Having formed part of the team that created GEM (Gender Equality Malta) over a year ago, Johann Agius looks at the topic of feminism from a male perspective.
Customising a lyric of a cringe-worthy mainstream song by LMFAO to include my stand on feminism, probably isn’t the best opening statement to an article discussing my opinion on feminism. But in reality, it does perfectly encapsulate my general sentiments around the concept of being a ‘male feminist’.
At this point, I’m not even sure whether the term I just coined is politically correct, and I myself don’t really like using it because I’m usually against any sort of labelling. So let me expand on it as best I can.
In March 2016, I was the only male involved in launching the NGO Gender Equality Malta (GEM). Although I am no longer an executive member due to other commitments, I am still an avid follower of GEM and enjoy actively promoting the team’s fantastic initiatives.
I still remember the most common question that journalists and my friends alike kept asking me - how does it feel to be the only guy? Initially I saw this as an opportunity to promote GEM’s mission, that of promoting gender equality and involving EVERYONE (men, women and individuals identifying with any other gender) in the discussion of this hot topic. But by the time I was answering this question for about the fifth or sixth time, I felt slightly uneasy. Why is it still such a rarity for guys to stand up for girls, and be open about supporting both feminism and gender equality?
Me and the rest of the team were immediately faced with a prevalent piece of criticism - how does a group spreading awareness about gender equality only have one guy? Granted, yes. Although I’m now glad to see two males in the GEM executive team, and tonnes of other active male members and supporters, looking back at it now this was a very valid comment. But what those who posed this question did not know was that finding guys to join our team was a task much tougher than we had ever anticipated.
The discussions our initial team, myself included, had with most males (trying to as much as possible not generalise here) often ended with a common understanding of the importance of gender equality, but argument-inducing disagreement on the meaning of feminism.
“I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?” Dalai Lama
I myself used to struggle with finding and understanding the interdependent relationship between gender equality and feminism. I’m not entirely sure if this was because I am not a woman, or whether it was more because I had almost never been exposed to, or rather forced to deeply think about, these two concepts before the idea to create GEM came about within the Insite Social Policy office. Before then, I think I had only ever heard of these topics while I was studying Sociology theories for my A Level exams.
At that point, I suddenly found an interest in doing my own research, and discussing the different issues related to gender equality and feminism with other people, no matter their mindset or opinion. Actually, I would remind myself that the more diverse than mine, the better.
I gradually discovered the beauty of empowering BOTH men and women (not forgetting non-binary individuals), as well as advocating true feminism - standing up for women facing gender discrimination and inequal opportunity, but also doing the same for people of all other genders.
We need more conversations coming up surrounding wage gaps, paternal leave and other extremely important topics which are not necessarily feminist in nature (or what we would normally perceive to be of relevance to feminism), but do most definitely affect everyone.
Discussion and communication are absolutely key in anything, especially when it comes to discussing these kinds of issues which concern humanity in general, and which have the potential to be dividing and far from easy to end in an agreeable conclusion or final solution.
Healthy and informed discussion about feminism, that recognizes the importance of all genders, is what we should be focusing on. Meanwhile, I’ll still stand proudly as a male feminist.
Johann Agius is a fourth year law student who is currently the CEO of Insite after fulfilling the roles of Public Relations Officer and External Relations Officer in previous years. He joined Insite as a writer and photographer in 2013 and was elected in the executive for the first time a year later.