How Do We Get More Men Involved in the Fight for Gender Equality?

How Do We Get More Men Involved in the Fight for Gender Equality?

My first holistic understanding of global violence against women occurred while reading Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The title reminds us that women, an oppressed group, hold up half the sky. This is to say that we are not fulfilling our potential as a community, as a nation, or as a world without lifting up the strengths of half of our population.

Igniting women’s voices and creating collective action are key opportunities in achieving gender equality at the international level. This is something that I, as a woman and a feminist, strive for when working to advance women’s rights. I’ve learned a lot, from reading scholarly research to interviewing Latin American women that protest in the streets for their reproductive rights. I’ve studied women’s social movements and how they can create change at the legal, social and cultural level. Watching women move from the private to the political, public sphere inspires me to take action. As a writer, I analyze the media that perpetuates how we view and value women. The more I understand, the more inspired I am to utilize all of these important components.

One key ingredient? Men.

Just as young girls are taught to be quiet and small, young boys are told to be loud and brave. The way that we place one adjective on girls and the opposite on boys is detrimental to both. What confines women to hindering gender stereotypes also confines men. Sure, this doesn’t negate the fact that we live in a patriarchal society that encourages male dominance both in the workplace and at home. The deep roots of sexism begin with how we teach our children, what behaviors we pass on and the cyclical nature of strict identities that strip away an individual’s ability to grow and evolve along the spectrum of sexuality and gender.

Thus, it is just as important to empower women to reclaim their body as their own as it is to open new venues for men to define themselves. Changing the actions of a society takes everyone’s engagement and willingness to see the world differently than it is right now.

There is power in adding men to the conversation. It can be disheartening at times to hear that some men currently believe women have just as many opportunities as them. While vastly untrue, it is important to see that some people don’t feel the weight of this; that the realities for women in the world today aren’t being acknowledged. It is not enough to recognize the need to educate girls or acknowledge the cultural complexities of violence against women. Men’s engagement is power in the fight for gender equality.

The media has struck the same chord and shared the reasons why men also benefit from gender equality. This is not just a problem that affects women; it affects everyone.

More men are already joining for the fight for gender equality. This is something to celebrate. We can look at the #HeForShe campaign at the international level. Or look to Men for Gender Equality Now, MEGEN, a social movement working to mobilize a mass of men who believe in gender justice in six African countries. MenEngage is a global alliances of NGOs and partners seeking to engage boys and men in the advocacy for social change and gender equality.

Men with celeb-status platforms have taken a stake in the conversation, encouraging other men to join in. They speak out about domestic violence and identify as feminists. They’ve acknowledged the power they hold in gathering a fan base and utilize this space to start and continue the conversation. But it’s not up to them to change the world. It’s up to all of us.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.