I hope this is a question many men have asked themselves. It’s important to understand and come to a useful resolution about this, as I think there are many men who support women’s equality but are somehow intimidated by the thought of being seen as a feminist. Let me say it right up front. I am not only a feminist; I have been one since the early 1970s. It’s important for men to understand what being a feminist means, because it has nothing to do with being feminine, which I think is why many men might cringe somewhat at the thought.
The Oxford English Dictionary, online edition, defines a feminist as “a person who supports feminism”, and Wikipedia defines feminism as follows: “. . . [A] collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment”. As a movement, feminism is complex and – for the most part – understanding its history isn’t important to the issue of whether or not men can (or should) be feminists. On the other hand, one of the reasons for this post is to share a short video that addresses one of the more egregious historical responses to the struggle of women for suffrage, i.e. to gain the right to vote.
One of the main reasons I have been so supportive of women’s rights almost as long as I’ve been able to vote is my belief, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Then there’s also this little thing called the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I like to think the meaning of these two maxims – and so many like them – is that inequality is not a good thing. Since the very essence of feminism is, as stated above, the goal of establishing “equal political, economic, and social rights for women”, it seems to logically follow it is something anyone – even men – of good conscience must support. Let’s take it a little further, though. Let’s ask ourselves who these women are who wish equality. We don’t have to look very far for they are our mothers and grandmothers; our sisters, nieces, and cousins; our girl friends and wives. In short, they are all women, everywhere. Why would we not support feminism and thereby be feminists?
This November 6th we are going to make a choice in the trajectory our nation will follow for the succeeding four years, almost certainly a lot longer since one or more Supreme Court Justices is likely to retire. The Republican Party, through its most important representatives and through its actions, has made it clear they wish to return to a level of patriarchy that makes women second-class citizens and, in some respects, returns them to the status of chattel. Although the party has tried to move the national conversation away from the highly-charged term “War on Women”, the reality is a victory for Mitt Romney would be a “Disaster for Women“. It is imperative for not only women to understand what’s at stake but, perhaps, even more important for men to understand because they have a tendency to be somewhat timid when it comes to supporting these basic rights of women (should read merely “people”).
Today I came across a wonderful short video that recounts the struggle of a group of women who protested for the simple right so many of us take for granted – the right to vote – and were severely punished for their temerity. This was less than a hundred years ago, when Woodrow Wilson was President. Less than 100 years ago! There are far too many of us who either haven’t registered to vote or, in our apathy or despair, won’t take the time to vote. This is not a good thing. As Plato said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” The struggle for the right of women has come too far to now go backward. Here is the video I want you to see. I hope you’ll share it as well. It’s very powerful.
And get out there this November and VOTE!
Photo from Douche, Bag and Shoes