Enough With The “Women’s Issues” Label

We like to classify a lot of things as “women’s issues”.  As if they don’t or shouldn’t involve men.

Granted, certain things ARE women’s issues, like the current ongoing lack of women in the sciences or the way women are pushed out of foreign policy positions or the continued income disparities between men and women.  Those are definite problems.

But the thing is that just because a problem disproportionately affects women doesn’t mean it should be something that only women care about.  The real reason I am bringing this up is fairly simple: under the Patriarchy, issues considered “women’s issues” are often not given enough weight, not given enough attention, and ultimately not considered to be legitimate issues.  That’s why terrorism is a top concern for international affairs experts but maternal health somehow isn’t; it’s why insurance can cover Viagra but not oral contraceptives.  The truth is that men are very much related to the issues at play, and it’s time for the other half of America-~-heck, I’ll even go ahead and say the half that people are currently willing to listen to, since Congress managed to have a panel on birth control that included NO women-~-to start caring about women and “women’s issues”.

5 “Women’s Issues” That Men Need To Start Being Part of the Solution For:

1. Sexual assault

Where do I even start?  Something like 85% of the victims are female-~-and something like 90% of the perpetrators are male.  You want to stand there and tell me this is a “women’s issue”?  This is a MEN’S issue.  This is a problem wherein MEN are not taught that they do not have a right to rape; this is a problem where MEN are not taught that being a man doesn’t mean having sex, it means respecting a woman’s choice to have or not have sex.  This isn’t JUST a women’s issue.  This is EVERYONE’s issue.

2. Domestic Violence

This is another one of those issues where the majority of victims are women but the majority of perpetrators are male.  When this is the case, it is absolutely crucial that society work on sensitizing men to the problems underlying the issue to help alleviate the problem.  You can’t teach a woman not to get hit, but you can teach a man not to hit.  But on top of that, there ARE male victims of domestic violence, and when we paint this as a “women’s issue”, those victims fall through the cracks; they feel that society will not respect them or take them seriously if they come forward as victims of domestic violence, and they’re unlikely to get justice for what has been done.  If this is ever going to get rectified, men NEED to start seeing domestic violence as a societal issue and not just a problem for women to handle.

3. Reproductive Health and Family Planning

I don’t mean to point out the obvious here, but it really does take two people to make a baby.  Pretending that babies are just women’s issues is one of the big problems we currently have with the discourse on family planning.  Men continue to leave family planning to women, and heaven forbid something go wrong, it’s entirely the woman’s fault.  Clearly, there is something wrong with this situation.  But on top of that, reproductive health issues impact ALL genders.  Organizations like Planned Parenthood don’t JUST help women get access to birth control and abortions; they help both women AND MEN get access to STI tests and cancer screenings.  Writing these off as organizations that just help women deal with their periods and their baby problems doesn’t give them NEARLY enough credit for the work they do to help both women and their male partners.

4. Sexist Language

I bet you thought this also was just going to be a women’s problem, but it’s NOT.  Here’s why: sexist language is just one facet of an overall culture of oppression and privilege.  Saying that one form of oppression/privilege is okay just allows society to draw lines between groups of people, and once that starts who is to say where it will stop?  It just opens the doors to things like cissexism and homophobia, and men shouldn’t be okay with those either.  But on top of that, even if you are a man, would you ever let someone speak to your mother that way?  Sister?  Daughter?  The reality is that people get hurt by sexist language, people you care about, whether you’re a man or a woman, and you should never stand by and accept that, and NEVER perpetuate it.

5. Global Women’s Rights

I’m just going to say this once: women’s rights are human rights.  I know it has been difficult for some people to accept that women are PEOPLE, but they are.  And their rights to access things like healthcare and education are fundamentally important to developing societies, fighting violence, and creating better futures for entire communities.  Neglecting them is an incredible failure on the part of the international community.  If people want to say that things like peace and stability are priorities, then it’s time to look towards the half of the population that we’ve been forgetting about and see what they can bring to the table.  Time and again, a focus on women has been a proven strategy in development (although I’ll talk to you later about exceptions to this).

 

The world isn’t made up just of men and women.  But it’s made up of people.  And things like human rights and domestic violence are people’s issues, regardless of which demographics they primarily impact.  it’s time to stop writing things off as lesser issues that only women need to care about and start having a dialogue about how to change the norms that perpetuate these problems so we can end them, once and for all, together.

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~ by Randi Saunders on April 7, 2012.

One Response to “Enough With The “Women’s Issues” Label”

  1. Reblogged this on Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History and commented:
    “But the thing is that just because a problem disproportionately affects women doesn’t mean it should be something that only women care about.”

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