by Sheryl Ragnetti with the contribution of Joseph Fontana
Living in a big city like Rome undoubtedly comes with quite a few dangers, especially for non-Italian students who find themselves in a completely new environment, full of bars and clubs, and surrounded by people who speak a language that they barely understand. One of the best things about John Cabot University is undoubtedly the concern toward this issue: among the numerous resources students have access to, for example, is The Women’s Leadership Initiative, a club that organizes incredibly useful workshops on self-defense at the beginning of every semester. Feminism is largely widespread among our community and, probably, one of the main examples is clearly the article that appeared on the first page of The Matthew’s first issue last year, “The Future is Female: Here’s Why.” The article is interesting and brings about some important questions that are worth discussing, from an unpopular feminist point of view.

As approaching the article, my first thought was that Federica, the writer, was very courageous in carrying on her social experiment – wearing a t-shirt with “The future is female, Sorry guys” written on it and analyzing the reactions of people she met. Even though I do not share her thought, I was really impressed, mainly because not many people would have the courage to declare their ideas so openly as she did. As Federica clearly stated, the phrase wants to reunite all minorities and the only reason behind the focus on “females” is that it sounds better, more “euphonic.” Even taking this in account, I really cannot see how other minorities could feel represented inside this slogan. Today there are 71 recognized genders and 17 sexual orientation types: how could they all fit in the category of “females”?

Federica makes another very good point, saying that in many countries in the world, especially third-world countries, women are extremely subjected to the power of men, they have no rights or value, and they are usually treated merely as objects. But, if we look more closely at our Western society, we can see that things are quite different. I acknowledge that women are still struggling for equality in the pay gap and in the high-ranking positions. This is true for women but, surprisingly, men face a similar issue: just like women are paid less and are deeply underrepresented in some jobs compared to their male counterpart, men are paid less and underrepresented in other jobs in fields that are mainly dominated by females. Similar issues, usually not considered when talking about career and work, concern the homelessness rate – 80% males, 20% females-, or the number of the deaths due to risky domestic jobs, where 83% of victims are males.

Another point I would like to address is the one in which males are defined as “perpetrators of oppression.” I can see the writer’s point when she complains about the people who complain about the increasing presence of female and/or gay characters in movies: I frankly think that these people simply have no idea about what to criticize and therefore they cling to everything that looks like a reasonable pretext (even if it is not) to show their “supremacy.” However, I would never describe all men as “perpetrators of oppression,” as if the entire male population was a possible threat to humanity. If it is true that “women are not trying to undermine and defeat all men. We just want to make sure that everyone receives what is owed to them in terms of basic rights, equal socio-economic conditions, and respect,” then we cannot define men in this way without defining ourselves in the same terms too. First, we cannot assume that “little boys are going to be fine” because it is only a t-shirt. This sentence implies that all those boys who continuously hear “don’t cry, be a man”, “don’t play with the girls, play football with the other boys,” “always offer when you go out with a girl,” even if they do not feel like doing certain things, are not suffering and are not affected by these words. Second, the double standards that dominate the Western culture and system in which most of us have grown, undermines the freedom and the possibilities of both males and females.

For each discrimination toward a woman there is also its male counterpart. Let me give you a couple of examples. The right of giving up on motherhood or fatherhood: a woman who decides to abort is usually understood (“usually” does not mean “always,” I know there is still a long way to go); and, after all, “it’s her body, her choice.” I perfectly agree. Though why is it, when a man decides to give up on his fatherhood he is considered irresponsible and immature? Also, the idea of “her body, her choice” gives little or no say of the father in the matter. Violence toward women on TV makes people upset. Violent scenes in which men fight to the death are "funny" and "entertaining." Many could advocate that “the percentage of male victims of abuse, violence, discrimination, sexual assault… is much smaller than the percentage of female victims.” This is not the truth. Numerous studies show that the percentage of abuses on men perpetrated by women are not all that different from the ones on women perpetrated by men. The reason why we do not hear about these statistics is because men, since birth, are taught to be strong and courageous, not to cry, to protect and to be gentlemen toward women. When men report an abuse, what they mostly get in response is either a laugh or “You should be proud of it. I wish it happened to me!” In case of emergencies, wars, natural disasters, the first people to be saved are children, the elderly and women. Why should women have the priority to be rescued before men? “Because men are stronger and can deal better with the danger.” So, women are the weaker sex? “Well, no, they are as strong as men. But women should still go first.” It seems crazy, but paradoxically that, to achieve more rights, both women and men must give up on traditional stereotypes and privileges that negatively affect us all. The future is everyone’s, if everyone works for everyone’s future.

Adriana DeNoble