Perhaps the greatest proof of this is the reaction that people have toward women who achieve a great measure of influence. The most visible example of this today is Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is currently embroiled in a competitive push to gain the Democratic presidential nomination. While she has had to come to terms with her femininity while projecting an image of strength, what's striking is how men's reactions to her have not been much different from women's.
Many men and women see leaders like Clinton as "too bitchy" to lead the nation. What about others who take pride in the fact that - to use the words of comedian Tina Fey - "bitches get stuff done" and "bitch is the new black"? Frankly, I don't respect that any more than I respect the female porn stars many women find so appalling.
Though Clinton has received a great deal of admiration for all of her accomplishments, there are still those who begrudge her for her femininity. For many in the old guard, the thought of a woman going anywhere other than the place ordained for her in our society remains unacceptable. Several male political pundits were eager to write Clinton off after she lost the Iowa caucus. In addition to this, the comments of political commentators like MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who has attributed her success to the fact that "her husband messed around," show the difficulty that many in the older generations have with Clinton's political viability.
Many in our generation see the gap between our parents and us as significant enough to paint us more progressive, but the degree of progress remains in question when one observes the modern feminist movement. There are few male voices in our age group publicly countering the opinions expressed by the likes of Matthews. This makes it unsurprising that many young feminists still see men as the antagonists standing in the way of their agenda.
Now, as a young man who would like to think that he has feminist leanings, how should I be expected to rally behind a woman who is alternately "too bitchy" to lead or "bitchy enough" to do so? My "feminist" side tells me that I don't oppose Hillary because I have something against gender equality, but what are the consequences of supporting her for either of the two reasons listed above?
Part of the problem with my so-called feminism is how I envision women's equality, since I don't see Hillary as one extreme or the other. Too often we seek to prove that women can do whatever men can do in a way that furthers the assumption that men are inherently superior. We rarely hear the argument from the flip side, and while someone like Clinton attempts to do what is traditionally considered a man's job, she faces hatred. Worse than that, we don't even have any men trying to do jobs traditionally delegated to women, things ranging from taking care of children and jobs like nursing, to carrying on the feminist movement itself. This could be because men are comfortable in their dominant position, or because we are much less interested than women in doing the tasks the other sex traditionally performs.
With that said, I think that the main problem with Angyal's argument was her suggestion to men to "not only value real women but also know how to spot fake ones." This leaves men to choose between two types of women: the ambitious and calculating politician (Hillary Clinton), or the trashy porn star (like Stormy Daniels). These positions are both polarizing and, to many people, both despicable. But the idea of feminism, especially when incorporating men, isn't about distinguishing between real and fake women; it's about men imagining their own lives as women.
In a society where undermined groups struggle to play catch up with those in the most dominant positions, how many people believe that those on top will work overtime to help those who are left behind? That may sound like an overly pessimistic view, but that is one of several reasons that contribute to, among other things, the wage disparity between men and women and the disproportionately low number of women at the top of corporate enterprises. Frankly, I don't think that men as a collective unit are quite ready to take that step outside of their comfortable position of being superior to women in our society.
Until we men can imagine ourselves in the roles that women have traditionally had in America - and learn to share our dominant role in society - we will never able to be feminists. And sadly, as long as we have the image of an intelligent, talented woman having to be a bitch to embody these traits, the prospects for male feminists will remain as bleak as they are today.
Walter Griffin is a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.