Feminism – Bring a Man

RichBy Richard J. Atkins, Ed.D.Managing Director, Improving Communications

[blockquote]I’m a male feminist and I love it![/blockquote]

In my short time of getting more comfortable with the appellation, my perception is that more men need to be involved in it as well (nod to Emma Watson and HeForShe). It’s clear that men are, in general, less comfortable with claiming feminism as their own.

[dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]M[/dropcap]y first feminist event was Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Life conference. I was one of three other men at the event. An attendee, Kirsten, asked me what motivated me to be there. I answered, “I’m a feminist.” Upon hearing that, she invited me to learn more about UN Women. We exchanged business cards, subsequent emails back and forth.

I found the Metro New York Chapter of the National Council of UN Women and got involved (that’s what I do). Not too long ago, I went to UN Women’s CEDAW Panel discussion in Manhattan. Like so many of the feminist events I attend, I was one of a VERY few guys in the audience. Of 90 or so people who were there, there may have been six or eight men.

That’s disappointing.

I submitted a question to the panel asking:[dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]“Where are all the men?”[/dropcap] [divider type="short"]Sure, it’s intimidating to walk into any environment where it’s billed as “someone else’s.” For instance, when I first attended a Women’s Initiatives Special Interest Group meeting in my Human Resources association, I was anxious about how my presence was going to be received (fearful thoughts of “Why is this guy here?” filled my mind). Of course, I’ve been welcomed to this group and am a regular attendee.

As usual, my worst fears are almost never realized.[divider type="short"]

[dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]O[/dropcap]nce I walked into a gay group, unaware of its special-interest designation. After realizing, I told the person next to me that I’m not gay, hoping for a solution (Should I leave?). He looked at me and said, “No worries – we don’t test people around here!” (He added some much-appreciated humor.) In other words, all were pleased that I was there in support of our common purpose, no matter what distinction or designation I did or didn’t have.

I had the mistaken perception that groups only wanted “their kind” present for support. Incorrectly, I feared that feminism was only for women (or that gay meetings were only for gays). Being wrong on this notion was a terrific discovery.[divider type="short"]

I explore feminism in depth for me. Like so many things in my life, I wish I had found it years earlier. I grew up in the late ‘70s and 80s, when we didn’t have the power of the internet to connect to others. Finding forward-thinking, agreeable people is so much easier now.

Search strings led me to communities of likeminded people who believed in equal empowerment for all. I’ve spent a lot of time on Feminist Dialogue’s Facebook pages, and on Feminist Wednesday’s posts (including submitting a few of my own for publication). Sites like these really exemplify an empowering electronic connection. I can sense a community and the support it gives.

But there’s more to it, than just being an Internet Feminist.

Awareness is a good starting place, but it must be followed by action.[divider type="short"]

[dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]N[/dropcap]ow, I make it a point to attend as much as I can and get involved as much as possible (remember, that’s what I do). This puts faces on the energy and connects me with real people and new viewpoints. Wow, what a learning curve![divider type="short"]

[well]I’ve given a lot of thought to why I don’t see more men at these events. Probably, men fear feminism for some/many of these reasons:

  1. They don’t feel welcomed or included. The movement’s name is seemingly exclusive. Unlike Equal Rights (sounds like it’s for everyone), “feminism” seems like it’s only for women.

  2. It’s intimidating to support a group that seems to be taking your power away. Actually, it’s an act of surrender (joining the winning team, not giving up). Also, it’s challenging to support when it seems like you won’t get anything out of it.

  3. Change means changing, and that means work. It’s easier not to care, than to realize the responsibility and have to do something.[/well]

[divider type="dashed"]Some men don’t want to hear it. They simply won’t believe gender inequity exists, or they won’t care that it does. And they won’t hear it, unless they can see how they are negatively affected by it.[divider type="dashed"]

[well]Therefore, our jobs, as feminists, is to:

  • Build feminist rapport with everyone. Make it clear to all that the welcome mat is out. Shout it out loud. This message needs to be communicated clearly to all. Include this article’s tag line: “Feminism – Bring a Man.” We’re friendly, open, positive, fun, and we want your support.

  • Motivate others to join us in action. Make the “sales pitch” that shows the benefits to the buyer for why to support feminism and be an active feminist. People change only when they see benefit in it to them. Why is feminism beneficial to men/all people?[/well]

In other words, my feminist friends, we have some more selling (of ideas) to do.[divider type="short"][pullquote align="right"]I asked, “Do you think Greg would get the same salary as Caroline, if he were in the same job at the same place?”[/pullquote]

[dropcap background="yes" color="#333333"]N[/dropcap]ot too long ago, an acquaintance tried to shoot down some of what I was mentioning about feminism. He was quick to offer a recent Huffington Post article (because that proves it all, right?) that showed that gender pay was, in fact, fair across the board. We talked about his daughter and son. Caroline was working for “slave wages” in fashion in Philadelphia; whereas Greg was a big-wig in finance in Manhattan. I asked, “Do you think Greg would get the same salary as Caroline, if he were in the same job at the same place?”

My friend went pensively quiet.

That was a small victory in the sales world.