‘Fight a good fight’: Panel discusses men’s role in feminism

By Sydni Anderson, Staff writer

A diverse crowd of men and women descended upon the Curris Center theater last Wednesday in search of the answer to one question: what is a man’s role in feminism? The Women’s Faculty Caucus had arranged a panel of five university professors to speak over the issue in celebration of International Women’s Day. A table of food and drinks accompanied the social hour preluding the panel.

Tanya Romero-González, assistant professor of Spanish, is a member of the women’s faculty caucus and said she came to support the event. Romero-González said she believes a man’s role in feminism shouldn’t be any different from a woman’s role.

“I think we should strive for equality because we still have a long way to go,” Romero-González said. “But I think it’s good to raise awareness that not only women can be feminist but men should too.”

Martin Kane, Murray State Spanish lecturer, accompanied his wife Romero-González at the event.

      “I figured it was an interesting debate I’d like to take part in,” Kane said. “I’m looking forward to spirited debate and raising of issues I might not have thought about.”

Marjorie Hilton, president of the Women’s Faculty Caucus, said the idea of the event was to raise awareness of what feminism means to different people, including men.

“Men can benefit from feminism in various ways,” Hilton said. “We’re also seeking to explore what it means in 2017. I think some people think of feminism as something outdated. I think it’s misunderstood. [The panel] is a chance to talk about it more, explore it and educate people. It’s also kind of fun to ask men about feminism.”

Members of the five-person panel were Murray State faculty members Ali Hendley, Gary ZeRuth, Jared Rosenberger, Maysoon Khatib and Sunayan Acharya.

Hilton served as moderator of the panel, asking the first question of the night: what does feminism mean to you?

Hendley said the starting point for feminism is equal rights and opportunities for men and women.

“Beyond that for me it involves a belief that masculinity and femininity should be equally valued,” Hendley said. She described her experiences with gender roles in her youth. Hendley said she was a tomboy growing up but encountered gender-based expectations when she entered junior high school.

“I was like ‘which world should I be operating in?’” Hendley said.

ZeRuth, a self-identifying feminist, agreed with Hendley’s idea of feminism. He added a scientist’s perspective to the issue and said distinct, physiological differences between the genders created niche roles driven by years of evolution and social constructs.

“To get this equality and opportunities we want is going to require more than simple changes in policy,” ZeRuth said. “We need to restructure how we facilitate society.”

Khatib, an adjunct professor of public speaking at Murray State and Muslimgirl.com’s managing editor, spoke over the need for female unity.

“We can talk about feminism all we want, but need to come together as a group,” Khatib said.

Regarding a man’s role, Khatib said men need to stand up for women to promote feminism in the work force.

“Don’t talk for me,” Khatib said. “but elevate us for equality.”

The panel discussed several issues concerning feminism, including division among women, paternal leave and the overall benefits of the movement.

In closing, a STEM student from the audience asked ZeRuth a question about how to combat female discrimination in the scientific research field.

        “Fight a good fight,” ZeRuth said.