Feminism can have negative connotations
The ‘f’ word…. noooo…. feminism usually prompts a rolling of the eyes and unfortunately now has a lot of negative connotations. Probably off the back of some radical feminist rants or behaviours. There can be radical approaches to many topics and in its very nature, it’s extreme and not generally the conventional stance. I would like any men reading this who think they are not a feminist to consider reframing that thought.
Feminism by definition is; ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’
Surely you agree with that? I’d like to think so if you do – read on.
Why men fear feminism and gender equality
I think these days gender equality can instil fear in a lot of men and at the very least discomfort. From my experience, for these reasons;
- Some may think in 2019 gender equality is fixed so what are we all banging on about?
- Scared of offending anyone, not knowing what to say. How to behave without causing offence, is it your place to help? If so in what way is the right way? Minefield!
- Feeling excluded by women only initiatives, groups and events. Sometimes evoking reactions/mentality of ‘them and ‘us’
I think anyone in a ‘privileged’ position has blinkers. You only really understand your own model of the world. How you experience things and how you are affected in that world. It’s like your own bubble. I have it too – although I have certain barriers and challenges as a woman, I don’t fully understand those of other minority groups. That’s not my world or ‘bubble’. Unless I consciously take time to understand the barriers and issues within other social groups I won’t ever really know. It’s the same for men. I don’t think the blame should be placed on men for not knowing or to assume it’s not caring. There are many things that pass us all by that we aren’t aware of. Rather than placing blame why don’t we create an opportunity for education and understanding instead?
Being on the same page
We need men & women to get on the same page and face some level of discomfort. If we can facilitate discussions with respect and openness; exchange and share opinions, we can begin to understand others’ experiences, challenges and perhaps differing perspectives. Becoming more self-aware and maybe challenging some of our own judgements and preconceived beliefs we can take an inclusive and collaborative approach to break down barriers and tackling issues.
In their recent article, The Global Institute for Women’s leadership demonstrated that two-thirds of women surveyed believe women won’t achieve equality in their country unless men take action to support women’s rights too.
How men can help feminism and gender equality
Gender balance in the workplace should not simply be a tick-box exercise or an HR initiative. If we want to create real change it has to be about changing culture, in a meaningful way and we can’t do that without involving men!
Women need male allies in the workplace. Here are some ways you can help;
- Mentor younger women – did you know 60% of managers who are men are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socialising together!
- Be a sponsor for a woman in your organisation – sponsors are usually in more senior roles who can advocate for career opportunities and professional experiences such as stretch assignments, promotion, contacts
- Role modelling – be seen to re-arrange meetings or leave the office early due to child-care/caring responsibilities, it will influence and impact both male and female colleagues
- Unconscious Bias training – learn what ingrained beliefs you have that might be affecting your decision making (we all have unconscious biases!)
- Respect that women’s initiatives are usually born out of experiences of exclusion, marginalisation, and discrimination, they can be a useful platform to share experiences and provide support
- It’s not about you, ask in what way you can get involved and how you can best support
It doesn’t just stop in the workplace though, we all have a responsibility to influence our younger generations, we need to break down barriers for our sons and daughters too, Starting with challenging traditional stereotypes
Male and female feminists, let’s shape the future of equality together as we need equal measures of all of us to get the balance right.