meninist | noun | someone who fears that women will treat men the way that men currently treat women.
If you have a Twitter, a Tumblr, or an Internet connection, you may have heard about the #meninist trend that has stormed social media in recent months. Twitter accounts such as MeninistTweet, MeninistTweetz, and TheMeninism are some of the most prominent users. Eager supporters of this pseudo-movement are posting selfies of themselves wearing T-shirts with a striking red banner that reads “#MENINIST.” Self-identifying meninists describe themselves in various ways on sites like Urban Dictionary. I’ve curated a few of my personal favorite definitions here:
“Then why is it called FEMinism? Why can’t we have meninism so men can be equal too?” Variations of this statement are ferociously typed by men on their lunch breaks who hit the post button with a self-satisfied smirk, leaning back in their squeaky office chairs and believing that they have defeated the evil feminists once and for all. Unfortunately for these men, this question has been addressed and debunked by many. It’s called feminism because—and this may come as a shock, so you should probably prepare yourself--women are the ones who have been historically and systematically marginalized, abused, and oppressed. Though the feminist movement has made enormous progress in the quest for equality, the fact remains that in the patriarchal system under which our culture functions, women are the ones who are underrepresented and misrepresented in the media. Women are the ones who are told to shape their lives around men, and women are the ones who can’t put their drinks down at a party for fear of being roofied.
What’s most ironic about this is that feminism actually helps men. The general aim of feminism is to dismantle the patriarchy and to achieve equality for any and all genders, races, and sexualities. It’s not about switching the existing gender roles; it’s about disassembling them completely. Toxic masculinity, defined here as the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth, tells men (or those who are designated male at birth) that they are confined to a limited range of emotions, that homosexuality is disgusting, and that there are specific qualities and behaviors that make one a “real man.” This creates the hyper masculine behavior embodied in the behavior of fictional characters like Disney’s Gaston and Cartoon Network’s Johnny Bravo, and, of course, our very own Emerson College graduate, Steve Santagati (twitter). He’s best known for a recent CNN appearance during which he argued in favor of street harassment. Toxic masculinity makes men feel that they must constantly prove themselves to be men by showing off their physical strength and their lack of emotions. Men are smart, strong, and emotionless--so women must be unintelligent, weak, and emotional. Because the dominant group (in this case, men) decides on the “good” characteristics, the non dominant group (women) gets the “bad” opposite characteristics. This school of thought emphasizes that women and men are opposites and excludes an enormous amount of people who identify as non-binary, trans, or with various other points on the gender spectrum.
Feminism fights to remove all gender-based labels and stereotypes. This means that feminism has improved not only rights for women, but acceptance of traditionally feminine characteristics in men. In many cases, femininity in men is seen as more acceptable than masculinity in women.
Many people now see that traditionally masculine behavior is outdated and detrimental, and these days men are often applauded for showing characteristics that are traditionally feminine. The Mask You Live In, a documentary about the ways in which men struggle with traditional masculinity, is coming out this year. It was created by The Representation Project, a feminist organization which “uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people's consciousness towards change.” They are know for Miss Representation, a film about the lack of representation and misrepresentation of women in the media.
“Meninists” are not activists, and they are not comedians; they are men who have been so drenched in dominance and power, they feel threatened by any power granted to women. Men who are against feminism are against it because they are picturing a world in which the roles are reversed, and these men will stop at nothing to assert their own dominance and prevent that from happening. Unfortunately, they’re being supported both by other men and by women who feel that because women can vote, equality has been reached. This is incredibly disrespectful to every feminist who has fought for equality and to every woman who is suffering from abuse. It’s disrespectful to male rape victims who are silenced and told that they should always want sex. It’s disrespectful to men of color who are disproportionately pulled over and imprisoned thanks to racist stereotypes. It’s disrespectful to trans women and men who are murdered for their identities. Meninism isn’t just a ridiculous internet trend; it’s an enormous community of people telling us that misogyny is acceptable.
Katja Vujic was born in Croatia to Bosnian parents and then moved to Nashville as a baby, where she grew up and experienced identity crises on a weekly basis. She is very into mom jeans, purple lipstick, shrimp quesadillas, and over-analyzing things. She is currently a freshman at Emerson College who is Very Excited to live in and explore Boston.