Why Men Need Feminism, According To Grrrl Gang Founder Mich Dulce
The patriarchy isn't just harmful to women, says Mich Dulce. Here's why men need to join the fight.
Feminism is having a moment. Just a decade ago, most would be more wary to call oneself a feminist, yet today, the label is claimed by people from all walks of life — from startup CEOs to the average high school student. No longer is feminism being reduced to ugly images of hysterical bra-burning women (which, by the way, didn't really happen). Thanks to the #MeToo movement, its most prominent voices are now found not just in university campuses, but also on film sets, recording studios, and in politics.
But in spite of the movement gaining more traction, misconceptions around feminism are still prevalent. And one of the longest-standing ideas against feminism is that it aims to take down men. And that, says Mich Dulce, just isn't okay.
"Feminism isn't against men," she says with a sigh. "It's against the patriarchy."
And the patriarchy, she continues, isn't just bad for women, but also men.
"In the same way that the patriarchy teaches girls to be submissive, it teaches men to be aggressive," says Mich, a Filipina artist, fashion designer, and musician. "It teaches men to not have feelings. There's that whole social norm that boys have to act this way because they're supposed to be powerful, they're supposed to be the ones in charge."
Why Men Need Feminism: Mich Dulce on Toxic Masculinity
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When Mich talks about society's imposed standards on what makes a man "a man", she is describing toxic masculinity. "It teaches men to be aggressive," Mich says. "It teaches men to not have feelings. There's that whole social norm that guys, boys act this way because they’re supposed to be powerful, they’re supposed to be the one in charge and then girls have to act this way."
As the feminist movement continues to explore the different options that a woman could have aside from child-rearing and domestic duties, it's high time that men to explore their options as well.
Both men and women can perpetuate the patriarchy and toxic masculinity. The goal of feminism is to create a world where society no longer has gendered expectations, says Mich. "And the only way to make this happen is to educate," she says. "It's time that we got over this."
Grrrl Gang Manila: A Safe Place To Learn
This is precisely why Mich founded Grrrl Gang, a group that she describes as a safe space for women to learn about feminism. It was during the Women's March in Paris that she realised that she could start her own group.
"People were holding signs that said 'Fuck Trump. Fuck Duterte', and I was like, how come I'm more active participating and volunteering in other countries when my voice is probably bigger in the Philippines?"
After the march, Mich called her friends in Manila to talk about her little idea, and Grrrl Gang Manila was born.
She says that Grrrl Gang is her gift to her childhood self. "That was something I was always looking for as a young person," says Mich, who says that as a teenager, she was interested in feminism but was too intimidated by the existing feminist groups in the Philippines.
"It's a space to make mistakes," she says. "The internet is so judgy. There's no space to ask the questions you wanna ask without fear of people calling you an idiot."
Because women need a space where girls feel safe, Grrrl Gang Manila's meetups are exclusively for women. But Mich says that plenty of men helped put Grrrl Gang together, but they'd rather stay anonymous.
"You can't close your eyes to the necessity of men's involvement in feminism," she says. "For men to advocate is extremely important. And if you want a gender equal world, you can’t just have education for girls, you need to have education for men."
Why We Need Male Feminists
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Grrrl Gang is planning to set up a meeting specifically on toxic masculinity, organised by men who are friends of the folks behind Grrrl Gang. "It will be the first men-and-women meet," she says.
Setting up the meeting has proven to be quite a challenge, however. Because men are conditioned to keep their emotions bottled up, getting them to talk about their feelings and experiences is one hurdle they need to manoeuvre around. "And obviously, girls can't be in charge of a guy meet," Mich says. "It has to be guys planning for guys alongside girls."
"In the same way that we don't like men mandating to women, we don't want girls to tell men how to think," she explains. "That's a tricky dynamic. You want them to realise that this is their responsibility by themselves instead of dictating it." Mich says that she has no problem reaching men who are already on Grrrl Gang's side, but what about the average Filipino man who's so deeply entrenched in the patriarchy that they don't think it's a problem?
The ugly truth is that men are more likely to listen to other men, so male feminists need to start more conversations outside of their echo chambers.
"Engage and challenge other men," Mich says. "Men should have those conversations and really take an active role. I love seeing men at women's marches. Being an ally isn't just being an ally privately. It's taking a stand for things that are important, whether it's lobbying for reproductive health laws or standing up to another man harassing a girl. Or just telling a guy that it's not okay to make rape jokes, you know what I mean?"
"That way, it doesn't boil down to girls vs. boys. It becomes us vs. the patriarchy, which is a much more powerful thing."
(Featured image: Mich Dulce and the rest of her bandmates from The Male Gaze)