In the news recently you may have heard about one young girl’s battle against photoshopping that took the form of an online petition to Seventeen Magazine. The results were covered all over the news and in the twittersphere, “A VICTORY FOR WOMEN!” it was proclaimed. Seventeen agreed to publish what it called a “Body Peace Treaty.” It’s very true, Seventeen’s response not only counts as a victory for a new generation of women who inevitably consider their own bodily image when reading the magazine, but a win for those women to feel empowered to take actions into their own hands. However, with all of the coverage in all of the news outlets around the web, television, radio and so forth, everyone forgot to cover the other group that will also benefit from this— the next generation of young men.
It’s often the standard, when talking about victories for women in a feminist context, to extract men from the scenario. This is logical— Feminism after all is about creating a balance of power and respect between the genders, and in the movement away from a more Patriarchal society, it can be very strategic to keep men out of the discussion. But in this case, in a discussion of building a generation of women who have a healthier body image than several of the generations prior, it seems appropriate to discuss the impact on young men. If these women continue to stack up victories by demanding control of the imagery they consume, young men will have a healthier outlook on what a woman should look like as well!
Part of achieving some sort of balanced gender dynamic needs to be about educating and empowering men with better constructs as well. This “victory” seems like an opportune moment to broach that discussion. What will the future these women inherit look like if they’re simultaneously taking control of their media, and also educating their future spouses and lovers? What does the world look like when not only young women feel good about themselves because they have an accurate construct about what is realistic and beautiful, but the men in their lives also have a similarly realistic outlook?
It’s important to note that this discussion goes well beyond body image. A few weeks back The Atlantic ran an article by Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” It addressed the fact that even with the strides we’ve made in promoting gender equality, there is still institutionalized imbalances at play. This piece clearly resonated— it broke all of The Atlantic’s previous web traffic numbers. Among some of the larger topics were the state of feminism, past and present, and the role and impact women have on each other when preaching historically popular feminist tenets, e.g. “You can have it all.” But in this discussion of changing the system, a system that still has men in it, their education isn’t discussed.
The matriarchs of the feminist movement began a cascade that has made the world a better place for women, but whomever might be considered the leaders of the feminist movement today should consider adding young men in to their strategy. With more women graduating college than ever before, at a rate greater than that of men, the future continues to look bright for the next generation of women. But what does the next generation of feminism look like? And should it be geared less towards educating and empowering young women, and more towards educating young men?
Joey Camire can be found on the internet.