what men can learn from international women’s day
As IWD 2017 rolls around and women take part in the international strike, men should stand united with females in campaigning for gender equality.
A few nights ago, at around 11 PM, outside my window, a young couple were having what appeared to be a lovers' row that was getting out of hand; a young girl was trying to calm down her boyfriend, who had appeared to have lost his cool. He was screaming in the girl's face, making threatening gestures towards her, stamping on the ground and violently flicking cigarettes onto the floor. Something had to be said — not just about noise, but also the lack of respect and threatening behavior. As the man calmed down (albeit after several disturbed tenants in my block intervened), it left me thinking about the ways in which women are sometimes treated: in work, in relationships, and in general life.
A few weeks ago, DJ Jackmaster took to Twitter to vent his disgust at the way female DJs were treated in his industry. Although the Twittersphere jumped out of its skin in anticipation of a grizzly name and shame, Jackmaster replied, "Stop asking me to 'name and shame.' This isn't a witch hunt. If you think it is then you're part of the problem. Hate breeds hate."
After making a series of points, calling out the "fucking unacceptable" levels of misogyny he had witnessed and how the experience has resonated with him, he said, "I apologize for my prior ignorance on the subject. That stops now."
A look around and there seems to be gender inequality around every corner and it's literally happening outside your window; from the young girl getting disrespected by a lover on the street, to the lady serving coffee to men who objectify her on a daily basis, to the woman receiving a barrage of wolf whistles while out jogging. And most men simply aren't doing enough.
But this is not a call to action — this is a call for understanding and awareness, of how men are just as responsible for championing women and standing up for them, just as much as women themselves are. What can we all do to be sure there is true fairness — or gender parity — between the sexes? How can every man make sure our sisters, mothers, girlfriends, and wives are truly on an equal playing field with us?
Like many modern-day men, I consider myself to be an open-minded person — but it is my duty to look further at the bigger picture around me, at how women are being misrepresented, unfairly treated, and marginalized in every sphere. I urge other men to do the same. According to predictive figures, another 170 years will pass before society will reach full gender parity.
We can all chip in and help speed this up, be it in the home, the workplace or within the public domain. By standing up for those we see unfairly treated at work. By standing up for those unwillingly objectified as sexual objects, or stopping the objectifying, no matter how small (if this applies to you). By teaching our youth, particularly young boys that violence and abusive behavior towards women is wrong. By openly airing our grievances about those in power being offensive towards women, as if they were not of equal being.
International Women's Day happens every year on March 8, to champion the importance, relevance, and struggle that women face, even in the modern age. True, in the West, we are not living in a world where men and women have to use separate entrances to buildings, or an unmarried pregnant woman is disgraced from society. But as times change, as a man I feel a growing responsibility to protect and help my sisters out — because they have as much to offer the world as I do.
As men, we need to collectively — and individually — call out injustices and celebrate the positive things that women bring to the world. The annual IWD can help empower us with the awareness and values needed in order to help us stand alongside our sisters.
The annual awareness day reminds us that we are all responsible for teaching values of patience, equality, and respect. We don't live in so much of a gender specific world anymore, where all men slug it out as tradesmen and all women work in kitchens and on stages. Whether it's driving a taxi, lacing together a DJ mix, defending someone in court, or coding a multinational corporation's website, we all have the right to choose our path in life — yet women are still being held back from fulfilling their maximum potential.
The 2017 IWD campaign urges us to #BeBoldForChange, concentrating on women in the workplace. We are advised to help in any way we can — from helping to start more female awards bodies to making sure our colleagues recognize the hard work of their female counterparts. We are urged, as men, to monitor the pay gap between men and women and are pushed to challenge bias and inequality and change the status quo. We are reminded that greater diversity leads to greater outcomes.
Even choosing an ethical company to work for that places equal focus on all employees is just one way of sending out a clear signal: that we are switched on to the many examples of imbalance that still exist. As the IWD website states: "purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world."
We don't necessarily have to host coffee mornings, or run a march or event (the IWD foundation allows you to create and publish an event on its site, though). Men simply need to switch on and be ready, on alert and willing to challenge examples of inequality when they occur. Utopian it may be, but men need to join the fight against inequality just as much as women, because equality for all is a responsibility for all. The only way we will all be truly equal, is if we unite together and stop brushing ancient, archaic societal discrimination under the carpet.
Text Joe Gamp
Photography Holly Falconer