So, the internet is now awash with a new concept (and of course its accompanying hashtag): meninism. For those of you who have been asleep during all of 2015 so far, I will explain what meninism is. Unfortunately, it is not an ideology in support of the Czech village of Menin. Rather, it is the semi-satirical belief that men, like women, have suffered injustices which must be rectified.
For a clearer idea of what meninism stands for, let us look to the Urban Dictionary. Of course, UD is not the perfect place to look for serious definitions, but it tends to give us a reasonably good idea of the way things are going on the internet. There are, of course, several definitions. The first calls it a ‘mockery of feminism [which] proves that we can’t request equality without white men making everything about themselves’. This is a good characterisation of the more jocular side of meninism, which complains about inequality in allergy rates, for example. In this branch, meninism is mocking itself as much as feminism. However, one notices that this definition is much fought over, with more votes down than up. What else does UD have to offer?
The second definition has acquired less hatred. It describes meninism as ‘A (satirical) belief showing the hypocrisy of first world feminism.’ Right. I am naturally intrigued as to what ‘first world feminism’ is, precisely. Is rape a first world problem? Is the stubbornly large pay gap which ensures that women working as hard as men earn less money a first world problem? Is the constant objectification of women (96% of all objectifying images are of women) a first world problem? The same definition criticizes feminists for not understanding satire, but satire is meant to reveal the absurdities of the world, not ridicule a group and tell them they have no real basis for complaint.
So, can meninism really be described as satirical? No, it can not. There is a genuine belief circulating the internet that men are unjustly attacked by feminism. One recurring argument to this effect is that in most occasions in which conscription has been introduced, only men have been required to join the army. Is this evidence that men’s lives are considered more expendable by society? I would argue, in fact, that this injustice stems from the assumption that women are needed at home, and that they are not aggressive or fit enough to be in active service. Thus we can see that even this perceived injustice stems from sexism.
One of the most shocking and frustrating problems with this trending movement is that women have joined in. A new hashtag, #WomenAgainstFeminism, has emerged. It is a reminder that for many of us, feminism has become a dirty word. There is a perception in society that feminism has gone too far, and now that equality exists it is simply demanding small, insignificant improvements. Online, feminists are often accused of being childish. This erroneous belief is so pervasive that even women are now abandoning the cause of equality. In the media, feminists are often portrayed as ugly and boring. This in itself is evidence of the enduring existence of sexism- the media assumes that these women making a stand are ‘un-feminine’ and must therefore be ugly. Ultimately, feminism is about equality, and by not supporting it, you are refraining from supporting equality.
Oddly enough, the roots of meninism were an encouraging indication of an increase in male support for feminism. It was originally simply a name for the men in feminism. A (male) journalist from the Telegraph described the early movement as ‘tiresome’ and ‘a neutered sheep in wolf’s clothing’. He even asserted that the men ‘were way too feminised to achieve traction.’ This represents a good example of the negative depiction of feminism in the media. The early concept of meninism was, however, flawed, for if feminism is about the equality of the sexes, then there need not be separate branches for men and women.
In conclusion, meninism is not just a joke, or even a joke gone too far, but it is a dangerous concept which fuels the toxic belief that men have just as great a right to be angry about sexism as women. It may have started with good intentions, but from the very beginning it was flawed and open to exploitation. If you are a man and in support of equal rights for all sexes, you are not a meninist. You are a feminist.