Nowadays, there are plenty of men that are proud to be feminists. The American actor Ryan Gosling is an example with his popular blog on the same name Feminist Ryan Gosling and his “Hey Girl” memes.
Since the 19th century, men have often taken part in significant political and cultural responses to feminism. For example, Parker Pillsbury (1809 –1898) was one of the first men considered as “feminist” at his time. He was an American minister that helped to draft the constitution of the feminist American Equal Rights Association in 1865, and served as vice-president of the New Hampshire Woman Suffrage Association. Also, one year later, John Stuart Mill, wrote The Subjection of Women and has presented a women’s petition to the British parliament, and supported an amendment to the 1867 Reform Bill.
But what does Feminism mean? The International Women’s Development Agency describes feminism as equal rights and opportunities for all genders, and striving to empower all women. They suggest it is simply about levelling the playing field so girls and boys, women and men can have the same opportunities. So when men proclaim they are feminists, are they speaking on behalf of women? Either way, why should we be proud of men for being feminists?
Everyone should support women and be actively working towards equity and equality for all. Hence, men have to be inclusive in order to establish equal opportunities for women in a range of social relations.
A recent example is Gary Barker, CEO and Founder of Promundo, an international organization working to promote gender justice and prevent violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls. They are highlighting that unpaid care work is the biggest barrier to women’s participation in the paid workplace and in leadership. They launched its “State of the World’s Fathers 2019 report”, where the CEO spoke to UN Women about men’s role in gender equality advocacy and the importance of closing the gap in unpaid care work.
The main aspect here is Education. Indeed, we need to work with young people so both boys and girls acknowledge equality early on. We definitely need to have more men in our struggle and to have their point of view. We will only reach gender equality by drawing more men into the conversation. Yes, we have International Women Day, #MeToo movement, Balance ton Porc, but we still have some work to do.
A recent study by Ipsos Mori, in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership has found that 3 in 5 men in Britain agree that gender equality won’t be achieved unless they also take action to support women’s rights. Educating young children, better parental leave for fathers and men’s long-term involvement in household work and childcare would be a good start. Hence, businesses need not fear since research links flexible working to increased productivity, thus better work-life balance leads to happier and more effective workers.
To sum up, being a Feminist means supporting your sisters and educating your brothers on how they too can support other women. As Ryan Gosling is an « hero » of the men-who-support-women cause; all young boys and girls have to be educated and socialized in order to reach this mindset. Gender equality is not women against men, neither men against women, it’s all of us together.
By Ana Aziza