Dear Men: you too can be feminists

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz. Feminism is a hot topic in today’s pop culture. From Beyonce’s definition of feminism in her song “Flawless” to Emma Watson’s speech for the UN’s new campaign for gender equality “He For She,” feminism is making its way to the forefront.

I’m writing this letter to men because I believe that you — young and old, can enact change today for the equal treatment of women. 

Let me start with a simple question: What do you think of when the word feminism comes to mind? Many don’t have pretty thoughts. 

Man-haters. Radicals. Independent. Angry. Self-reliant. Don’t believe in marriage. Think the world would be better off with women running it.

We’ve become so familiar with these phrases in reference to feminism. So much so, that we often grimace when someone says, “I’m a feminist,” and neglect its actual definition: the theory of the political, economic and social equality of men and women. 

I’m not here to preach girl power or say that we’d be better off with women running the world. But I do hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through the following ways I believe men can practically embrace the concept of feminism, and in doing so, help change the way our world works so that men and women do have equal opportunity — politically, economically and socially.

1. Ask yourself the hard questions about how you think about women.

I recently had the privilege of listening to a talk given by Liz Forkin Bohannon, founder of Sseko Designs and creator of the new collaboration, Boys Will Be.”

She shared her learning process from talking with her husband and his male friends about the little things they did or said about women that they had always brushed off as harmless, but on closer examination, actually perpetuated a flawed view of who women are and even objectified them. 

Even our thoughts and little allowances matter. Change starts within, and action comes from thought.

2. If you hear or see injustice, speak up!

We perpetuate unfair perceptions, degrading attitudes, and harmful actions by letting things slide. Sure, maybe your friend didn’t mean anything malicious today by that comment about how women will never be in as many upper-level management positions as men. But how will he act when he is the boss, ready to hire a new employee and it’s between a man and a woman, the woman clearly more qualified for the job? Challenge each other. Start making changes when it counts — don’t wait until damage has already been done.

3. Seek out ways to support women.

This doesn’t mean you have to join a women’s activism group or wave a protest sign around. Maybe it means simply being a more loving, understanding partner, who supports your wife or girlfriend’s dreams and goals. Maybe it means sitting up and actually listening when your female co-worker pitches an idea in Monday’s meeting. Maybe it means learning how to advocate for women who have been sexually abused or faced domestic violence. Whatever you choose, get out there and do it! We need men who are willing to set the example for other men.

At the end of the day, as Emma Watson said, the gender inequality problem is not just a female problem, it’s an us problem. Be part of the unification of men and women working together to change feminism from a dirty word to a positive reality. 

Photo (Flickr CC) by Garry Knigh.