What do you think when you hear the word “feminist”?
The chances are that some of you will stop reading straight away – whether male or female.
Why is that? Do you think sexism no longer exists, do you think feminism isn’t the route to equality – or do you think the whole argument is pointless and boring? It’s just the way of the world and we shouldn’t make a fuss.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1. Why do most women hate their bodies?
2. Why do women still earn less for doing the same job as a man?
3. Do women collude in sexism?
4. Do men like the idea of their daughters being objectified?
So have we all been brainwashed?
In Teaching Men to Be Feminist, Anne Dickson – the bestselling author of A Woman in Your Own Right, argues that sexism is “the most widespread and effective process of brainwashing in the history of mankind”. She also posits that feminism is about a lot more than equal pay and equal rights – it’s about our entire world view, and it’s the key to defeating sexism.
But feminism is not just for women. Men who embrace feminism will not only make a better world for the women in their lives but for themselves, she argues. And the book presents some very compelling reasons why.
Can a man be a feminist?
When I was in my 20s and working as a book PR for a publishing company, a male author I was accompanying to an interview talked about being a feminist. One of the reasons he cited was that he had a wife and daughters and wanted them to have the same opportunities and fair treatment as the next person.
I remember being pleasantly surprised – I hadn’t really thought of a man being a feminist before, but then, why not? Why shouldn’t a man want his mother, sister, wife, daughter and female friends to be treated with respect and have equal opportunities?
Why do some people hate the word feminism?
Over the years I became aware that young women had started to disassociate with the word feminist, which was a profoundly depressing realisation. Did they not want equality or did the word “feminist” simply not work for them?
Words carry a lot of power as we know. The word feminism has come to mean many things to many people – and in many cases the connotations are negative? Why is that? Has the portrayal of feminists in the media and elsewhere skewed our perceptions about what feminism really is? Do young women today think they have to burn their bras and hate men to be a feminist?
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing
The words of Edmund Burke are a powerful reminder that doing nothing about inequality allows it to triumph – although the word “men” should be replaced with “people” as we all have a responsibility here.
Ask yourself (women and men), what would you do if, for example:
• You saw a woman being groped on a bus
• You became aware that two of the staff in your department were doing exactly the same job, but the woman earned less than the man
• Someone you know or follow posted a nasty comment about a woman on Facebook or Twitter not because of that person’s opinions but because of the way they looked
You’ll have noticed that this article contains a lot of questions – perhaps because there are so many unanswered questions out there, or at least different points of view. But ignoring these questions is not only lazy thinking, it’s damaging.
Anne Dickson is coming to Huddersfield to give a talk as part of the festival on Sunday 16 March. Come along and hear what she has to say. Bring your friends – male and female. Whoever you are, it will give you food for thought – something to take away so that you are not that “good man” – or woman – doing nothing.
Teaching Men to Be Feminist, Sunday 16 March 3-4pm, £3 (£1.50 conc) – BOOK HERE