‘It’s not your day, it’s not your time, it’s not your space, it’s not for you’.
These are echoes I keep hearing. Statements that suggest to men that the world is no longer theirs, that they are lesser, that they are out.
A while ago, I spoke to a young boy who was in the process of being seduced into the Men’s Rights movement. When I asked him what the appeal was, he answered that every time he tried to bring up men’s issues at parties, a crowd of angry young feminists would savagely attack him. Now, I’ll admit my initial feeling was that of pride, teenage girls with fierce confidence, defensive of their gender, educated and unafraid to engage. But I could see the impact it had had on this young man and I was beginning to realise that our action was going to have a very negative reaction. He told me that he had many friends who felt the same way. Left out. Told that their problems weren’t comparable. Diminished.
I am a strategic feminist not a sentimental feminist.
I am a strategic feminist not a sentimental feminist. I try not to let my emotions impact my ability to reach my goal. My goal is equality. It’s a big goal but you know, you’ve got to aim high.
I saw that our anger and vocalisation was being manipulated as a recruitment tool for the opposition. “Don’t be pushed around by those angry bitches, stand up for yourself, your kind”.
If we’re being smart here, we’d see that this is potentially a real problem. A group of people feel victimised by our movement and they are interested in standing against it. If we wanted to be strategic, we’d recognise that and amend our communication tactics. We are not an exclusionary organisation, we stand for equality and we need to master the ability to have a conversation with the men in our lives, that delivers our point without shaming them into resentment.
There’s a terrible myth, that in order for something to rise up, it needs to grab onto something else and drive it down. Only one can stay afloat at a time. That is simply not true. I mean, sure, it’s the first thing you learn in lifesaving. Do not approach a drowning person if they are panicking because, bet your ass, they are going to grab onto you and drag you under so that they can take a breath.
But that is not the case here.
No, feminism is not in panic mode and boys, as you swim towards us, there to extend a helping hand, know that we will not pull you under to keep ourselves above water. We are fine. We can swim.
I hear complaints that boys and young men are being discriminated against. Told that they’re inferior, blamed for the behaviour of those that have come before them. If you have experienced this, know that it is not reflective of the feminism many of us stand for.
You are not responsible for the actions of those who’ve come before you, but you absolutely do have a responsibility to acknowledge those actions and their impacts. Just as I have the responsibility to acknowledge the actions of my ancestors and the terrible impact they had on the indigenous people and land of the country I’m lucky enough to call home.
There is space for everyone.
We do not need to pick a leading sex.
We do not need to stack genders up like Jenga, ranking them from best to worst. Certainly not today. We have come a long way from that kind of nonsense.
Yes, it is International Women’s Day. Yes, it is about all the fabulous people who identify as women out there, but it can also be about more than that. I do not spend international Women’s Day with my mother, I spend it with my father. Why? Because we celebrate at a luncheon at his club, previously a men’s only venue. My father helped that club become open to anyone because he saw the social, financial and environmental value of access for all. Now we celebrate the success of female members, in a room that is diverse in so many ways.
Feminism is a movement for everyone. There is a role for every person on this planet, yet I hear constant rumblings from men of the unfairness and the exclusion.
It’s not about being excluded, it’s about embracing a new role. Men, at this moment, you have to become the listener, all ears, sponge like, ready to absorb every word and every emotion powering it. Your role is to hear the change, then be the change. It’s not even a secondary role, you are an essential part of the movement.
We are at the practical stage of this movement now.
You see, everyone’s talking about the role of women in feminism but that is only half the battle. Realistically, we are after something you already have. More men have more power. Power is influence. Those who possess it hold all the cards. For a long time, you guys have had a full hand and more often than not, we’ve been serving drinks and canapés to the table. Now, we are asking you to help us pull up a chair and join the game.
Here’s the thing.
We have started to join the game but now we all want to play.
Inevitably, you will be sitting beside us, so, we can either ram a chair in beside you, rip some cards out of your hands and sing “I am Woman Hear Me Roar” until you deal us in, or, you can invite us to the table and we can enjoy a civilized game of 500 over espresso martinis.
And it’s your decision. As the person with the cards, it is your choice how we integrate. You have the power. You are making the decisions. Progress has already been made by some marvellous women, but it has been slow and there is much left to do. We need the help of men to speed things up.
If you have ever felt that you’ve been ostracized due to your gender, skin colour, sexual preference or anything else, please know, it was not performed under the banner of feminism.
Feminism is not your enemy. It is not an exclusionary movement. As we fight to reduce domestic violence, we see the diversity of victims and wish to support them equally. As we fight for pay parity and the social acceptability of paternity leave, we envision a world where couples of any gender can care equally for their kids and have equal standing in family court. As we work towards employing more women in the labour force, emergency services and the armed forces, we do so knowing our men have served and suffered in these jobs for a long period of time and we want to stand side by side with them. As we work on reducing environments that tolerate toxic masculinity, we do so hoping to reduce the burden for men silently suffering from mental illness, freeing them of the societal pressure to be perpetually strong, an iron statue that never rusts.
Feminism is for you too. You have a place within it. There are conversations that require a lot of listening, rather than input, but after the conversation’s over, the change is in our hands together.
Do not be deterred by the “fem” in feminism.
Do not be deterred by the “fem” in feminism. The men’s rights movement may sound better tailored to your gender, however while feminism is about dealing everyone into the game, Men’s Rights is about keeping half of us on snack duty.
Be aware, be brave, use your power for good. Have the discussion but practice listening, it’s something we all have to practice and I for one, am a better person for it.
Feminism, it’s about making sure everyone gets a fair go. We are recruiting, and we want you, the men in our lives. Happy International Women’s Day.
(International Women’s Day 8th March 2018)