I fight against sexism because I want to be my complete self without conforming to rigid definitions of gender and masculinity. I fight against sexism because I want to be close friends with people all along the gender spectrum. I fight against sexism because I want to engage with other people’s minds instead of getting confused about our bodies. I fight against sexism because I want a clear picture of what it means to connect with my partner through sex. I fight against sexism because I don’t want to be confused about any of these things anymore.

img_2538As a cisgender male, I’ve got a lot of reasons to fight against sexism and male domination. Below are a few of the main reasons why I decide to fight.

I fear violence if I don’t conform with rigidly defined genders.

Since we’re children we learn gender stereotypes and the specific ways they say we should act. We also see that when we don’t conform we find ourselves victims of violence, which enforces a hierarchy of power based on gender.

Societies of our world have systematically set up women and trans folks to be victims of violence for hundred of years. There is a long legacy of people being beaten, raped and killed for not conforming to gender stereotypes–Stonewall, Matthew Shepard, “corrective” rape. People have been treated horrifically through the enforcement of gendered power structures–the gang rape on a Delhi bus, rape as a weapon of war, selective abortion. The list goes on but the message is clear: conform to gender, submit to the intersecting hierarchies of power, or else.
Stereotypes are also harmful to people who do conform because they limit our lives. We fear harsh punishment if we don’t conform. We don’t expect to be treated as fully human and we are rarely allowed to be our complete, honest selves.

I don’t want limits on who I can be close friends with.

The ways we enforce gender stereotypes discourages us from developing close friendships with people outside of particular definitions of gender. Stereotypes isolate us from each other and make it hard to take the first steps to really get to know one another.

Throughout our lives we get messages saying it isn’t okay to be close friends with particular “kinds” of people. During my young life when I wanted to be friends with a girl or a gender non-conforming boy, adults had excited or cautious curiosities that made me feel uncomfortable. Walls started going up between me and my peers based on gender, and also class, sexual orientation, race, religion, and other general sweeps of people.

As adults we still struggle with relationships. Some of us hold back from developing friendships for fears that people will think we’re cheating on our partners. We find it hard to support our partners in their friendships with people of the gender they’re attracted to for fear of being seen as a jealous partner.

I don’t want a society that prioritize the way bodies look over the way minds think.

The media presents us with images of men and women that are primarily centered on our bodies. People’s bodies, particularly women’s, are seen as objects, commodities to be consumed, disconnected from a human mind that’s brilliant, intelligent, loving, creative, and thoughtful.

When we first came to the world, we were really excited when we engaged with other’s minds–learned or created things together, figured something out. At some point, we started attributing people’s worth to the way their bodies looked before we took the chance to engage with their minds. Messages in the media and social pressures encouraged this behavior and made it difficult to live against it.

I don’t want to be confused about sex.

In the media, sex is presented in ways that feeds into our insecurities. We’re given tidbits of information to form a picture of what “normal” sex is instead of being allowed to decide for ourselves through healthy relationships and interactions with our partners.

I rarely talked about sex growing up. When I did it was limited by my fears of being honest and vulnerable, and was riddled with judgement and assumptions. I never talked to my father about sex, not even as an adult. I luckily had a thoughtful adult in my life who had the attention to let me be honest about the things I was confused about in my preteens. I would guess that few men have had a thoughtful adult around to help us learn and talk about sex at an early age, but those of us who did found it indispensable.

This is why I fight.

The ways in which we perpetuate sexism and male domination systematically divide us, and it’s been harsh. Men are treated with violence and isolation in order to act out power to keep the system going. Women are treated with violence and are made to feel unimportant, less valued and worthless in order to discourage and prevent them from taking positions of power. Queer, trans and other folks in the gender spectrum are made invisible and not treated as fully human. And we are all kept from being full, open and completely ourselves with each other.

Why do you fight sexism and male domination?

Content written by Nikhil Trivedi, RVA Volunteer