I always just assumed I was a feminist. All of my friends as a kid were girls. I’ve always had a very equal relationship with my wife and never thought that there were specific roles that women should be limited to.
However, I recently started to learn about the more nuanced elements of sexism & feminism. Looking back on my opinions I’m kinda appalled.
Women in the Workplace
For a number of years in my 20s I ran a small web development agency. We never got big enough to really hire outside of a couple of freelancers but it was just a given that we wouldn’t hire women.
It wasn’t because we thought that women don’t make good engineers - they were just too… complicated.
I kid you not - the two biggest concerns in my mind were:
- Workplace relationships
In my early 20s I remember thinking about how men & women were fundamentally designed differently: women are clearly better suited to homemaking/babies and men make the money. Just look at cavemen - just logical right? I so vividly remember the thought process and how it made perfect sense.
So why am I saying all this. Kinda wondering that myself reading it back.
Facing the Truth
It’s like this: I think of myself a reasonable person. I would never in my life post the kinda of bile and hate I see some posting in forums and comment sections. But to say that I haven’t actively contributed to the problems women face would be denial.
Even earlier this year I was pretty much in the ‘not all men’ & ‘this isn’t equality’ camp but something made me stop and listen for a while. I talked to my wife, I followed a load of women on twitter and started reading.
I came to understand why this isn’t a simple matter of making things ‘equal’ on the surface. It was like a punch to the gut when I read this article:
“Get in the habit of treating your maleness as an unearned privilege”
But then I thought about it for 5 minutes. Men and women are born equal but men are instantly given an advantage in society. Girls are weaker. Girls cannot handle certain subjects. Girls should dress/act a certain way. Women should take more care when going out with friends. Women should expect sexual advances from men. And on and on.
“Equality” and Debt
Absolute equality would be totally awesome but it’s an unreasonable expectation. The opinions of society don’t change overnight and the cultural memory that women have is not broken by just saying “hey we’re all equal now!”.
Imagine we’re playing a game where we all stack playing cards in a tower to see who builds one with 6 rows first. The only thing is that the cards are on top of a mountain you have to climb up first. As men, we’re already at the top saying “HEY - WE’RE ALL EQUAL NOW - YOU CAN TOTALLY PLAY THE GAME WITH US NOW - 1,2,3 GO!”.
Weird analogy? Maybe.
Basically, we have a debt to pay. It’s really the only way to address balance in any diversity issue but so few people understand this. The term ‘privilege’ is despised by many but understanding it is key to making a real difference.
Men can actually help here but we’re going to have to accept the hard stuff along the way.
Before you get angry, before you feel hard done by or offended - just stop. No one is taking your job away or threatening your life. Just suck it up and try to understand what’s really going on here. Then see how you can help.
We’re going to hear things that challenge us and we’re not going to get it right every time but worthwhile change is often the hardest. I’m personally so underqualified to be talking about any of this but I wanted to say something.
To hear from people who actually know what they’re talking about, start here: 35 Practical steps men can take to support Feminism.