Recently a really good friend of mine became a powerful public figure in my country. I felt a little disappointed when she decided not to use her platform to directly address gender inequality, but I completely understood. Gender issues is not her area of expertise; plus, how annoying is it that just because you’re a woman, it is immediately assumed that gender inequality must be your area of focus.
Feminism can be exhausting. When designing this website, I would constantly stop myself and wonder if I wasn’t shooting myself on the foot by using pictures of me wearing the pussy hat or using pink. When explaining what Homeward Bound is all about, I often wonder if I won’t get a bad reaction when I say this is a program intended for women. Feminism can be exhausting and a turn off.
Feminism can be overwhelming for women, so it is not hard to understand how even good, liberal, confident men can feel disengaged from the conversation. But the thing is, we need more feminists, and we need more feminist men. Actually, we need them all to become feminists, or feMENists.
Back in the day, feminism 1.0 was refered to as “She for She.” Then came Feminism 2.0, or “He For She“. Modern FeMENism 3.0 is “We for We,” because both men and women must come together to recognize that equality is in everyone’s best interest.
CEO Shelley Zalis writes for Forbes: “Gender equality is not a female issue, it’s a social and economic issue. It’s proven in countless research that when women are equally represented in government and in the C-suite, everyone wins. When women are paid equally for equal work, everyone wins. When women are represented in the media as they truly are, everyone wins”.
Passion is fuel, and fuel can burn the house down
That is my problem. I wish I was a better debater. But I know that when it comes to gender justice, my passion gets the best of me. Keeping a cool head is sometimes quite a challenge, isn’t it?
To me, the conversation must start from the understanding that, even with all of the progress that society has made towards equality, women are still lagging. Life is, in general, more challenging for us. I can’t even consider debating with somebody who will not accept this fact as a baseline.
“Culture comes into play at precisely the point where biological individuals become subjects, and that what lies between the two is not some automatically constituted ‘natural’ process of socialization but much more complex processes of formation”
We make sense of the world and of who we are, by applying categories. It is just how we human beings work. I know I am a woman, a Latin American, a half Costa Rican/Mexican, etc etc etc. Those categories also tell me what I am not.
We humans need to feel that we belong to something, because we are social animals. This is why we are reticent to accept and support an argument that starts by telling us that we don’t belong, or even that we are somehow the enemy. It must be difficult for men to refer to themselves as feminists, if they feel the movement only belongs to, or refers to, solely the wellbeing of women.
But take a moment to reflect how powerful it’d be if most men accepted that discrimination against women exists at a global scale, that it is a problem, and then they decided to use their voice to demand a change.
We must invite men, companies, governments, schools, etc etc etc into the conversation, and share with them how feminism benefits them too.
There’s room for everyone!
We need to stop polarizing our positions. Men should be happy to be feMENists. While we, women, must not give up on men. In this respect, I thought this blog was spot on. Here’s a short quote, the writer talks about her husband:
“So he’s a good guy. But he’s still a guy. He finds it hard to grasp the invisible structures that have made parts of his life easier and parts of mine harder. Particularly when he’s working in a world actively seeking to redress the balance with quotas and programs he has no access to. To me it feels like women have grudgingly been allowed a seat at the corporate table. Under certain conditions. Welcome only if there was room and at no cost to the men already in position. We have had to play by the rules that favour the men. It’s slowly improving but cultural change is glacial. It takes a while to figure it out.” ― Robyna May
Robyna ends her blog by stating that next time she feels the righteous feminist rage bubble over, rather than taking it out on her partner, she’ll think about the ways we can make a positive difference. As a team.
Feminism can be exhausting, and we need to fix that. Because it’s one of the most important conversations we can ever have, with our kids, our partners, our colleagues, ourselves.
Communication, once again, is at the core of the solution. We must have more productive conversations, forget about polarizing arguments, and simply look at the facts: when women are free to make their own choices and are sitting at the decision-making table, absolutely everyone benefits.