By Ian Sullivan
The sentence that follows this one may be slightly surprising to you, as you’re currently browsing and scrolling through the University of Idaho Women’s Center’s blog. Until just very recently, I did not identify as a feminist. But don’t be too alarmed. The reason I didn’t consider myself to be a feminist is not because I had misogynistic beliefs or just flat-out believed that men are better than women. I’ve actually considered myself an advocate of human rights and equality for as long as I can remember, ever since I was old enough to even grasp these difficult and controversial topics. The reason I wasn’t “on board,” so to speak, with the feminist movement, was simply due to my own ignorance of the issues involved.
Besides my lovely mother, I’ve spent most of my life around men. I have an awesome sister, although unfortunately, our significant age difference kept us from spending a lot of time together when I was younger. I grew up fixing shit with my dad, running around outside with my friends, playing video games and sports, all of which, for the most part, is usually considered “guy stuff.” I’ve been very fortunate to not have experienced any dramatic struggles in my life. I am a White male from a loving family that has been able to provide me with all that I have ever wanted or needed. So I guess that may indicate why feminism wasn’t always a priority of mine. As far as I was concerned, my life was good and there wasn’t all that much I needed to worry about.
I cannot exactly pinpoint the moment in which I began to understand the significance of the feminist movement, and the intensity of the struggle women face. Perhaps it was when I entered a serious romantic relationship, and stopped taking for granted the importance of women in my life. Maybe it was a few years ago, when I read “The Yellow Wallpaper” for the first time and thought it was a cool form of social commentary (as well as just a damned good story). Or it possibly could have been when I started to notice the influx of feminist think pieces being shared on my Facebook timeline, and could no longer ignore them. Whatever the reason, however, is irrelevant. What I have realized is that these issues are important, and what I want to stress to all the guys out there like me, is that the feminist movement is not just for women; it’s for everybody.
There’s a common misconception today that feminism and misandry go hand in hand. Often, people assume that the radical feminism of the 70s, which was very exclusive of men, is representative of feminists’ views today. But feminism has nothing to do with women seeking dominance over men, in the same way that the civil rights movement had nothing to do with Blacks seeking to become the dominant race. Feminism is about equality. Feminism is about women having access to the same opportunities as men, and the elimination of gender-based discrimination. When I was able to set aside my ignorance and preconceived notions, and understand all of that, I wondered how there can be those who don’t agree with feminism’s goals.
I didn’t know much about feminism and frankly, I still don’t. But I have accepted the responsibility of learning about its importance, and doing all that I can to contribute to the cause. I can now confidently call myself a feminist-in-training. And besides, if feminism is about advocating for women’s rights, in 2015, I think there is something inherently evil and f***ed up in not striving for true equality for all.