft, obedient – gets humiliated and made fun of, no matter which gender performs these types of behaviours. In masculinity, which is loaded on any men’s shoulders by birth, there is no room for these types of behaviours. Boys cannot cry “like girls.” They cannot wear pink or play with dolls. Their emotions that are pertain to human, yet associated with femininity, are constantly oppressed. They are taught to protect their mothers, sisters, girl friends from a very early age. When you say “teach your sons to protect women” you have no idea how much of pressure you put on them under by teaching little children to take responsibility of someone else, other than themselves. The comfort that patriarchy provides to men is indisputable, yet this comfort comes with a price. Men have to prove and protect his masculinity at all times. Boys who show feminine behaviour at school constantly get bullied, beaten and excluded by their macho male friends. Adolescent boys who do not have facial hair get made fun of; boys who do not join their friends when they humiliate girls are asked “are you a f.ggot?” Sometimes they think the only way to protect their masculinity and prove that they are not feminine is violence.
Heterosexual men grow into a system where they have to be the one to earn money and provide economic comfort to their families. Their wives can work, but cannot earn more money than them; because this would cause them embarrassment in their social circle. They would question themselves: “Am I not man enough?” There is also this perception of men wanting to put their penises inside anything basically, just because they cannot control their sexual needs. Sexual needs are only associated with men. A man’s penis always has to be hard and ready in front of a woman. There are so many men whose sexual life is ruined because of this pressure and they face erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation problem. Men are also not allowed to take care of their children, children that they co-created with their partners. Because men who take care of their children at home are not seen at the same level with men who make money outside of home. Men are deprived from their own children’s care. From nurturing, communicating, forming an emotional bond and many more. Patriarchal system does not imprison only women and LGBTI, it imprisons heterosexual men as well.
Let those men who refuse to see this imprisonment walk as privileged penises in their fake comfort world. When we change the definition of power, the power they think they have, will not be provided by maleness anymore. And by the way, I have no intention of putting men into the position of victims. I would not dare to compare what patriarchy has taken away from men to what it has taken away from women. As patriarchy takes the primary right, the right to live away from women, men do not have this problem. I would not want to blur anyone’s resistance, yet I don’t understand why fighting for gender equaliy, a problem of both genders, is still the responsibility of women only.