“I pledge to use my voice to challenge society’s limiting representations of gender.”
This seemed like a great reminder to take stock of what men are currently doing to battle sexism, challenge stereotypes about gender, and speak out against violence.
It is amazing to me how many people think that feminism is only a "woman's issue"--men have always been part of the feminist movement, and I personally have had the privilege of working with a number of men who are fiercely dedicated to work for gender equality. Yet, stereotypes about feminism being "man-hating" or anti-male persist. As such it does seem to be particularly important to highlight ways in which men are, and can be, engaged in the movement.
The Representation Project sought to highlight the work of Tony Porter, the cofounder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women. Porter is committed to challenging violence against women and challenging stereotypes about masculinity which can reinforce violence. I recently joined the board of directors at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR). One of the things I am most excited about is PAAR’s work implementing Coaching Boys into Men a national program designed to educate coaches and athletes about how they can stop sexual violence.
The Huffington Post recently did a story in which they highlighted 28 male celebrities who have openly advocated for women in some way. The range of celebrities highlighted was important to notice--they include athletes, TV and movie stars, comedians, and politicians. These men have been outspoken about a variety of issues including ending violence against women, decreasing the sexualization of women, and decreasing discrimination against women. It was interesting to note that many of these men referenced women in their lives who helped them develop their consciousness about these issues. They all shared the assertion that men should be involved in these issues, with many pointing out that everyone would benefit from a world without sexism.
Check out the article—the range of work being done by these men is inspiring. Here some of my favorite quotes:
“All men should be feminists. If men care about women's rights the world will be a better place... We are better off when women are empowered -- it leads to a better society."
“I think [misogyny] is like a disease that needs to be cured. And if we could eradicate Polio, I don’t see why we can’t eradicate misogyny."
Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition.
Next week I will be attending the American Psychological Association conference in Washington, DC. While I am there I will attend a number of events hosted by the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity (SPSMM; Division 51 of APA). Many of the members of this division have dedicated their professional lives to examining the ways in which gender shapes and constricts men’s lives. The board members recently produced a statement addressing the intersections of masculinity, violence, and mental health.
These examples highlight the huge range of ways that men can be involved in challenging sexism--whether they identify publicly as feminist, dedicate their careers to examining gender, or simply support their son’s decision to wear a dress. Men have an important role to play in the movement for gender equality. And not just because it is good for women—feminism is for everybody! As the SPSMM’s mission statement affirms:
“..the empowerment of all persons beyond narrow and restrictive gender role definitions leads to the highest level of functioning in individual women and men, to the most healthy interactions between the genders, and to the richest relationships between them."