PREFACE: While my essay observes the effects of institutionalized oppression and inequality between genders, I am conscious of intersectionality and believe that the issue of inequality is not unique to gender minorities. I will use traditional gender pronouns (he, she) and labels (man/male, woman/female) to facilitate the understanding of the reader, and introduce the topic to those who are unaware.
The 21st century has opened the door to a whole new realm of communication, with the internet giving a voice to those who, thus far, could seldom speak. Delving into the troughs of online banter has revealed new perspectives to age-old arguments that are quickly shaping millennial ideals. Blog posts and news articles advocating social matters dominate our Facebook feeds. Terms like “feminazi” and “the red pill” have crept their way into our conversations. Claims of “fake news” are popping up—seemingly at the sight of a source that disagrees with one’s own agenda—amidst a new wave of sociopolitical extremes. A war is underway, and it will not be fought with guns.
To begin, I am a straight, white, cis-gender male who has been told to “check my privilege” before for sharing an opinion on social media. One such instance was a conversation that revolved around the gender imbalance in the workforce, of which I had clearly expressed that I was in full acknowledgement of and in support of an equally diverse labour force. What prompted the aforementioned response was a statement in which I explained that the reinforcement of a rule where a certain percentage of a team must be women may result in some higher-qualified men being overlooked to meet the quota. “Nevertheless,” I concluded, “this is the only possible recourse in a history of inequality, and will prove to be an effective (and permanent) solution if applied temporarily”. The aggression I received from feminists was exorbitant, telling me that my opinion does not matter because I’m a white male, overlooking the fact that I was in clear agreement with their own. A simple misunderstanding, I told myself, until I started seeing these kinds of exchanges all over my newsfeed.
Now, I am in firm accordance that being born a straight white male whose gender corresponds with his anatomical sex is an overwhelming privilege. I am privileged. I do not have to suffer through the fear of being shunned for my sexual orientation, or to be forced into labels with which I don’t relate. I do not have to bear the pain of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin because society does not acknowledge my true identity. However, berating an opinion based solely on that with which I was born will only be fueling the fire that separates us. In the words of Jane Addams, a leader in women’s suffrage in the United States, “Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself”. Any kind of progress achieved in this manner will ultimately be arbitrary, as it equally promotes a system of oppression. Hugo Schwyzer, a pro-feminist blogger and academic, argues that men who support the cause must “live it out in [their] actions, and … be willing to do so publicly, as role models”. By hindering their expression, we are also halting the attempt at union being made, as well as the progressive influence it could have on other men.
Essentially, by attacking and silencing each other, we have let ourselves get blinded by the goal. This understandable anger is a manifestation of the lack of trust that stems from centuries of subjugation. However, what must be established is that censorship is not the answer.By muting the opposition, we will never understand why they think the way they do, and what can be done to move forward. With a medium as ubiquitous as the internet, we must encourage the mindful spread of information and discussion, without limiting the voice of those with conflicting opinions. Equality can only be reached through mutual acknowledgement; this can only be done together.
This article was originally published in The Plant, Dawson College's Newspaper.