It’s no secret that this election was a doozy, with the racism, sexism, etc. brought into the spotlight on a daily basis (I’m looking at you, Mr. Trump). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that many minority members fear for their rights, and their safety. As a woman, I feel this fear. I may be a white, lower-middle-class white women, but I still fear for my rights and my safety in this country. In short, I fear for the progress feminism has made. Will I have access to birth control next year? Will I be able to have access to Planned Parenthood? What about safe abortions? Will men feel comfortable just grabbing me now?
The fear is real, and it is valid.
We’ve heard opinions on what a Trump presidency has the potential to do from various women, but I wanted to hear what our male allies thought. Are they as concerned for us as we are? Or do they not understand what could truly be at stake during the next four years? I asked a few male friends of mine to find out.
Do you identify as a feminist?
Anonymous A: I was asked this the other day by a woman I was speaking to and we settled on me being an “equalist.”
Anonymous B: 100 percent.
Anonymous C: Yes, I do. I think everyone should. Of course, with nearly everything nowadays, the term has been incessantly politicized, but in essence, feminists believe in equality for women. I don’t view that as a difficult concept to get behind.
In a recent article featured in the New York Times it is stated that “male identity remains tied up in dominance and earning potential, and when those things flag, it seems men either give up or get angry.” Do you agree?
A: It depends on the man. I don’t think all men do either of those, and the environment they live/were raised in can play a large part in the way they (and anybody else) behaves.
B: It is unfortunate, but from my personal experience, yes. And I’m not just saying my experience of other male identifying individuals I’m admitting that I myself am guilty of this and am in a constant internal battle to change and break this trend or however one would classify this phenomenon.
C: On a general level, yes. The Western concept of masculinity is one of dominance and there’s no greater example of what happens when that dynamic is threatened than the recent rise of Donald Trump. Anger, fear, and the threat of a shift in power is the currency that Trump used to succeed with males. I think (and I hope) that the younger generation of males is changing.
A large part of the current feminist movement is to cultivate a society in which gender roles are much more fluid and flexible than they are now. Being “feminine” or “masculine” doesn’t have to be defined by any certain activity, outward appearance, or behavior—or defined at all. If the majority of men in our country were to fully understand these ideals, do you think they would then identify as a feminist?
A: If the majority of men in our country understood those ideals the term feminist would not need to exist.
B: I would hope so but I’m not sure. As of November 7th, I would have said yes, but I can’t say anything for certain. For me this is 1 + 1 = 2. Reading and discussing gender and sexual fluidity certainly reaffirms my position as a feminist. I encourage others to do the same if they walk away a feminist we’re all the better for it, if not they at least informed themselves on an issue.
C: The key phrase there is “fully understand.” I think education and experience with gender fluidity is the biggest thing that’s lacking among most men. That must be addressed. I’m lucky enough to live in New York City, where I regularly encounter, work with, and befriend people that identify as LGBTQ+. I think in other areas of the country, where people can’t freely identify themselves, it creates a lack of understanding and thus, fear. So if men were educated on this issue, then the answer would be yes.
Do you feel like men are being “left behind” because of the feminist movement?
B: No. To any guy who thinks they’re being left behind I’d say you’re not being left behind, you just aren’t keeping up. I will say this though: The Amy Schumer “catch a dick” incident popped into my mind when I read this question and I would encourage women and feminists at large to not be the very thing they oppose. She was 100% correct in her clarification that history is grotesquely disproportionate, but I don’t think the movement progresses when it momentarily becomes the thing it hates.
C: Left behind? Men—particularly white men—are the most privileged group in the U.S. and always have been. As a male, I have no reservations about being “left behind” and I think this idea in itself is ludicrous. To those that feel this way, catch up!
Men are less likely to be diagnosed with disorders, such as depression, even when experiencing the same or similar symptoms as a woman. Do you think the feminist movement should focus on putting men and women on equal ground when it comes to mental health?
A: Everyone should be put on equal ground when it comes to mental health.
B: I would like to see that become a focus of the movement, but I’d also love for men in general, feminist or not, to focus on this largely unaddressed issue. Men have a higher suicide rate in nearly every country and I’d like the stigma on male emotion or need for mental health counseling to be removed from society. I feel the feminist movement is HUGELY responsible for bringing this to the public spotlight and I hope everyone can pick up the baton and join.
C: I think that’s a powerful idea. Absolutely. When you consider America’s traditional view of mental health issues (see: perceived weaknesses), the data suggests that men are hesitant to seek help because disorders like depression are seen as feminine. That’s extremely problematic.
Recently, there has been a stream of negativity directed at a study on male birth control that shut down because some of the participants couldn’t “handle [the] side effects women face daily.” Many of the side-effects reported, both mental and physical, were severe and some even hindered day-to-day life; however, many “feminists” complained, stating that women had to go through much worse trials while female contraceptives were being studied. Do you think these men should have been forced or encouraged to stay simply because women in the past had to experience much more dangerous trials?
A: No, because then we would not have learned from history. In a just world, if women were in place of those men in the recent study, it would be shut down just the same.
B: I’m not sure about “forced” (this isn’t a Russian Olympic program) but certainly encouraged. Highly encouraged. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised by those reports. I read them and I thought “of course”. Of course, we did this to women. We couldn’t even do them the simple courtesy of finishing a scientific study. I’m sorry to all the women who were subjected to those studies in the past and I’m sorry to all the women of today that there was a group of guys to cowardly to finish this study. Take heart in the fact that it won’t be the last though and we’ll get there soon hopefully. Maybe a little longer under Trump sadly.
C: I can’t advocate that anyone, man or woman, should be forced to remain in a trial. Though, yes, it’s certainly not a fair and balanced issue, and perhaps some perspective in terms of what women commonly experience with birth control could have helped. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I can’t see men coming in droves to give injected birth control a try, unfortunately. But for that very reason, it’s so misguided that male politicians try to control the sexual and reproductive rights of women.
A common explanation for sexual assault cases is that “a woman [is] not supposed to dress in a way that [invites] men’s attention as if men can’t control their own urges.” Do you think it is true that when men commit a sexual assault it is because he cannot control his primal instincts or urges?
A: Absolutely not. I cannot even begin to understand why a man would commit sexual assault and if I had the means, I would fund every single study or organization designed to ending sexual assault. Is vigilante justice still a thing?
B: No. We left the cave people. It’s not that primal sexual urges don’t exist, it’s that we’re capable of resisting it. And rape isn’t a typical sexual urge it’s a violent one and if a person who has raped can resist killing or hurting people at other times he proves that violent urges can be controlled. This is an “urge” that someone consciously gives in to and there’s no defense for that. If there is any guy who believes that they can’t resist or control those specific urges they should seek counseling and we should encourage them to do so.
C: That question made me shake my head. Of course that’s not true! That’s an asinine excuse. Rape and sexual assault are never justified. End of story.
Why do you think this belief came to be and continues to be spread?
A: It’s a social construct. One person said it a long time ago, and for some goddamn reason, it worked. Another man took notice of it, so they used it… and it worked again. The only way to change this belief is to start with a young generation and sew it into their minds that it is a completely untrue belief.
B: In regard to the beliefs that “women ask for it with what they wear” and “primal urges” it’s just textbook blame displacement. It’s easier to point fingers instead of addressing their/our own faults and issues. There is no excuse for committing a violent sexual assault on another individual. Anyone who makes excuses has an incredibly low opinion of men and women.
C: This belief assumes that women must dress and express themselves at the mercy of male approval. It’s directly related to the idea that women are not equal to men. It continues to spread because most of America is still gripped by this “boys will be boys” notion—the same people that defend Brock Turner or turn the other cheek to the collegiate sexual assault epidemic.
What do you think we, both men and women, can do to change this belief?
A: Instill our children with better values than the ones we were taught. Also, support each other on a person-to-person level, support organizations dedicated to the cause, and support change within society.
B: Everything always comes back to education. Early childhood sexual education needs to be implemented and continued through every education level. I would also like to see more civics and ethics classes being taught at younger ages. You usually get those values at home, but if you grow up hearing only one side of an argument it’s a lot to expect little kids to not develop this same ideology. Civics and ethics classes are introduced at the college level, but by this time these students have pretty much established their ideology, not that it can’t be altered, but it’s a much more difficult task.
C: Education, media representation for feminism, and frank and honest conversation between loved ones. If sisters, mothers, grandmothers, etc. put it this in perspective for the men in their lives, I think that’s a good start. It humanizes issues that have become political and are really just common sense.
From Rashi Naryan (Writer, Literally, Darling): How will you teach your children about consent now [that Trump is President]?
A: The same way I would have taught them before he was elected. Consent has not changed just because a leader has. Saying that learning about consent is more important than ever is true, but it also implies that it used to be less important, which is untrue. My children will learn that consent is absolutely necessary and that I (and someday the world) will not stand for anything less.
B: I don’t really want children, but I guess I’d encourage parents, teachers, and the society as a whole to convey the message to little boys and girls that there is no circumstance in which sexually assaulting someone is acceptable. I’d encourage them to tell the girls that their value is immeasurable and not just sex objects. I’d tell little boys that in order to call yourself a man (or any person) you cannot defend, condone, or participate in rape culture. I’d tell kids that it doesn’t matter how awkward or unsexy it is: get and give explicit permission, yes or no and respect the answer you receive.
C: I’m a few years off from having children (I think), but I will teach my children that Trump is an authoritarian and sexist president and they should question everything he does. Is that too cynical? Maybe. But I’ll teach them respect, compassion, and have them spend time with the incredible women in my life.
From Gretchen Sprinkle (Writer, Literally, Darling): How will your understanding change [during this presidency] when women talk about being fearful for their rights? Or fearful in general?
A: My understanding has not changed. I’ve always been fearful for women’s rights and, in fact, spoke to my historically Republican mother about how a vote for Trump would be a vote against not only her own rights but her daughter’s as well.
B: I think it’s going to be alarming the amount of women who will experience more assault and abuse. I think femicide, which is largely unaddressed, is going to rise. And I think my understanding is only going to increase as I see it hitting closer to home and the people I love being affected by this and it pains me. Not for my sake or feelings, but for theirs and for women as a whole. I’m hoping this might have a positive outcome, though. With more women experiencing this predicted rise in prejudice I think any anti-feminist or rape culture participant will experience the phenomenon in a more personal way than ever before. It’s unfortunate that they have to personally be affected by this for them to change their minds, but sadly this is the case. This phenomenon can be seen as recently as the Trump “pussy grab” incident and the following outcry from statesmen who had previously spewed objectively misogynistic rhetoric.
C: I felt gutted when Trump won in a way I never have before. I can’t imagine how marginalized groups feel, but I have many friends (people of color, LGBTQ+, women) who were deeply disturbed and now feel unsafe in this country. All I can do is stand by them and fight for their rights that are now in question.
From Alanna McMullen (Writer, Literally, Darling): Do you think that making [sexist] jokes is okay because they are ‘just jokes’?
A: Nope! Of course, I am guilty of this, but the first step to not perpetuating sexist stereotypes is to stop myself and be an excellent model for those that look up to me.
B: Not at all. I’m guilty of this and I’m ashamed to admit it. Moral licensing gave me the belief that being a feminist could also afford me the right to make a “joke” here or there. Comedy is a tool to entertain and enlighten, not to degrade or demean. Everyone should keep this in mind, myself included.
C: I think comedy can be very powerful. If something is done tastefully and with intelligence, I don’t mind if it’s brazen. If something is crude, sexist, or hateful, however, then that’s not okay. There’s a fine line between using free speech for comedy and being offensive, and I think one must be very skilled to do this well.
Lastly, any additional thoughts on the fear and panic that has become widespread since Election Night?
A: I get it. I really do and I absolutely wish things had happened differently. That said, I am in the fight. It infuriates me to see my peers and strangers so fearful. I am fearful for them. But I am not the only one that feels this way and there is power in numbers. Change does not happen if no one makes it, and I am ready to make a change.
B: I’d recommend people start analyzing how we all, in our own way, contributed to the rise of Mr. Trump. There’s a lot of people now pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. I maintain we all helped in creating a climate where facts became debatable, other’s failures became a source of joy, we informed ourselves not to understand but to arm for the next fight, we degraded the office of the presidency, and we sought entertainment in every aspect of life, even politics. We all created a society in which an internet troll, who is a pathological liar with no regard for facts or the feelings of others, and who, above all else entertained us, rose to power. I’m not excusing Mr. Trump or his more hateful supporters in their contribution to our new political climate, I’m simply encouraging others, and myself, to address our failures and move forward in the best way possible. We could all be better, and not for ourselves, but for each other. The enemy of fear and panic is knowledge and understanding. Fight like hell for what you believe in, but base your beliefs on the most important, relevant, and even conflicting information available. If we all did that more I think we wouldn’t be in this current mess. I’ve written an essay on this very subject for Howl Magazine which will be launching this week if anyone is interested.
C: I think, as a nation, we must not give in to the fear-mongering of Donald Trump and his allies. Fear and panic or not the answer as much as decisive resistance. I think there are many people (the majority who voted, in fact) that must band together to resist the fascist implications of a Trump presidency. We must be more active in the political process than ever—donating to groups, protesting, speaking out—but I feel we’re up for the challenge. I have great hope for the younger generations and in spite of it all, I look forward to the counterculture that will rise in Trump’s wake.