* Nobody is really a bad feminist I just needed a catchy headline
Ask anyone who knows me who my favourite actor is and the answer is obvious: Mathew Baynton. This seems obvious for many reasons. Firstly, he created and starred in Horrible Histories which is still one of my favourite shows and impacted me so much as a child that I am writing this from my bedroom at the University of Chester where I study history. As I’ve grown up, he has been the common denominator of all of the shows that I came to love, my personal favourites being ‘Deano’ in Gavin and Stacey and, more recently, ‘Thomas’ in Ghosts. However, what really set him over the top in my opinion was an article that I read about how he wasn’t interested in teaching his son how to be a boy.
The article, which I will link here because it is worth a read, contained all of the feminist boxes that needed to be ticked and more. He discusses his respect for his wife and how they parent their children as equals, how he isn’t interested in pushing his children in a certain direction and how he wants his children to grow up without being limited by the expectations the world put on them. For the past three years I have put him on a pedestal for this article, and only now am I realising how deeply this means sexism was ingrained into me. Because I wasn’t impressed at this approach to life and parenting, it should be the bare minimum. I was impressed because he did this as a man.
The realisation became a new lens on the world for me. I began examining all of the things that we dote over men doing that women are expected to do every day. Dads playing in the park with their children, men speaking up for women’s rights or even a CEO who pays equal wages to everyone involved. These things aren’t an expectation on men, but they are a gateway into female respect. The bar has been set so low, and we have been shit on for so long, that we see a man who treats women and femininity with respect and dignity and we label him the next great revolutionary.
Yes, even in feminism, a man doing the same as a woman has more value.
I have been lucky in so many aspects of my life. None of the men that play a significant part in my life have ever made me feel like I don’t have an equal place in this world. If anything, my three male roommates have overcompensated for their privilege. Anyone who has behaved out of line towards any member of the household is quickly banned and I have never had to walk home in the dark or dance alone at a club. My amazing boyfriend has always respected me as an equal to him. We are proud of each other’s successes and have never attempted to hold each other back.
I have, however, been more than well acquainted with the kinds of men that don’t respect women. From friends of friends in unhealthy relationships to the bombardment of opinions that Twitter throws at me every day, it can be hard to remember that there are hundreds of men that are living their lives, respecting others and are just being good people. So when you find a celebrity you like who not only isn’t a bad person, but who is actually a good person, you cling on to them for dear life. You put them on a pedestal and you go back to them every time you feel disheartened with the world. You use them to tune out all that’s bad in the world, and you shouldn’t.
Now of course I’m not saying that we need to knock these people off of the pedestals we put them on, that wouldn’t do any good at all. But instead of treating it as a ground to worship these people on, we should start viewing it as a benchmark or a target. It seemed to me for years that Mathew Baynton is too good for this world. If this is the case then we should be focusing on bringing the world up to that level, instead of praising him as an exception, and in doing so setting the standard for all other men out there.
Normalise women and men parenting as equals. Normalise dads being okay with their children’s sexuality. Normalise men being supportive of the women in their life.
Mathew Baynton made me realise I’m a bad feminist. He’s probably a better feminist than I am. But I’m a couple of decades behind in life experiences and face a completely different world of complex issues, so I’ll cut myself some slack. This isn’t meant to shame everyone reading this who has inevitably done this too, because it isn’t actually a bad thing. These role models can be a glimmer of hope in an ever-changing world and a reminder that, however slowly, we are weeding out the bad in this world. Just make sure that you are aware of how upsetting it is that you are so refreshed by this line of thinking. Let it drive you to fight for change so that, one day, every man in your life will be a feminist too.