A while ago I watched a TED talk by Brittney Cooper called ‘The racial politics of time’, despite it being about race something she said really stood out to me. She said “Those in power dictate the pace of the workday”. It stood out because although she talked about this in a racial context it can generally be applied to all social issues regarding marginalised groups. In essence, higher ups in society dictate the rate at which social change occurs. Sometimes it seems like when marginalised groups of people start causing unrest in society out of a desire to create change, those in power get together and say “Maybe we should give this group rights now? They’re acting up so if we pass this law that should settle them down a bit”. Perhaps I’m being too cynical here. Either way, the point is whether or not the intention to create changes in society are pure the change happens because a body of power says so. This is not to take away from the importance of legislation in the quest for social justice but if we’re being real these laws, at first, can often be described as de jure since they are only progressive on paper and not in society. Societal attitudes take longer to change than laws and those in society who have privilege should act as catalysts in order to ensure that the two align.
If we look at who the higher ups in society are it’s typically men. I’m sure we’ve all heard this before but it’s true. Some might argue “but what about *insert an exception where a woman is placed ahead of a man in society*” which is why I have made ‘typically’ bold. Anyway, in my opinion what makes feminism so great is that for the most part women are empowering each other. This isn’t just women showering one another with compliments. This is women mentoring, encouraging and creating opportunities for themselves and their female counterparts to succeed in a way that they may not have been able to alone. An amazing example of this is Women on Wings this organisation supports women in rural India gain financial independence which in turn allows them or their children to become more socially mobile. So what about men? Well here’s the thing, women have done an amazing job at mobilising themselves to get the rights they deserve but the reality is that a person who is in a privileged position acts as catalyst. The catalyst is a man. Now this may seem fairly obvious, if the man is typically in a position of power then his influence will allow the progression of women to happen faster or easier. I’m not sure if a lot of feminists are happy to accept this (this is just an assumption I’ve made) but often times the focus is put on who is involved in making changes rather than what changes are happening. Is it fair that a man can probably make changes easier for a woman than she can for herself? No, but that does not mean that we should exclude men. Now, in no way am I saying that feminism excludes men, but some feminists do.
What exactly does making room for men in feminism look like? This is very subjective. But here’s what I think; I think it means including men in discussions, conferences, talks etc. on feminism. Making room for men and keeping women at the forefront of feminism are not mutually exclusive. But in making room for men we are also making room for potential mistakes, some men have only talked about women with other men and this can often breed ignorance. Not that men are ignorant, but it’s often the case that when a group of people talk about another group of people that they can’t empathise with, they are bound to misunderstand certain things. It’s also worth noting that making room for ignorance does not mean we are making room for nonsense. It’s making room for genuine curiosity, allowing men to ask questions that we might think are dumb, it’s educating men on how we feel on certain topics so that they can empathise which allows them to be better supporters. Also, it’s crucial that men understand how to address issues they think are present in the feminist community. I don’t think it’s a matter on whether men should or should not have an opinion on a matter concerning a woman, realistically they will have an opinion. That being said, opinions men have regarding women are often shared in an entitled way which is extremely annoying and a lot of the time they don’t have to be shared. There is a difference between having an opinion and sharing it. So, before you share an opinion think about whether what you’re saying is helpful, consider your tone and evaluate your intention. It can be the case that some heterosexual men think they are commenting on feminism when actually they’re just projecting ideas of what they think the ideal woman.
On a final note, yes society has progressed a lot and women can acknowledge that. However, we can still do better and this isn’t nit picking.
I found this initiative online and I think it’s a great idea:
Their mission Statement:
The Good Lad Initiative aims to promote “Positive Masculinity”, and in doing so, to enable men to deal with complex gender situations and become agents of positive change within their social circles and broader communities. To achieve this fundamental objective, GLI seeks to engage with organisations and individuals of all genders and backgrounds.
Real knowledge is to know the extent of ones ignorance. – Confucius