I suppose it fits that this blog is coming out on Mother’s Day because I dedicate this blog post as a love letter to my mum, the woman who has played the most significant role in shaping me into the man I am today. But I dedicate it not only to my mum but to all the mothers, daughters, sisters and all the incredible women who have inspired me, taught me, and supported me. I celebrate and thank every one of you.
I do not know if it’s because I identify as a gay man, but I have always been inspired by female “bosses”, by empowered women. In fiction, from Cheetara in the Thundercats to Storm, Jean Grey and Rogue in the X-Men, from Kimberley the Pink Power Ranger to Mildred Hubble and Hermione Granger. I identified with them much more than any male characters. I am now consistently inspired by strong women, to name a few: Jacinda Ardern, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai. The list is endless.
I have long considered myself a feminist. But, recently, I have been having an existential debate with myself about whether I can be. I am a white, cisgender man; with that, I realise I have been born into a life of immense societal privilege. I have never had to fight the patriarchy or society’s systemic mistreatment of women. But, I have borne witness to it. And at times, I have stayed quiet. I am ashamed of that. And I say, no longer. I will listen to every woman’s story she has to share and help her to amplify it should she wish. I will call out every mistreatment against women I see, and I implore all men to do the same thing. It is every man’s responsibility to recognise their inherent societal privilege and join the fight to dismantle the patriarchy. We must all empower and uplift women and fight for gender equality. I feel this even more profoundly working as a nurse in a profession dominated by 89% women.
However, back to whether men can call or consider themselves feminists, I guess that’s up to them. But now, I consider myself a feminist ally. And I promise I will do all I can to empower women. And I believe every man should too.
Since posting on Monday on International Women’s Day, I have been doing a lot of reflecting. I have been utterly shaken by Sarah Everard’s murder, by the outpouring of stories from the women I follow on social media, those from my female family and friends on how affected they have been and continuously are by the actions of men. I cannot begin to imagine how they feel. I am horrified and so scared that my niece, sister, mum and all my female friends live in a world where any man is potentially their stalker, their abuser, their rapist, their killer.
While it may not be all men, how do women know which man it is? There are no denying statistics: males commit 97% of sexual offences, 90% of murderers are male, and 87% of crimes committed against another person are committed by males. These facts are undeniable. So, how do we address this?
However, I am not only addressing the grave fears women have regarding sexual assault, domestic abuse and murder. But the everyday abuse and perceived societal norms women are forced to accept from men: the catcalling; the derogatory sexist comments that go unchallenged; them changing their routes home and making sure they are in well-lit areas; them texting their friends and families when they are leaving and carrying their keys in their hands for safety. The majority of men do not have to do this.
We should not be educating women on how to keep them safe. We should be instilling empathy into young men, teaching them to respect women, that they are not better and have no power over women, that brutality and violence against women are simply not acceptable or allowed, that it’s their problem. As a society, we have got it all so wrong.
I also believe a big part of the problem is nurture and role modelling. We become who we are because of how we are shaped. As a society, as well as educating young men on all of the above, we also need to nurture young men to become caring individuals who will then care for and cherish others. Cherish the women in their lives. We are products of our upbringing and social conditioning. We need to enable young men and all men to discuss their mental health struggles, not to internalise these, because in doing so, this can then potentially cause them to lash out and turn into one of these abusers and statistics.
I believe that men need to step up and join women in fighting these causes and the dismantling of the patriarchy; because only men can end violence against women, the constant threat of terror, harassment and death, and the societal norms women are forced to endure. I don’t believe women should be leading the charge on this alone because they have been doing this for centuries. Men have to join in and take positive, affirmative action because it’s men, not women, who have to change.
Love and light,