As we begin a new semester HeForShe Columbia has set the goal of reaching out to and including more of Columbia’s male community. HeForShe is a project emphasizing that feminism is not a movement for female empowerment alone, but the equality of both of the sexes, to benefit both of the sexes. Due to the efforts of many amazing feminists around the world, stories of how women are affected by gender inequality are slowly becoming more common and accessible. Unfortunately, it remains more stigmatized for men to speak out about their experiences about how their gender has affected them in both positive and negative ways. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks to this in her speech “We Should All be Feminists” in saying that “We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.”
Columbia student Luis Alvarado speaks about how this topic was addressed in his University Writing class on gender and sexuality in an opinion piece for the Columbia Spectator, The Grand Performance. In reflecting on Adichie and Alvarado’s words, it becomes clear that both men and women are affected by gender binaries, that both men and women would benefit from equality. This is what HeForShe is about, and this is why HeForShe Columbia is excited for the following semester, to try to help more students like Alvarado come to these conclusions.
Sure, as a cisgender, heterosexual male, I’ve never been forced to come to terms with my sexuality or face discrimination for not fitting into the gender binary. Yet, my gender, too, was a performance. Growing up, I always heard, “Luis, boys don’t dance in front of the television!” or “Boys must be tough.” I was given performative cues from a very young age. However, my classmates had the courage to recognize the futility of gender performance, examine who they really were, and show the world who they felt they were underneath.