October 6, 2015

ZUMBA | Meninism: It’s Not The Same

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The other day as I was walking to class, I came across something horrific: a man walking around in a #meninist t-shirt. To make the situation even worse, I ran into one of my friends and she also mentioned seeing a #meninist shirt, but a different man was wearing it. Two #meninists shirts had been seen in one day, and that was two too many for me to ignore. It’s just one example of those with privilege feeling attacked by the oppressed.

Meninism, also referred to as #meninism as it started on Twitter, is basically the counter-movement to feminism. The most simplistic definition of feminism is the belief in equality regardless of gender or sex, often practiced through the empowerment of women. Meninism is the complete opposite in that  it is specifically meant to bring attention to the issues men face and how feminism “forgets” about their “discrimination.”  The whole movement started off as a joke on Twitter, which is a different issue, and grew to become something men have actually begun to identify with.

Even just looking at the name, “meninism” is degrading to feminists. Men are taking a movement originally created by women, for women, and making it their own. By taking such a significant and politicized identity for women, one that some women still don’t even identify with, these men have managed to negate its importance. They make it seem that by actively being critical of sexism and misogyny, women are somehow infringing upon the power that men have. It changes the dialogue of the issue by making it seem like women are beginning to discriminate and ultimately oppress men because they aren’t the main focus of feminism.

Meninism is pretty much based upon the idea that women — and really anyone who isn’t a cisgender male — who are critical of oppressive structures and how men contribute to it, they are attacking men on a personal level. Privilege can be difficult to understand, let alone accept. Men seem to think that women who are empowered to take action are creating discrimination rather than opposing it. On a deeper level, there is something troubling about men who are uncomfortable when their power is threatened. As marginalized groups choose to question those with privilege, the more threatened they seem to feel.

This is why I feel a little pain when I see a man casually wearing a #meninist shirt. I also see this kind of foundation in reverse-racism: The ridiculous idea that people of color can be racist towards white people. I’m always astounded by the amount of ignorance that accompanies this belief. If I were to make a white person joke, in no way would it impact the structural power a white person has. There is no history of white people being oppressed in the same way that there is for people of color, so they cannot be equalized whatsoever.

A white person can never understand the actual racism a person of color constantly faces, so similarly to meninism, even proposing that a white person can experience racial discrimination is ridiculous. Claiming that a white person is facing racism manages to disregard the racist past and present that I and my fellow  people of color face. Reverse racism seems to be rooted in the idea that we are all meant to be treated equally, which often means “we don’t see race” or “we’re all one race: the human race.” In order for a white person to assume they are facing racism, they must believe the system isn’t inherently racist.

The mentality appears to come from those who feel personally attacked, desiring not to be grouped with the other whites who are actively racist or other men who are actively sexist. Some fail to realize that they are representations of a grander oppressive structure and it’s not always about the individual. I think it is really important to keep in mind the society we’ve grown up in. Even when we may understand how privileges work, it doesn’t mean we’re free from making mistakes, myself included.

Even though meninism started as a joke, it became a “movement.” It goes to show that even if people joke about these structures, someone with privilege will somehow make it about them. I understand that there is a learning process to social justice, but appropriating other movements and hardships takes away from those whom have actually experienced marginalization throughout history.

Sarah Zumba is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Zumba Works it Out appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.