Feminist Wednesday Asked: How can men contribute meaningfully to feminism?
by Rich [dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]I[/dropcap]’m no expert. All I can do is share what I do. I’m the husband of one and the father of two, adventure motorcyclist, band(s) member, business owner, and a cross dresser. My role in feminism is that of student. There are some feminist heroes in my world whom I look to (especially their posts in social media) that help make me more aware of their triumphs and struggles in a nation dominated by people who look an awful lot like me.
I’m a white, cis, hetero male.
I was born that way and can’t change it. What I try to do, more and more, is understand the advantage I have because of that and share empowerment with others whenever I can.
Feminism has made me more empathetic to all people, more than women.
Heck, in recent years only, I leaned the meaning of intersectionality. My eyes have been opened to the struggles that women and many other people face, which until recently, I didn’t know about or even consider.
I’m an ally, and also, I stand up (only a little) for my own rights, too. As a cross dresser who, only in recent years, has started to come out of the closet, I’ve begun to be a little more public with that fact of my life. In coming to feminism, I learned about how I intersect with women on that level. It’s made my commitment even stronger.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]T[/dropcap]he nature of my work has me in front of groups all the time. My job is in the soft skills corporate training world, and I use that public platform (where professionally, I only present as a cis male) to announce my feminism. It makes sense to do this because all trainings I conduct set conduct standards for the classes and include a communication across genders section. In the Ground Rules section of the classes, participants are asked to explain why we respect all colleagues, both in and out of the class. It sets a tone for valuing others, reactive to the outside world of snark and put-downs. In the Gender Fair Communication portion, we look at old words and expressions, and talk about their modern replacements that are more inclusive. The underlying message throughout is to bring people together more, not separate them.
Another reason I like to announce my feminism to audiences in the corporate world is that it helps to “legitimize” it for other men. It took some courage to do that a few years ago. Even still, when I say it, there is the occasional look from a participant, waiting for the punchline of the joke. Quite soon, they realize that there is none. They see that I’m stating a belief, and striving to live it.
One other aspect of my feminism that I like to include professionally, is to empower people that I can see need it. There are times I’ve ended up with an all-women class (like Public Speaking). I find that these are very powerful experiences for them and me. It provides a forum for all of us to share honestly and openly about our challenges and successes. They learn a lot. I do too. In particular, when it comes to assertive communication, we go over and talk about strategies to assert, without alienating. We talk about the struggle of living under the Glass Ceiling and ways to break it. We work through some stereotypes in how the genders communicate, and work on strategies to be more effective within/around them.[divider type="short" spacing="10"]
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap]t home, I have a 13 year-old girl and 10 year-old boy. I’m way more of a feminist than my wife is. She has accepted the role of full-time parent from day one. This is probably because she hates the corporate work world! That’s OK. We try to set an example and discuss with both kids about treating people appropriately. With them, I’ve certainly made mistakes, especially with my teenage daughter (who never backs down and is fiercely strong-willed!). It’s tough to keep my cool. Both my wife and I try hard to model a healthy, communicative and supportive marriage. We disagree on some things. The kids see us argue points, not insult each other. We each work on our own issues and share ideas to make things even better than they are now with each other.
As spouses, we give each other encouragement to grow and permission to explore. We challenge each other to be better people. It’s because of our love that we both try for better.
As a man, that’s what I’m doing now to contribute to feminism.