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I, like many others, hear the word feminism thrown around as much as empty promises from a politician in election year. Celebrities use it, Facebook and its millions of keyboard warriors use it, so do all the strong women striving to change the mind frames of a generation, but does anyone actually look for the real life examples that confront us? I can say I didn't, not until I tried to lose a bit of weight. So, if I may, I will start from the beginning.
It started with McDonald's, then pizzas and everything in between, and before I knew it I had a gut that resembled Uncle Phil. I’m tall, 6'4" in fact, so my girlfriend insisted I carried it well, as long as I wore a baggy jumper. But the stats didn’t lie, according to my BMI I was two stone overweight and I decided action needed to be taken.
My girlfriend's mother is a lady of larger proportions, (wording this correctly keeps me from a fate worse than death) and had become something of a legend at her local weight loss group, she had just hit a two and a half stone loss and won Ms. Slinky of the year award. Pride was in the air and so were New Year's resolutions so I decided why the hell not, bad eating had left my insides a mess and it was a perfect solution to lose my newly found “puppy fat.”
The meeting was held at a local social club, and being the first one of the year it was packed. The flow of people leaving the previous meeting hit the flow of our meeting and became a succession of holding doors and smiling politely at the would be “losers.” Fruit, healthy options, and motivational phrases littered the tables, a desk in the corner was selling low-fat snack bars and ladies in red shirts with the phrase “ask me how” were greeting newcomers. I cued to be weighed and was given a weight loss pack, also known as “The Bible” to regular group members. The moment of truth, I stepped on the scale, 16 stone 8, (for you Americans that 232 pounds). Wow, I had put on some.
So we all took our seats, me with my girlfriend's family, which with three generations is quite the group in itself. I looked around at all the chatting women, nattering about how their Christmas had been, how much weight they had put on, or lost. It was only then that I realized, 70 people, and only three men, and that was including me. A middle-aged man and a retiree sat down in the row to my left, who had been regulars to the group for a while. Both had lost the best part of nine stone to get themselves from an obese body weight to a figure that would let them see out old age. These men had overcome a mountain of physical and mental discipline and changed their life for the better, but where were the rest?
Where were all the men like me, who wanted to lose a little, or came to support their better half, or just wanted to learn a bit about healthy eating? Well, the truth is they didn’t really care. We (men) generally don’t care if we are a bit overweight, we don’t wear makeup, jeans can last us five days before we feel like we have to wash them, and as for brushing our hair… well, I could continue. Now I cannot sit here and say this applies to everyone, it doesn’t. Lots of men care about their appearance and spend more time in the bathroom than women. However, I have been brought up in North West England, my father is overweight, but he is also happy, and that’s the point I am making is that men find it easier to be happy in their own skin.
Men don’t have endless commercials in makeup, anti wrinkle cream, hair products, and don’t get me started on glossy magazines. Don’t get me wrong, we do have some, Nivea for Men, hair dye for men, because going grey apparently isn’t aging gracefully anymore. But as I sat there with 67 women of all ages and size around me, not one of them was happy in their own skin. They all wanted to improve on what they already were, to become that infamous “new me,” and why? Well, that is most definitely the question and the answer is quite simple.
We live in a society that is based on people making money, and to do this, all you have to do is make the consumer feel inferior about themselves, and who is their main target? Women! The version of our race that creates life, that mothers a generation, and keeps the world together is being told that they are inferior. This isn’t new either, it's been happening since long before I was born, and if change doesn’t take place it could go on long after I die.
If someone called you mother inferior, or ugly, would you stand for it? I sure as hell wouldn’t, yet one in three women refuse to leave the house without makeup, and out of this friction came what we know as feminism. This isn't just about looks either, it about an equal wage, equal social treatment, and equal opportunities for all women, which in my eyes, they certainly deserve!
However, feminism isn’t without its problems; a big one is the extremists, every movement has them. The idea of feminism is that men and women are equal, which they should be, but some women believe that it's women that should have the power, that men are bad and can’t help it because they were born this way. Well, the problem with men isn’t that they are bad, or that they are even against you, the problem is that many of us just don’t understand. This is where you need to put your time, helping men to see how this affects you and why. We are under as much pressure to be the next Brad Pitt and to have a Calvin Klein body, and it's through this problem we all share that we can come together and say enough is enough.
As many of you will have seen floating around on social media is articles about “Free the Nipple” and videos highlighting the hypocrisy in people calling out women for breast feeding in public. This all falls under the same category, breasts have been so hyper-sexualised that a woman can’t naturally feed her baby in public without being leered at. Some people even have the audacity to go up to them and say that it's wrong, or disgusting! I don’t know whether these people are idiots or just blind but that is what breasts are for, feeding children; their primary purpose is to lactate and provide for infants, this gets me furious and I could go on for hours, but then I would most probably bore you, so I digress.
Now I’m no expert in this nor do I claim to be, hell I have a lot of research to do, and everything you have read is just one man's opinion, but if I were to ask myself, am I a feminist? I would say yes, yes I am. You don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist, and going to a weight loss group was easy enough so why the hell not? If you're not part of the solution, then you're still part of the problem. This is just a message from one man, who has realized that there is a gap in the market for feminism, that it is real and needs to be expanded on until we gain true equality.