Dear Men, Your Masculinity Doesn’t Suffer When Women Are Elevated In Society. Sincerely, A Male Feminist

feminism

By Tony Rinna

The other night was yet another anecdotal night in terms of my musical background and my interest in helping to promote and advance the cause of gender equality. Perhaps what happened wasn’t blatant sexism in and of itself. Nevertheless, the lesson of the night was very clear to me as a male feminist that it’s time for men to let our female counterparts shine, as well as be able to function comfortably in public without fear of threat to our masculinity.

Let me explain how I came to this conclusion. I recently attended a jazz session at a hole-in-the-wall establishment where a series of performers alternated every hour or so. The last group my friends and I saw was an experimental jazz ensemble. It consisted of three men and a woman. The woman stood out as her instrument of choice was an electric violin. Personally, I didn’t care much for the violin in the context of jazz, but what I didn’t care for even more was the way she was seemingly forced to the periphery of the performance.

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Jazz is one of those fields where the saxophonist usually takes prime of place. The drummer is also often not far behind in terms of taking the limelight. On both accounts, that’s exactly what happened. They both stole the show, with the bassist playing a subtle role as usual. What was also unfortunately ordinary was the way the female musician took the lowest place in the performance.

The sax player was very good, probably the best I’ve ever heard. Yet I must admit I was somewhat frustrated to see the female musician relegated the way she was. At one point she began to join in and the sax player cut her off. Yes, jazz is one of those styles where everything has to flow well, and he judged that the violin player wasn’t going to help make the mood and sound flow well at that point.

Again, perhaps it wasn’t blatant sexism per se, and that the fact that she was a woman and had a more peripheral role in the performance was coincidental. Yet it served as a powerful reminder for me as I sat there amazed at the music. I wondered what my female friend sitting next to me thought of it all, but she never said anything and I didn’t ask (as much as I probably should have).

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One of the things I’ve always taken pleasure in is my more service-based attitude toward playing music on the street. The downtown area in my hometown is dominated by a lot of female-owned small businesses, and women’s professional communities are also particularly active and prevalent there. Many of these businesswomen and other professionals would eat lunch on the public tables at the pedestrian mall where I always played. My music was, for them and for the local shopkeepers, a source of enjoyment and entertainment. While I always appreciated their recognition and admiration, that’s not what it was all about for me.

Rather, I always saw myself not as some grand show to be awed over, but as background entertainment to stand humbly while so many people – for the most part women – were able to enjoy their summer lunch break while listening to background music. Sometimes, mothers with young children would stop so their kids could listen to me play, and I was only too happy to help make their duties as mothers a little easier by providing a temporary spectacle for them. I almost saw it rather as a humble servant to these women. Even in Ancient Greece, many slaves were actually talented musicians- not that I’m trying to draw a parallel between myself and a slave, but rather I mean that musicians were often more in the capacity of a servant rather than a spectacle.

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Without wishing to sound self-righteous, I think this is an attitude and general comportment that men should take more often – not being afraid of letting women take a greater role in the limelight. We should be humbly stepping down and serving in a support capacity while women take more leadership and executor duties. Some may call it “unmanly”, but I think there is nothing more manly than having the strength to concede and yield to women and letting their brilliance show, but not in a pandering way.

I am well aware that true feminism isn’t about trying to denigrate men or hating males. I know that it’s about achieving the greatest level of equality between the sexes. Yet I personally would consider it a great honor to take the best of what I have to offer and, instead of engaging in any sort of grandstanding, use it to humbly and deferentially step aside and let others shine.

 

Tony-rinna

Tony Rinna is a writer and a freelance saxophone player. He is the creator of ‘Saxaphone for Women’, a one-man movement using his saxaphone to promote respect for women and their rights. He has used his sax to raise money for various women’s organizations, including Girls on the Run and Women at Risk, International. He currently resides in South Korea. You can contact him on Twitter @FeministSax.

 

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