If this is the sort of thing you follow, I'm sure you've seen the speech Emma Watson made at the UN in support of the #HeForShe campaign. Unfortunately, #HeForShe is a dumb name. We're struggling in the name department as far as gender equality goes. Regardless, I'm encouraged by the target audience of the campaign.
Male voices are super important in the feminist movement; as redundant it is to call male voices important, I mention it just in case that's unclear (and because I'm a panderer ;)).
The first time I heard a man talking excitedly about a female-fronted band (NPR All Song Considered), I felt thrilled. Up through college, female musicians were never spoke of that way. They never quite reached the status of cool.
During the final of the Women's World Cup in 2011, I was in a packed bar in Portland, everyone on their feet for the American team. It was the first time I participated in a crowd of people that were in no part sneering at women's athletics. It felt novel and wonderful to have men praise these player's ability - to really cheer for them - rather than oggle their looks.
Playing pickup basketball at the gym, a guy on the other team joked to me "Make sure you go easy on [the guy you're guarding]". I was the only woman on the court. I laughed, thought nothing of it. My brother, Nick, though, immediately spoke up. "Actually, she's pretty good." I considered how the joke the guy made was in the mutual assumption that, as a girl, I sucked at basketball. It was awesome that Nick stood up for me.
All you have to do is be male and say something slightly pro-lady and I will get a tick of adrenaline. It's really powerful.
Which is good because we need that power. Part of Emma's (my pal, Emma's) speech that was obvious and remarkable:
"I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.
"But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to see these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality"
I was talking with some friends about gender inequalities in Botswana. The oppression of women is a major factor in the ongoing AIDS epidemic in that country. It isn't culturally acceptable for women to insist on condom use or to expect their partners to be faithful. Young girls often rely on older lovers as a source of income. In addition, domestic violence is an ever present (but taboo) reality. Gender inequality for these women often times costs them their lives.
While we were talking about the situation in Botswana, my male friend, whom I love and have known for a long time, felt attacked. He said he was tired of us "man hating". I was surprised. He is a good person.
Gender inequality is tricky. Some prejudices seem to be reduced as people form relationships. For example, people who are homophobic are often swayed by getting close to someone who's gay; they're less afraid, less hateful. This doesn't seem to be the case with gender. Everybody's close to a woman.
Men seem to have a tendency to align with their gender rather than the people who are closest to them. Please guys, fight this impulse. Don't shut down the conversation.
My friend, who felt attacked when we criticized the gender hierarchy in Botswana, spoke in support of the status quo. It's logically not his position, but that's where we're letting our emotions, our allegiances, lead us.
Another part of Emma's speech:
"Statesman Edmund Burke said, “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”"
A couple of years ago, I fought hard against the notion that the feminist movement needed any male voices. I didn't want women to have to rely on men in order to enact change. Now, though, I've embraced the idea because it seems like guys might actually speak up. I've seen it happen.
So if you do get to speak up, do. It'll make me so excited.