Throughout my life, I’ve been in lots of rooms full of women talking to other women about “women’s issues,” like family planning, violence against women and girls, abortion services, equal pay, women’s political participation and the future of feminism. While these rooms full of women are imperative, it’s time for some change.
I will always assert that women must be at the helm of the feminist agenda, especially when it comes to reproductive health and rights. After all, we’re the ones toting a uterus, ovaries and cervix – and all the politicized baggage that comes with having those body parts. But here’s the thing: we need to aim for richer, more intersectional feminist dialogue. And that means engaging feminist men in our movement.
If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention, you’ve noticed we can’t seem to get through a news cycle without a male politician spouting off about “women’s issues.” And by estimable standards, there are some key “women’s issues” that haven’t changed a whole lot in the last one hundred years.
Maybe that’s because we keep framing these issues as “women’s issues,” when in fact the structural and systemic oppression, macro injustice and violence against women that constitute the core of gender inequality, affects us all. Not just women.
Or maybe it’s because we’ve spent so much time preaching to the proverbial choir; the feminist movement knows how to do the consciousness raising and the political rabble-rousing and movement building around these so-called “women’s issues,” but mostly with other women.
We have to take a jackhammer to the core of gender inequality in all of its forms. We have to agitate the health care system, the media, the government, pop culture, the criminal justice system, and, well, capitalism. That’s a big to-do list. So why aren’t we engaging our gender counterpart more effectively in these efforts, many of whom care about these other forms of inequality?
What can we say is being done at a broader level – like a tectonic plate shifting level – to challenge, deconstruct, reframe and transform masculinity? How is privilege being broken down?
As I mentioned in my first piece as a sherights editor, I think dudes are part of the solution to achieving gender equality, especially with regard to the feminist movement.
On Monday, I attended a fantastic panel put together by Sanctuary for Families and A Call to Men, called Bystanders No More. The panelists talked about how they first became involved in work to end violence against women, and many of them had very personal experiences with violence. This underscores how many men can empathize with these issues when they see the direct impact of violence on the women, and especially on the women they love.
The work of these two organizations – and others like them – is so important, and empowering men to prevent violence against women and girls is imperative to ending this global epidemic.
The good news is that there are amazing feminist men working in this movement, great leaders like Ted Bunch and Don McPherson and Michael Kimmel, and countless others. But engaging men on a wider scale to identify with their role in uprooting gender inequality writ large is still a vast undertaking.
My call to men is this: Let’s take a close look at the guts of gender inequality and challenge them before there’s something to prevent. Hillary said it: Advancing rights and opportunities for women around the world is “a responsibility that we all share.” So let’s share it.
And stay tuned for more on engaging men from sherights. There’s definitely more to say on this… And if you identify as a feminist man, contact us. We’d love to hear your story.