I dedicate this piece to my father, may he rest in peace, because he never thought of me as “just a girl.” He believed I was capable of great things and I intend to use everything he taught me and gave me to do just that.
Growing up, feminism always seemed like an alienating movement to me, because it felt like it eroded the social cohesion of our communities and family units. I was confused by the word, because it was supposed to be a movement that advocated for women’s right, but I wasn’t always sure I understood, or even agreed, with the rights that were being fought for. Somehow, feminism came to mean divided unity. Women against men or women versus patriarchy. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the fight for gender equality is much, much bigger than we ever imagined and that’s why the movement must change.
After graduating from college and joining the workforce, I quickly realized that patriarchy doesn’t only oppress women, it also oppresses men. But the manifestation of this oppression differs from culture to culture and country to country. Superficially, patriarchy seems to offer men more social currency, because it offers them more political, professional and economic opportunities. Thus, allowing them to gain the social mobility they need to consolidate more power and political influence in society. However, the question that is conveniently left out of the conversation is: how does patriarchy disenfranchise the men in our communities?
Unfortunately, patriarchy equates masculinity to a sociopathic lack of humanity and empathy. While a man might rise more easily to the rank of CEO in a corporation or have less barriers to face in the world of entrepreneurship, our current definition of masculinity expects them to face all trials and tribulations with a heroic stoicism that forbids them from showing weakness. It denies them the right to need people or even feel needed. Ultimately, it deprives them of their fundamental right to be human and access the full spectrum of human emotion. In many ways, the fight for gender equality is still in its infancy, because while women are fighting to be acknowledged as economic, political and social agents in their own rights, men are also fighting to be recognized as human beings who deserve to be more than just economic, political and social agents.
They are fighting for the right to be human.
Nowadays, I hesitate to call myself a feminist, not because I am afraid of being punished for advocating for women in a patriarchal world. I hesitate, because I believe that the fight for gender equality isn’t exclusive to women anymore. I will always advocate for women’s empowerment, because I am a woman who has had access to countless privileges throughout my life, which are still considered a dream for many women in the world. However, nowadays I prefer to label myself a humanist, because I believe that regardless of our gender, race or beliefs, that we all deserve to find a life balance that enriches us as individual human beings.
Where many governments, NGOs, universities, companies and startup ecosystems have implemented incentive programs, competitions and mentorship initiatives to support the rise of women in the world, the men in our communities remain woefully overlooked and under-served. Patriarchy doesn’t offer men a better deal, it offers them a different one. One that forces them to accept the cards they have been dealt, because they have been shamed into silence for fear that they may lose the label of masculinity if they ask for help. Unlike men, women are allowed, even encouraged, to be emotional and seek support networks. A powerful asset, when you consider the power and strength that comes with numbers. On the other hand, men are expected to suffer in silence. Or worse, not at all.
I am not a man, but this fight is personal, because I believe that the men in my life deserve to be confident in who they are and what they do. They deserve to live without the constant fear of someone questioning their masculinity. They deserve to know that we won’t think less of them if they act human. Today and everyday, I stand for the right of every person, man or woman, to ask for compassion and receive it. To need people and be needed. To live with dignity and encourage others to live with dignity too.
Today, I use my social agency, as an emotionally intelligent, economically and professionally empowered woman to call on all decision makers, social influencers and community leaders to create more empowerment networks, programs and initiatives to support the men in our communities. The 21st century, with all of its historic shifts, has changed the definition of masculinity indefinitely. Leaving millions, if not billions, of men trying to figure out what it means to be a man and be successful with almost no guidance at all. They need our help, the question remains, how will we show our men that we don’t expect them to stumble through life alone trying to figure out how to be a good man, son, brother, husband, father, friend, employee and so on?
If you believe in a holistic human experience for all, please share this with your family and friends, so we can start a different gender movement, fight against patriarchy and create more quality social, economic and political opportunities for all.
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