There is a lot of momentum in the media lately about including men in the feminist movement. Moreover, feminists seem to be spending a lot of time trying to convince men that gender equality is actually a good thing. Yet despite the perks of involving men in the feminist movement, the efforts women are taking to convince men to support gender equality are far from ideal. Why can’t men join the feminist movement because it is the right thing to do?
“Choreplay” is a recent attempt to try to get men to support gender equality in the home. Choreplay, as defined by the Daily Beast, is the use of household chores as sexual leverage – for example, women leveraging sex to get their partner to take out the trash. Granted, the New York Times Op-Ed written by Sheryl Sandberg coining “choreplay” cited a study stating that couples that split household chores have more sex. That might be true, but it feels like we are demeaning men’s intellect by assuming they will only partake in household chores if they get a “carrot” for doing so. If the garbage is overflowing, can’t we assume men will just take out the trash because it needs to be taken out? Moreover, using sex as a reward for taking out the trash feels like a twisted way of over-commodifying the female body. Sexual empowerment and agency is great, but can’t choreplay be easily reduced to men doing the dishes as a way to pay for sex?
Men should support gender equality not because someone came up with a kitschy, quid-pro-quo pun to get them to do so. They should support gender equality in the home because it’s the right thing to do. As Jessica Valenti points out, these are the men we want participating in the feminist movement – not the men who only do the dishes as a way to get laid. She states:
But we can give men more credit than this: many are smart, many are feminists, and I truly believe that a lot of them are interested in helping women achieve equality for equality’s sake, not just because they can get something out of the deal… It’s those men that we want on our sides.
Similarly, we should stop proposing gender equality to men as a movement to support just because they can get something out of it. Gloria Steinem recently pitched feminism to men by explaining it in terms of providing a more compatible life partner. In reference to marriages in the 1950s, she stated:
Men have been lonely without partners who share interests, and without that kind of closeness… They were being told essentially to marry housekeepers with whom they may or may not share interests, and their lives became instantly different in the home and outside the home. The conversation and closeness and comradeship was very, very difficult. Each one was a trophy for the other, but not a person, not a whole person.
While this is a legitimate point, something seems to be amiss by pitching feminism to men this way. Perhaps I am being too optimistic, but I want to believe men would still join the feminist movement if solely to help the oppression of 50 percent of society – not because they are trying to increase the compatibility of their romantic partners.