The 1980’s was an exciting time to be a boy in high school.
The Women’s Lib movement, having achieved its goals, was winding down, and it had shown us that there was a whole new set of opportunities available to all of us, female and male.
My friends and I truly believed that the ‘gender wars’ were in their endgame. Sure there were some remnants of the traditional minded men still holding influential positions, but they would soon retire, and they would be replaced by our parents generation, the men and women who fought for women’s rights and the casting aside of traditional gender roles.
Among my male friends, there was an assortment of answers to the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’
Some said politician, doctor, lawyer, auto mechanic, engineer… but one answer was slightly more common than any other: primary caregiver.
Young men of that era wanted to stay home, take care of the household, cook clean, and especially raise their children.
The paternal instinct was strong.
Liberation for women, we believed, carried with it liberation for men also. If women were free to pursue any career they wish, surly it would follow that men would no longer be stuck with the ‘protector/provider’ roles society had saddled men with throughout history.
Sadly, however, we were mistaken.
For some time I went on, firm in my belief that the gender war was all but over. I focused my own efforts towards groups concerned with racism and homophobia. It was in these circles that I met and began dating a young woman who was a staunch feminist.
She explained to me that there was still a struggle for women’s equality in the workforce; that until the “old boys clubs” were broken up, women would still be at a disadvantage.
The path to achieving this goal was affirmative action, once more women were in managerial positions, she told me, there would be no need to pressure companies to hire women. The business world would see that women are perfectly capable, and with women in positions to make decisions regarding hiring, companies would hire solely based on merit.
Ten years, she told me. That was all it would take.
Naturally, this was an awkward proposal for a young man just getting into the workforce. Despite the knowledge that this would disadvantage me due to my gender, I got behind the initiative.
It was for the greater good, after all.
This is when I threw my support behind the feminist movement.
I had rejected societally enforced gender roles as a teenager, so feminism seemed like the obvious place for me to be. However despite feminism welcoming my support, feminism slowly began treating me quite poorly.
That particular young woman became more and more radical. She and her friends would make horribly bigoted statements about men, and become enraged when I questioned them. They would attend rallies and vigils that they told me I was not welcome to attend due to my gender, they took part in marches that I, as a man, would have to walk at the back.
Eventually she began insisting that I walk five paces behind her and her friends when in public.
Slowly, I began to drift away from feminism. I didn’t reject feminism, but increasingly I found that feminism was not a place that supported me.
I knew I rejected traditionalism, but in bringing up issues faced by men and boys within a feminist space I was told I was derailing the efforts towards women’s issue. I was told in no uncertain terms that by bringing up issues facing men and boys in a feminist space, I was “silencing women’s voices”
After all, they told me, the whole world outside of feminism is a “men’s space”; I can discuss those issues there.
But for men, the world outside of feminism is traditionalism; the same traditionalism I had rejected as a boy. I knew that wasn’t the space for me.
So, I decided to form my own space. I would attempt to form a group, a men’s group, to challenge traditional gender roles for men.
But when I brought up this concept with friends, I did not get the support I had expected.
I was told that I should not talk about this idea anymore, that if I did I would be cast as a misogynist and socially ostracized.
And as a young man in my 20’s, social ostracization was not something I was prepared to risk.
So, I kept my thoughts on this matter to myself.
It wasn’t untill a few years ago that I discovered that a men’s movement existed, and had quietly existed since the 1970’s.
Like my idea, it had originally been conceived as a movement to work in concert with feminism. And also like my idea, it had been rejected by feminism.
It had quietly existed all this time, never gaining traction, until it finally gave up its polite tactics.
It had gotten angry, frustrated, and it had begun to speak out loudly.
This, I quickly discovered was a movement made up of men and women, of all nationalities, political backgrounds, races and sexual orientations.
A movement that spoke directly to the issues I had identified so many years before.
But it was also a movement that was rabidly attacked by radical and mainstream feminism, the very movement that purports to work towards eliminating societally enforced gender roles.
It has become clear to me that 3rd wave feminism supports the elimination of gender roles for women, but not for men.
Feminism wants men to walk five paces behind women.
I didn’t reject feminism, feminism rejected me.