Let me start by saying that I’m a proud feminist. At home, I ensure that my two young daughters see me cooking, cleaning, attending doctor’s appointments, and doing their hair so they’ll grow up understanding those aren’t merely “mom tasks.” I expose them to women crushing it in male-dominated professions to show them that they can do absolutely anything. I teach them that their bodies are their most prized possessions, and they have full control over them at all times. I’m raising my daughters to be leaders in a gender-equal world because I believe that it is possible.
“We need good men on the side of women to ensure they can break through and achieve full gender equality.”
But if you, like me, happen to be a man who cares about the welfare of women and girls, I wouldn’t blame you for being a little pessimistic lately. Rampant displays of misogyny and accusations of sexual assault from one of our presidential candidates have dominated the headlines. Women are still paid less than men to do the same work, and have no guaranteed maternity leave. Yet, they are expected to do it all (super mom, corporate employee, housekeeper, chef, etc.) without so much as a thank you. Feminists have been fighting for equality for decades, and yet little seems to change. I get it. As a law-abiding Black man, there are times when I explain to my white friends about my fear of the police or the meaning of Black Lives Matter. Some respond with “Yeah, but…” while others completely dismiss my feelings altogether. It’s beyond frustrating, and I know Black women experience the intersectionality of racism and sexism in a whole different way.
As a feminist, I have the responsibility to educate myself about the struggles women face. But I have no clue what it’s like to feel the need to carry pepper spray with me if I happen to be alone at night. I have no idea what it’s like to be catcalled while I’m walking down the street. I never experienced rape or sexual assault and then had to fear that my reputation could be damaged if I decided to come forward. However, just as I’m 100% certain that we need white allies to empathize with the Black experience in order to achieve racial equality, we need good men on the side of women to ensure they can break through and achieve full gender equality. So, what can we do to help women and girls? Here are a few suggestions.
“Stop using the tired line, ‘What if she was your wife/sister/daughter?’ when trying to get men to empathize with the plight of women.”
Stop justifying boys hitting, teasing, and harassing girls by saying, “Boys will be boys” (I’m looking at you, Melania) or, “He’s doing it because he likes you.” No, he’s acting like a jerk and should be called out on it. If we allow boys to bully girls when they’re younger, they’ll probably do it when they’re older, too. Stop using the tired line, “What if she was your wife/sister/daughter?” when trying to get men to empathize with the plight of women. Do we ever ask, “What if you had cancer?” to get someone to realize that cancer is a bad thing? We should treat women with respect because they are human beings. Understand that rape culture is real. In an effort to prove otherwise, I asked my female followers on Facebook to share stories of when they felt violated by a man, and at last check, over 350 women did just that. This isn’t a laughing matter, or some media creation — this is a damn problem that must be addressed immediately.
“Stop justifying boys hitting, teasing, and harassing girls by saying, ‘Boys will be boys.’”
Stop victim-blaming when it comes to sexual assault and rape. Do you know what promiscuity, short skirts, drunkenness, and flirtatious behavior all have in common? They are never the reasons why someone gets raped. The only cause of rape is rapists. Full stop. Don’t accept locker-room talk as “things dudes do.” A real man will tell his buddies, “Hey, it’s not cool to talk that way,” instead of joining in or ignoring it altogether. And if a woman or girl says no, that means no. I’m the head coach of an all-girls basketball team comprised of kindergarteners and first graders. Sure, I teach them all about the rules and fundamentals of the game, and ensure that they have fun — but I understand that my role is bigger than that.
“Fellow men, we have to do better for the female population, and the good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Don’t be a jerk, listen to women, and be respectful of their boundaries.”
Before each practice, we sit in a circle and I ask each girl one simple question: “What did you do this week that made you happy?” I’ll accept any answer except for “nothing” or “I don’t know.” Why do I do this? Because I want my team to know that there are men outside of their families who care about them, value them, and will listen to them. I want them to know that their feelings matter and that they matter. It serves as a simple reminder of how important each of them are, and it sets the tone for practice — and for their futures. Fellow men, we have to do better for the female population, and the good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Don’t be a jerk, listen to women, and be respectful of their boundaries. If we all do those things, the world will be a much better place for women and men.
Doyin Richards, a fatherhood author, public speaker, and founder of daddydoinwork.com. The views expressed here are his own.
Article available at https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/10/126626/stay-at-home-dad-obama-feminist-daughters