It’s International Women’s Day today – a day to reflect on womanhood, to celebrate yourself if you’re a woman and to celebrate the women around you.
It’s also a day for men to think about women’s equality and rights – and how they can help achieve the goal of eradicating sexism and scoring equal rights across the board for women. Yes, men – International Women’s Day involves you too – big time. It can’t simply be women finding their feminism and championing the cause of equality and respect, we all need to come together to make this a reality.
It’s a big dream, and it’s likely to never all come to pass if we’re honest. At least not 100%. But it’s still necessary that we never cease working towards equality, and one of the best ways that men can do this is to listen to women, try to understand their issues and experiences, and work WITH us for change.
I spoke to 20 women about what men’s feminism looks like to them, and what they want to see men doing in the fight for women’s rights.
Leah, Advertising Industry
I want to see more men at business events geared around women in the workplace. What is the point of me sitting in a room full of women who already agree and are aligned on what the issues are?? I want men to know that it is systemic change that needs to happen, and the systemic change is with men. Women are just fine and always have been. We know what needs to change but the fact is we can’t see that change come to pass unless men also get on board. Contrary to popular debate, we need to invest just as much as businesses and as people in supporting education and impact in MEN as we do in supporting and finding opportunities for women. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
We are coming from a “lesser power” to push the agenda, and until we have strong male leaders we will get nowhere – because unfortunately that’s how it’s been for centuries. We’ve had centuries of this inequality, but we’re coming to a real head of liberation now. Liberation takes time and a consolidated front.
Brynn, Music Industry
To me, male feminists actively advocate for change, regardless of whether it’s on a larger scale or in their own backyard. They lead by example, and seize any opportunity to educate others – whether it’s a peer, their boss, a stranger or their children. They are considered and respectful in their actions and words, and in turn, value women’s experiences and perspectives by listening. They aren’t afraid to hold other men accountable, and understand that inaction and silence validates the harmful behaviour and beliefs of others. They seek opportunities to champion and support the women around them. Male feminists are those who believe in equality for all, and are conscious and active in their role in achieving it. Men are in a privileged position to use their voice and influence to create a ripple effect of change; that happens one action, one conversation at a time.
At one of my previous jobs I was left alone with an older male colleague to cover a weekend shift. During this shift he asked me to touch his pants around the groin area, because he knew that no one else was around to stop him. And I just got so so angry because I knew if I was a male I’d never have to deal with this sort of behaviour. Never mind that but when I reported it to my bosses and HR, they took no action in reprimanding him or trying to train him on appropriate work behaviour and it just got swept under the rug. It just irks me because there are so many similar stories to mine, some so much worse and this behaviour is just normalised in our society and nobody is dealing with it, no one’s speaking about it. I think men are feminists when they call out bad behaviour where they see it, from catcalling to sexual harassment like I experienced, and offers their help/support to women who need it. Also, look for opportunities to make sure the female perspective is heard – and listen to women so you can expand your knowledge on these sorts of issues, like what I experienced.
Kate, Advertising Industry
At the ad agency I used to work at, one of the guys asked me if I wanted to know where I was ranked. They were ranking all the girls as “hot” to “not”. So I think a) don’t do shit like that, but what really would have helped is for other men to step forward and call that behaviour out. I can’t imagine they all thought it was funny or acceptable, but they all just went along with it.
It’s not enough to just believe women deserve respect and equal rights, men need to consistently speak up when women aren’t treated with respect or given equal rights.
I think it’s really important for men to like speak WITH us rather than for us, or not speak at all. Recognise your privilege – that you have a voice that’s more likely to get heard. Pay attention to what we’re saying and, when we need you to, talk or shout alongside us but like, let us pave the way? A lot of men also seem to use their feminism as a performative thing that ultimately ends up benefiting them, but when it comes down to it they aren’t actually thinking or talking or acting on the important stuff. That’s really missing the point by about 1500kms IMO. Use your voice the right way.
Ally, Gaming Industry
There are three big things that feminist men have done in the workplace that have made a real difference for me. The first is backing up women’s ideas and perspectives, especially when we’re outnumbered. Men who do this demonstrate an understanding of the power imbalances at play when traditional gender roles weigh on our roles as professionals. This can be as simple as noticing when a woman is being interrupted or spoken over in a meeting and saying, “I’d like to hear the end of what you were saying before you got cut off.”
Secondly, men who do their homework can be great feminists. Don’t treat your nearest underrepresented person as Google. Curious about a gender or sexual politics issue? Do some research! Unless it’s literally in her job description to teach you about women’s issues, demanding your colleague to take time out of their day to explain it to you is tiresome. Lastly, men shouldn’t expect praise or to be exempt from criticism for being feminists. It’s great that you believe in equal pay, Dave, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to make sexist remarks in the office.
Mel, Media Industry
I think for me, a feminist man is one who has an innate respect for women. It’s wild how many men you encounter who clearly do not have the same respect for women that they have for men. It’s not about believing women are “better” than men, it’s about believing our opinions, thoughts, words and actions are just as worthy of your attention as a man’s.
Also, I believe there’s an ingrained sexism in our culture still, and that is hard to overcome because there’s a huge chance you don’t even realise some of the things you say and do come from a place of male privilege, and undermine the women in your life – I know so many respectful men who would never dream of being sexist and yet have absolutely done things such as mansplained me or ignored my point in a meeting but accepted it when it came out of a man’s mouth, for example. So I think being self-aware is a huge step in the right direction, and instead of getting on the defence if a woman calls you out on sexist behaviour, stop and listen. I’m not saying they’ll always be correct, but listening and assessing whether you were being sexist, then having the courage to admit, apologise, and change your behaviour is so important and does so much.
Rikki, Media Industry
First, accept that gender inequality still exists – even if it is not your lived experience. In fact, include your lived experience into the thought process – how many times have you been told/heard that you do something like a girl when a ‘weakness’ is referred to? How many times have you heard ‘get me a sandwich’ as a hilarious joke? Or, worse, a rape joke? You might not believe the pay gap data. You might not even believe the DV data (although, it’s actual data, you should). But you can believe what is around you. CALL IT OUT.
I feel like men only need to go base level to make a difference (AT LEAST. Higher, of course, if they want). It is not emasculating to take your wife’s name, and if a guy is saying so, call him out. It is not emasculating to be the primary carer of your children. You are not ‘daddy daycare’, you are a parent. It is not emasculating to say objectifying women in the workplace (or, anywhere) is bullshit. It is not emasculating to be (at least) equally outraged by the myriad deaths of women at men’s hands as you are a Gillette ad. The women around you, all of them, are somehow affected by gender inequality, and if it’s in your power to stop it in the moment, bloody do it. People follow by example.
Adriana, Public Relations
Men can make life a lot easier for women by just not laughing along – by pointing out that hey, sexism is not OK. Sure, there’s the practical day-to-day list that is pretty much just a list on how to be a decent human being: don’t abuse or assault women, don’t coerce them into sexual acts, don’t make someone feel she’s only valuable if she’s sexy, don’t silence women and take their rights away. But at the end of the day, the most effective feminist that a man can be is one that takes a stand for women when they aren’t able to or aren’t there to stand up for themselves.
Jenna, Film Industry
I was told that it was good I didn’t “look like a lesbian”, so my clients would just see me as a pretty young girl. Obviously it’s super gross to be categorising people as “looking lesbian”, but what’s really difficult to deal with when it comes to male attitudes like this is the implication that I need to appear a certain way to be effective in my position. Men, treat women as you would any male colleague. Your clients don’t see you as a “pretty young girl” so why should I have to appear that way to be good at my job?
Noelle, Motoring Industry
Believe us when we say a co-worker or boss is a misogynist or master manipulator.
Men need to truly listen to women and believe them when they describe their own experiences. For some reason I often find there is an innate distrust that women are telling the truth about discrimination they’ve faced or that their friends have faced – as though they’re making it up. Then it’s about challenging their own views and reading widely, and discussing ideas with more women. I think for women, being believed and having your thoughts and experiences respected is a fantastic place for men to start.
Sabrina, Public Relations
Men can help women rights by not engaging in any derogatory activity, and by raising their voice and changing the conversation. Call it out and cut it out!
Men can seriously help EVERYONE by GOING TO THERAPY. We all have a bunch of bullshit we have to work through, it’s just part of the deal of being alive, but so often it falls to women to care for the mental health and anxieties and general issues of the men in their lives. It’s unfair and it wastes everyone’s time. If you have the means, you should seek the services of a mental health professional, and thank me once your personal relationships improve and your life in general becomes much easier. Thanks for listening to my ted talk #everyoneshouldbeintherapy2k19
Belinda, Public Relations
If you have a child, boy or girl – or in general when you’re around children: be the example. Do the washing up and hang the clothes out in front of them so that’s it’s not always women they see doing the house work.
Amy, Film Industry
Sometimes I think the concept of being a good feminist can be quite overwhelming to a lot of people, men in particular, but it’s little things that can have the most impact. Listen to your female friends and family when they discuss things that make it hard for them being a woman that you may not have considered – fear of walking alone at night, inappropriate comments about their appearance and outfits that make them feel unsafe – and take this into account when you’re out at night or think it’s funny to yell out your mate’s car window. Listen to your female colleagues and take their ideas seriously – too many times I’ve sat in meetings and have been talked over or have had to have ideas rephrased by male colleagues to have them accepted by other men in the room. Call out toxic and dismissive behaviour towards women from your friends or those around you. Don’t make jokes that are at the expense of others, particular women, because while it may be ‘just a joke’ to you, someone around you may believe you are normalising sexist behaviour and agree with them.
Grace, Media Industry
I really believe that men don’t realise the power they have to influence other men. Women get frustrated because we can only get so far in this conversation before men pick up the mantle and start changing things themselves. I’ve been in so many conversations with friends or friends of friends where they’ll say ‘This guy said the most fucked up thing last night’ or ‘This guys is such a fucking creep’. They’re all thinking it but nobody says anything, and then that guy just thinks his behaviour is normal. If someone you know says something gross/weird/rapey, you don’t need to lecture him on fourth wave feminism, you just need to say: ‘Um, what the fuck?’ That kind of social embarrassment will have more of a real-world impact on women than any think piece could.