International Women’s Day: A Man’s Perspective

 

Today is International Women’s Day. As a man, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly how to react to days like today – are we expected to play a part? If so, what part? Is it even right for us to comment today? (Even as I write this I’m afraid of being misunderstood, misinterpreted or accidentally offending somewhere in the next few paragraphs). We have to work hard to show that yes, men have a huge role to play in gender equality.

It’s an opportunity for all of us to celebrate equality, and an opportunity to campaign against inequality. Today doesn’t belong to feminists, it doesn’t even belong to women, and I think that perception can sometimes be a barrier for men. Some of us happily ignore significant days like today, and others perhaps lack the courage and wait for an ‘invitation’ to get involved. The lack of men in discussions of gender equality is worrying, and the lack of men on the front line, supporting those who suffer exploitation, is even more of a concern.

We’re currently going through the process of nominating potential trustees for Bramber Bakehouse, and we have a much longer list of women with the relevant experience than we do of men. I think on a small scale this highlights one of the problems – men aren’t getting involved enough in preventing various levels of exploitation of women.

Earlier in the year Emma Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, and others drove the #heforshe campaign into the limelight – a campaign that unites men and women fighting for the same cause. I believe that it’s movements like these that will make the most progress in equality, and in particular combat the apathy some men have towards gender issues. I saw a tweet this morning that summed it up better than I ever could: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” (Gloria Steinem, Author and activist).

It’s time to get more men on side. It’s time to address the issues together, and it’s time to get rid of the negative connotations around labels like ‘feminist’. We’re all in this together.

It makes me sad that we need a male celebrity driven campaign to tell society that “real men don’t pay for sex.” You could say it’s unfortunate that the majority of men would need to hear a rallying cry from a fellow male before they took it seriously, whereas the same cry from a female feminist might not strike the same chord. But on the other hand if that’s what it takes to create a unified front on gender equality, I’m all for it.

We (men and women) must keep the end goal in mind. Less inequality, more fairness. Less degradation, more motivation. Less submission, more freedom. Less exploitation, more hope. Together we have a significant part to play in shining light on a whole variety of issues that are now accepted as cultural norms.

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