Let’s be honest, it is hard for a man to be a feminist. When it comes down to it, doing and being in a way that that challenges the barriers to our female friends means that we have a lot of culturally accepted norms he must confront. A disclaimer to my definition of feminist: I am not differentiating the various interpretations of feminism. I know that various iterations of feminism exist and that they have historically had differing goals/sub-points. For this post, let’s not get caught-up in the “wave” debate about which version of feminism we are hoping to promote. For common-understanding sake, think:
Feminist = one who actively seeks gender equity (in a subtly and sometimes overtly male-dominated context)
Here is the list, incomplete as it is:
1. Own up to your privilege
Masculinity is a “privileged” status in society. I do not have to think about my sex or gender in most situations. I am often in the sex and gender majority and it is easy to assume that my (often nuanced by my existence as a male) perspective is the norm.
2. Stop Talking
Men are not always aware of our capacity to talk and take over conversations. I have caught myself watching men dominate a conversation only to come to a conclusion without the inclusion of the women’s perspectives.
Some of us men are good at talking about being feminists and seeking equity, and we do jack-squat towards those ends. Sometimes we need to stop postulating and looking at our own behavior.
3. Do Something
Men, let’s think about what it means to really, truly be “partners”: take care of the kid, pick them up from school, do dishes, take out the trash, volunteer with kids, volunteer (men tend not to volunteer), do the details work. In couples, women tend to do the majority of the housework and childcare even if both are working outside of the household and at churches women are on the roll for volunteer and men usually don’t do anything unless they are asked to be in a leadership position. We don’t always consider our tendencies to fall into these patterns because they have become normalized (this we assume without bias). We have to choose to make a difference. A feminist perspective doesn’t abolish the value of the household, it expands it.
4. Push back against women defending their roles
This is risky, and not universally relevant, but there are times when women have ingrained, acculturated approached to gender role (even those who want to break out of tradition). Sometimes, women emasculate the men in their lives by critiquing the way men cook, clean, wash dishes, spend time with the kids, teaching Sunday School, serving meals, etc. Sometimes, men need to stay vigilant in taking-up these responsibilities. It may not seem feminist to push back against a women’s desires and, as men, we must do so thoughtfully, but we even women have the tendency to internalize bias even if that bias proves negative towards wellbeing and thriving.
5. Stop doing stuff
Don’t just jump and say “I’ll do it.” If you are married, take time to let you spouse make a decision. At work, let women have time to feel comfortable enough to step-in because if it is new for them to do so, they well do so less readily. I personally consider power and influence as both static and dynamic. Collective power can increase as a group gains influence, structure, etc., but individual power can decrease because within a group power is always distributed and related to the other individuals sharing power together. For women to gain power/influence in situations it could be taken, but that doesn’t prove for good relationships. To create equity, power has to be given and redistributed, so men, we need to give power away – because we often harbor it.
6. Change Churches
Odd, right? Too direct? I know that folks have various theological convictions about women in pastoral roles and I know that there are varieties of theological, psychological, and sociological reasons why we choose our local churches. However, if feminism is important to you (at a personal and structural level) you should consider attending a church that has women in leadership and truly validates the voice of women.
Alright folks, I want to hear your thoughts . . . what say you? How can men actively seek for gender equity?