Feminism Means All Genders Working Together
Martin Luther King welcomed white people at his civil rights marches. He did good. Feminism is similarly at its strongest when it includes all genders.
A few months ago I was in a cafe with my girlfriend and some of our friends, most of them being women, and one of our friends had invited along a guy she knew. When we got around to the topic of women’s rights I remarked that I love being a feminist, which seemed to shock the other guy. He seemed to not understand that men can be feminists (well, I believe they can, though I know this is a topic of much discussion), and can consider themselves such.
Oh, come on, all you Google People Searching For Things. Poor show. You can do better than that.
Feminists come in all ages, racial backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. My only issue is with anybody, anywhere who goes against the motto ‘No Freedom Till We’re All Equal’. The key phrase being ‘all’. I can’t help thinking it’s going to be hard work to increase the standing of women in society by alienating half of society. I’m a brown man from an Indian background, with an American accent, a Muslim name and a Buddhist approach to personal beliefs… so I’ve experienced prejudice from nearly every angle, and being potentially excluded by an admittedly very small minority of feminists because of my genitals just pushed me over the edge.
All hands on deck…
Sometimes I get a better response from people if I call myself a civil rights activist, going with the notion that, at the end of the day, feminism is just a word. There is a woman out there who is making 40% less than her male counterparts whilst doing the same amount of work, and I very much doubt that she cares what the people fighting for her to get equal pay are called. We’ve got some honest-to-God battles to fight to make equality a reality, and I don’t want to spend that time fighting what I see to be cosmetic ones.
I’m a big believer in numbers. YouGov took a poll of British men in 2010 and their attitudes toward feminism and only 16% identified themselves as feminists, with 54% saying they were not feminists and 8% saying they are actually anti-feminist. 8% is a pretty high number for people to say they’re actively against the equal standing of women… yet when asked whether they were satisfied with the standing of women in today’s society, 89% said they were not very satisfied and that more can and should be done to help women. In another question they were asked whether they support the legislation to force employers to show whether they pay men and women the same, and overall 76% of men supported it. As I said, numbers speak louder than words. It’s not the concept of feminism these poll voters were against. It’s a great shame, but I guess they saw the word ‘feminism’ as exclusive, not inclusive, and that made them less embracing of the gender equality they professed to want. Maybe that’s something for that small minority of feminists who exclude transgender women – and, from my occasional experience, men – from active participation to consider.
Britain is a very accepting nation as a whole, and yes, there are inequalities – trust me, I know. But I believe we need to acknowledge that women’s rights have progressed a great deal since, say, 1950s Alabama, because if not then we are tarnishing the memories and efforts of all those thousands of women who fought and died to help further the cause.
Can more be done? Definitely. And I want to see all genders doing it together. The civil rights movement in the U.S. would have never worked if Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had shunned white people from the marches and from showing their support. Like Gandhi, MLK Jr. felt that the best way to change people’s hearts and minds is with compassion, an unyielding determination and the acceptance of everyone who wants to support your cause. So let’s all say it like a mantra: ‘No freedom till we’re all equal’. And that’s regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or nationality.
Women need equal pay, they need equal access to jobs, a culture where they are free from harassment and free from the fear of violence. Mothers need better access to childcare so that they can get back to work if they want to, and employers need to do more to help new mothers get back in the workforce. Women should not be seen as liabilities because they have children, they should be seen as dedicated employees who want to come back to work even after giving birth. But before all that, women must be educated and encouraged to pursue higher education and become leaders in their fields and be role models for young girls to aim higher, go further.
All this involves a lot of hard work, an iron-clad resolution on the part of those involved and changing a lot of people’s minds. For this we human beings need all the help we can get our hands on, and doesn’t that mean all genders need to be involved? These are real battles we have to fight. Yes, there will be setbacks but we need to walk the road together. We will win together, we will lose together. We will celebrate and mourn together. And defeats will be softened and victories sweetened because we did them together.