Being a male feminist as a matter of survival

 

Author: Jo von Beust (writer, translator, activist) from Munich, Germany

Becoming a male feminist is the latest facet I have been adding to the many ideas, concepts, analogies I have embedded over the time of my life into my expanding view of what it means to be human. Becoming a feminist is also a tribute to my daughter, born 2013, who I would like to see grow up in a world where she can travel to any place on earth and dive into any culture humans have created on the planet and not be subject to discrimination, sexism but rather be recognised, respected, treated as equal, as a full human being.

Apart from this “personal” motivation – why should we be or become male supporters of the “new” empathic feminist movement we witness today? Good question.

First thing for me was to realise the new quality, dimension and tone of today’s local and global women’s initiatives.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I had been a sympathizing bystander, but regarded women’s emancipation and participation as one issue of the many political and social topics we were dealing with at the time. And, somehow this women’s issue had nothing to do with my own private life, with the woman I was married to at the time or the son we were raising. However, I had a brief encounter with men taking first steps to liberate themselves from what they vaguely felt was cutting them off from what life might mean, embarking, inspired by Robert Bly’s Iron John, on a journey that led to, as I see it today, … nowhere. Because, the search for “real” manhood failed to ask that one essential question: what about the women?

Ironically, in the many initiatives, groups and seminars I visited in the last decade, dealing with “new” concepts about life, forms of communication, spirituality, music, healing, personal growth and such things, I noticed a strange absence of men, and the women there, outnumbering us few men by far, did ask me the counter question: what about the men?

It seemed that men and women were living in different worlds, in different timelines, with women searching, longing and men rejecting, persisting.

At one point, I was driven or drawn deeper into the women’s issue.

First, I was particularly impressed by the feminine movements that expand the theme of women’s or gender equality, or gender issues in general, to evolve to “real transgender” topics or social/political action, as it were. Here, Liberian peace activist, social worker, women’s rights advocate and 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee set the pace with leading a nonviolent movement that brought together Christian and Muslim women to play a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s devastating, fourteen-year civil war in 2003.

Inspiringly, the main Gandhian-like form of action of these women was a strike calling up for “no sex, no cooking” 🙂 ! That really made men start thinking and reach out to each other beyond religious dogmatism – a favourite geegaw of men all over the planet, apart from football, of course! At one point, these women surrounded the Liberian parliament by the thousands and made it clear that they wouldn’t go away, until the men inside would have signed the peace treaty.

More recently, in October 2016 Israeli singer and activist Yael Deckelbaum co-organized a march called “Women Wage Peace” across the holy land, culminating in a common prayer of peace of 4,000 Palestinian and Israeli women on the shores of the Red Sea.

With the heading “Prayer of the Mothers”, this women’s march infused another dimension to the Liberian prototype: the mother archetype, the symbol of life giving, of creation, of life unfolding. To this already powerful mix Yael then went on to “add some music” – do you remember that old Beach Boys’ song? – to create a wonderful, moving and inspiring four-fold formula, where music or the community created by singing together brought to life the promise Yehudi Menuhin once made: “One person singing, can heal her/himself, people singing together can heal the world.” Deckelbaum’s musical video “Prayer of the Mothers” about this 2016 march passed 3.5 million views on Youtube by mid July 2017, a monthly plus of some 100,000, and it doesn’t stop there. A new, larger, more powerful Women Wage Peace march is coming up end of September 2017 in Israel/Palestine. The women there are hanging in.

Co-organising together with five women a similar Prayer of the Mother – Wo/men’s March in June 2017 in Munich, with Yael Deckelbaum joining in from Israel, not only proved to be very demanding on my male self, but opened a new perspective on our (gender) issue. Public Bavarian Broadcasting BR aired a feature on this event which can be watched here.

In Munich, we as organizers, added a slash to make it a “Wo/men’s March” and to emphasize that the state of womanhood on our planet is an issue that is intrinsically of concern for men, too.

Because, I believe now, it is not just a question of women’s “emancipation” or “rights” or “opportunities” anymore, rather fundamentally now, women’s participation or even leadership has become a matter of survival for the human species itself. It may be worth pointing out, that the term “women” in this context is used as a term of inclusion – as a placeholder for all those who are – more or less – excluded from shaping our economic and political processes. It is not as an expression of (another) separation. Of course, discussing more in depth the issue of gender – which is inseparable from our male feminist discourse –would need to include LGBT or gender fluidity aspects, however this would lead me away from the – quite radical – point I wish to make here.

By suppressing and cutting away the female element in our cultures, human civilisation on this planet has evolved to become a self-destructive monster. Male domination over the past 10,000 years or so has produced cultures, civilisations and religious belief systems based and thriving on oppression, exclusion, separation, and, to put it blantly, hate.

Our world civilisation today is deeply rooted in materialism and has developed a weird mechanistic and rationalistic approach to what it means to be human and to what life may be about. So is the set-up of our social and political systems leavened by patriarchal concepts.

Nature is perceived to be some kind of machine that doesn’t run properly, is essentially faulty and has to be improved wherever humans can’t face the fact that they themselves are products of nature. In the search for the meaning of the whole, Western, and now world civilisation has been on the search for the smallest of items to give the answers about the whole, deconstructing the whole to reconstruct it with reasoning and scientific methods to create a ramshackle inhumane construction under the control of economic interest.

The latest advancements of technology, algorithms and AI are assuming the nightmarish dimension of an extinction of humankind – a notion that not only shared by fringe thinkers and scientists but also, of all people, by technology gurus like Elon Musk who is voicing serious concerns in this respect.

Our patriarchal religious and political systems, led by ridiculous psychopaths like Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Abbas, Kim Jong-Un, Orban – to name just a few – hold the world in ransom with their queer and crude concepts of “first”, “territory”, “borders”, “order”, “security”, “nation” or whatever. And, they are willing to make suffer and kill millions of humans to satisfy the ego that is whispering and rattles on about “the others” in their head when they’re alone – or not – in their bed at night.

It is not without reason why one of the main demands the peace women in Israel are putting forth, is to include women into the Israel-Palestine peace process.

So, what has that to do with becoming a male supporter of feminism?

Because the new empathic feminism is about ending the separation, is about connecting, is about love, is about joy, music, passion, good living, is about life itself, because it is about realizing that we are living beings that are rooted in culture and nature. Wonderful Tunesian born Kaouthar Darmoni hits the nail on its head when she states that to be fully human, women need to be able to be fully woman.

And, if women can return to be fully female, this return of freed femininity into our world – which is a return of half of humanity to take part in all aspects of our civilization – would liberate also us men from the slavery of the self-destructive, economistic, mechanistic and egotistic patriarchal paradigm we have caged ourselves in. We would be freed from self-inflicted musts and don’ts, rediscover playfulness, rediscover how it feels like to be deeply connected, flushed with love (and not just sex).

Together with women we could build a world where our ingenuity, thinking and savoir-faire would, while making life easier, be directed towards preserving and protecting the whole. And last not least: under the veils and encasements, whether made from cloth or social and cultural fabric, we have hidden women for so long, we may discover a wonderful enrichment of our lives, of all life, we never ever thought possible.

What men can do to understand what women experience in everyday life

Author: David Müller, peacebuilding practitioner and writer from Freiburg, Germany, focusing on mediation and dialogue support as well as gender and conflict; currently working at Yangon, Myanmar.

The realities of women and men are fundamentally different. Women regularly face discrimination and violence of which men are often ignorant. Our author David seeks to understand why many men are often not aware of what women experience and what can be done to overcome this gap.

The gulf between two worlds

“If I were alone now, I would not dare walk down this alley” says my girlfriend and squeezes my hand a bit tighter. We continue onwards in the dark. To our right, a group of men occupy a bench, smoking and drinking. The men eye up my girlfriend as we pass by. Around the corner and out of reach, we enter the staircase and take the first few steps inside. Visibly relieved, my girlfriend goes ahead.

For me, this was a normal way home. There was nothing strange about it and certainly no cause for fear. For my girlfriend, however, this was yet another situation in which she could have faced male aggression – a fear rooted deeply in previous experiences. This event exemplifies a simple fact which I unfortunately became aware of only recently: women live in a substantially different reality than men. They are almost never treated as respectfully as we are accustomed to. This gulf between our two worlds manifests itself only sporadically, and rarely do we men acknowledge the existence of it, or make a commitment to overcome it.

Violence has a gender

Worldwide, women are victims and survivors of oppression, sexism and violence. This holds true in the private and public space, in relationships, in the digital world, at work, and while traveling – in virtually all areas of their lives. Globally, the vast majority of these violent acts are committed by men. Just to clarify: This does not mean that all men are violent and culprits or that all women are peaceful and victims – this gendered idea in itself is often enough problematic. Men also suffer from violence; women, too, inflict violence upon others. It is, however, important to highlight certain structures and patterns, because as Rebecca Solnit writes in her book Men Explain Things to Me: “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, religion or a nationality, but it does have a gender.” This gender-based violence is manifold in nature. It ranges from verbal abuse in the digital world to worst forms of physical and sexual violence, inflicted by partners or complete strangers.

A lack of awareness

Violence against women, which is so deeply embedded in our societies, silences women and girls and restricts their freedom of movement and development. As a result, in many circumstances, women experience a more constricted reality than men. When I travel, I care little about how I dress or at what time of the day I am on the move. In the digital world, I move freely and untroubled, without the fear of bullying or harassment. At work, I do not have to put up with unsolicited sexist commentary or physical assault. In a partnership, I will most likely not be hit or abused. Generally, I am perceived and appreciated as a person rather than an object.

Although women are frequently restricted in their self-determination, men too often lack awareness of this reality. Rarely do we talk about male privilege or think about what we can do to address our own wrongdoings and to express solidarity, or understand that the discrimination and the violent repression of half of the world’s population promotes and underpins our own lack of freedom.

Why is that?

A few thoughts come to mind when thinking about this question: A first piece of explanation may be that we have never made comparable experiences. It is often difficult for me to understand a reality that I have never experienced. Having said that, this explanation can never serve as an excuse or justification because: as members of the male sex we do bear responsibility for action, even if we do not actively discriminate against or inflict violence upon others. In a way, if we remain silent, we take sides with an unjust cause.

In addition, it is still the exception rather than the rule that the suppression of women is actively taken up as part of broader social discourses. Despite broader awareness and acceptance of feminist thought, gender equality and violence against women are topics that are still barely discussed at the kitchen table, or mainstreamed into teaching curricula at schools, vocational training institutes or university studies.

Moreover, although violence against women is a daily occurrence, this pattern is barely acknowledged or pinpointed. There is still a strong tendency to explain violence against women on a case-by-case basis without taking into account the bigger picture. Often the victim herself is blamed – she should not have dressed so “provocatively” or gone down that dark street all on her own. Using the words of Solnit: “The pandemic of violence against women gets explained as anything but gender.”

At the end of the day, it is perhaps simply a question of men getting real: if we were to truly acknowledge that violence against women is first and foremost our problem, we would need to take a closer look at where this this is actually coming from. As a consequence, we would have to question the very system that provides us with many privileges – but this would be extremely uncomfortable, wouldn’t it?

So what can we, as men, do?

When I think about this question, three thoughts come to my mind:

1) Educate ourselves, ask and listen: It is not for women to explain to us what is problematic about a patriarchal society. We have the responsibility to educate ourselves and to unpack the dynamics of power and dominance between the sexes – particularly from an intersectional point of view. This also includes asking questions and to really listen when women tell us about the world they live.

2) Acknowledge: This may sound trivial, but I don’t think it is. I truly believe that if we recognize more often, more openly and more publicly that oppression and violence against women is first and foremost a male problem, much would be gained already. Acknowledgement and insight are a basic prerequisite for behavioural change.

3) Develop new ideals of what it means to be a man: Some part of how we understand masculinity nourishes an often aggressive and violent behaviour towards other people, particularly women. I think that we must develop and spread new ideals of what it means to be a man – ideals which are characterized by, for example, respect, empathy or non-violence. Only a new understanding of what we consider to be masculine can change our behaviour in the long term.

Someday…

Then, someday, a woman walks alone in the dark in the backyard. To her right is a group of men who, smoking and drinking, occupy a bench. Indifferently, the men look at the women as she passes by. Around the corner, she enters the staircase and takes the first steps. Just a normal way home. Nothing about it and nothing to fear.

(This article has originally been published in German at EditionF on July 5th 2017.)

Of course I’m a feminist

Author: Diogo Queiroz de Andrade (Deputy Executive Editor at Público

It is so simple, and so obvious. To be a feminist is to advocate strict equality between men and women in every matter. It is to promote freedom of choice for both women and men.

And yes, it is worrying that an editorial in defense of feminism is still needed in a newspaper, in 2017. However, everyday active public demonstrations of machismo are still happening, behaviors that should shame us and are still tolerated.

Machismo is the main root of domestic violence, and is still one of the most regretful statistics we have to show for. Machismo is also what fosters the recommendation of certain toys for girls, what determines why women earn less than men for doing the exact same job, what prevents women from getting certain jobs and what feeds the analysis of women on solely sexual and sensual grounds.

We can, and should, discuss every way possible to tackle the issue at hand. It is legitimate to discuss quotas, it is reasonable to question if catcalling should or should not be punishable. But the time to discuss the root of the problem should have ended long ago. It is simply not wise to discuss whether or not we should be feminists.

We only need to look around us to grasp what needs to be done. Women are further and further away from school. They have less access to the job market and when they do get there, earn less and are more precarious. The numbers do not lie: most illiterates in the world are female; there are still 18 countries in which husbands can forbid their wives from working, and only 67 nations have laws against gender discrimination in recruitments; over half of women in the EU has suffered from some kind of sexual abuse; merely 28% of working women are entitled to some kind of protection regarding maternity leave.

And, if the numbers do not lie, neither does perception. When the world’s most powerful president stands for the objectification of women and manages to win the elections, there is motive to worry about the public debate status. When the comments’ sections on most newspapers or Facebook discussions about Emma Watson become crammed with savage comments, we realize how far we are from living in a civilized society. This is why we should be redundant in a newspaper and say the obvious: I’m a feminist.

 

This op-ed has been published in Portuguese newspaper Público on March 8, 2017. Here ist the original version (in Portuguese).

Can Men Be Feminists?  A Male Point of View

Author: “Herrmann Mann” (meaning no harm)

As a man, which I most definitely am, feminism is a tricky topic. Of course in the overall societal sense my opinion is valued statistically higher than the opinion of women (which truly is a shame, because I know many smart women). By being male (which happens to be my gender), I benefit from various mechanisms that make it easier for me to speak out; mechanisms that also create an atmosphere in which women feel like they have to find other outlets and platforms for themselves to do their own thing. A lot of women have made the experience of being widely discouraged from joining certain groups, clubs or even take certain jobs – and they really don’t like it. It makes them angry.

That’s why feminism a tricky topic: I know my opinion has a higher “market value” in society but very often I am told that it is not welcome. How can I, as a well-meaning man, deal with this conundrum (for those who do not know what this is, google provides a good explanation)?

There may be some feminists who would argue that providing a platform that specifically excludes women, as well-meaning as it is, is a step in the wrong direction because what we need is more dialogue, more openness, more exchange to ultimately normalize the fact that women have voices and opinions. But to those feminists I say: What about all the men who are afraid of them? Men can be shy and some feel intimidated by women who think they might know a little more about the struggles that they face in everyday life.

Men, however, face struggles, too. This has nothing to do with mansplaining, because I do not believe that it does. This is a real problem: As the man that I am, I want to take a stand but when I speak about the issues that women face, it always comes out like I am explaining it to them (even though I’m trying to explain it to other men). And when I try to explain that it is hard for me, as a man, to speak about issues of gender equality, it sounds like I am making it about myself, but saying that I don’t intend to make it about me makes it all about me again. It’s a bummer. Some may argue that the issue lies in the fact that I am not talking to them, but about them, but I don’t believe that’s it.

I’m a man. Really. I have a penis and everything.

On #noah16 and #EscortGate – time for new conference setups

Author: Robert Franken (blogger and digital consultant)

Ever since Watergate, people are adding the syllable „-gate“ to whatever incident they would like to sound more scandalously. And this is exactly what happened with the hashtag #EscortGate. Only that it is a true scandal. What had happened?

The famous NOAH Conference had come to Berlin, hosted by German Media powerhouse Axel Springer and supported by illustrious sponsors such as Credit Suisse, Hellman & Friedman and Deutsche Börse Cash Market. Prior to the event, there had been significant criticism concerning the overwhelming abundance of male protagonists at #noah16. In the end, according to fortune.com, 108 speakers were part of the conference, only eleven of those were women.

I cannot give account of the conference itself, for I haven’t been present. The organizers, however, had offered me a ten minute slot on stage „to do a fire side chat with a female Internet entrepreneur at NOAH“. I refused that, and I had my reasons, which you can read here.

What I can do and what I will do, is talk about the above-mentioned #EscortGate. Apparently, someone had brought about 100 escort ladies to the conference party. Pia Poppenreiter, founder of ohlala.com, has taken the blame for doing so. But it is common knowledge among insiders that this has a tradition at NOAH – and that Axel Springer also wanted a better ratio at the party, there had been at least one e-mail to female employees to attend the party „dressed-up“ accordingly.

Pia Poppenreiter is a professional entrepreneur, so you can assume that she knew what she was doing. Her apology for this „PR stunt“ therefore sounds like shedding crocodile tears, especially on the background of the organizers’ intentions. But does the end justify the means? Not at all.

The incidents around #noah16 are a culmination of boys’ club rituals, deeply rooted misogyny, Valley capitalism and probably some sort of simplemindedness – as in „It’s been a great party, though.“ Otherwise, it’s very hard to explain the reaction of NOAH founder Marco Rodcynek on Venture TV. He considers NOAH to be the victim of PR gone wrong and he thinks it’s been a great party. This is not what I would call leadership and responsibility.

And unfortunately, a lot of participants (not just male ones) are keeping quiet – who would want to blame them, they are all dependent on the current VC ecosystem and they want to be invited to NOAH again.

I consider events like NOAH (which in itself is a great achievement and success) to be at the forefront of change. They are powerful players. But with power, there comes a lot of responsibility. NOAH et al. need to accept that they are part of the disease and not only a depiction of the symptoms of an industry. They should be engaging in changing the male paradigm by using their various channels and their strong voice among startups and investors alike.

NOAH could show that they care:

  • by changing their parameters in order to attract female speakers to the stages and panels.
  • by promoting women rather than making them just a requisite for successful male entrepreneurs.
  • by organizing their events along inclusiveness and diversity.
  • by collaborating with people and organizations which stand for gender parity and diversity.
  • by living up to a standard of mutual respect.
  • by looking into their values and bringing their responsibility to the game.

The next NOAH will be in London (in November). And I would love to see what has changed when NOAH hits Berlin again. Looking forward to #noah17 and to starting the debate towards change.

Women in tech: launch event of ABI.local in Amsterdam

On Tuesday night, April 26th, I attended the launch event of #ABIdotlocal in Amsterdam. It was hosted by Google Netherlands and Rose Robinson, Senior Manager from the Anita Borg Institute, was guest of honour, having come all the way from Atlanta, GA.

Rose gave a very motivating keynote on the role of local communities in empowering women in tech. She stated that „being the only woman all the time“ can be a massive problem, which is why events like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists with more than 12,000 women attending, are so important.

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Rose Robinson and Iffat Gill

The evening had been opened by Iffat Gill. She’s the CEO and founder of ChunriChoupaal/The Code To Change. Her talk was called “Digital inclusion: the importance of e-skills training for economic empowerment”. Iffat will be heading ABI.Amsterdam together with Diana Eggleston and Mine Ogura.

After another Keynote by Maya Tudor, Tech Scholarships Program Manager, EMEA, Google on “The role of the tech industry to address inclusion and retention of women”, the „Empoweress“ Mine Ogura, Head of Delivery of Marktplaats (eBay Classifieds Group NL), gave a very energetic workshop on „Cracking the Code“.

The official programme was closed by Coach, Trainer and Speaker Amber Rahim. Her workshop “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome” was full of insights and provided a lot of great takeaways for the audience.

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Workshops and networking

It’s been a fantastic event with a very diverse network. All of the attendants were utterly devoted to their professions as well as to the cause of women in tech. It has been an enormously supportive atmosphere and I’m very proud to be an ambassador for those projects.

If you are a woman and you are interested in coding and the technological side of the digital transformation, get in contact with organizations and initiatives like The Code To Change or ABI.local. It is more than worth it. I am looking forward to seeing those networks flourish and I’ll be doing my best to support this development.

The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity

Author: Henrik Marstal (author and musician) 

In the often heated debate about feminism, it has become customary for debaters to promote their great difficulties with the very word. Some have even argued that this is the movement’s greatest challenge.

Others argue that we should talk about “equality” instead of feminism, for this is what feminism is actually about. Or that feminism simply means “reverse discrimination of women”. These are relevant objections because feminism may appear a bit restricted at the very definition of the word.

Let’s begin with the latter: No. There are very few feminists who want women to dominate the world by establishing a matriarchal system – i.e. the equivalent of the current patriarchy which seems to be the actual cause of the problems of equality which all people might be subjected to. Continue reading “The feminist debate is still relevant – and a law against internet hatred and harassment has become a necessity”

More Feminists

Author: Vincent-Immanuel Herr (Berlin based activist, writer, and feminist) 

Women’s equality is directly linked to Europe’s overall well-being. Only by overcoming gender inequality can we truly lay the foundations for the continent’s future.

The list of European problems is long: the Greek debt crisis, refugees in the Mediterranean, a war in Ukraine, and the rise of nationalist parties from Paris to Budapest. Before this backdrop, feminists have often found their fight for complete women’s equality – socially, politically, and economically – rejected as a lesser issue. Responses such as “I see your point in reducing the pay gap, but we have bigger problems to worry about, don’t you think?” are common, and likely all too familiar to those advocating for women’s improved standing in society. In these instances, gender activists often back down or even silently agree, postponing their ideas and plans for a later date when no other problems will seem to loom as prominently.

But what if we got things mixed up here? What if gender inequality is truly at the core of European problems? What if addressing gender equality is the first step to overcoming a myriad of other issues? There is actually some evidence indicating this to be true – gender inequality may in fact be the core problem in Europe, holding societies back from unfolding their fullest and truest potential. (This being a global issue, similar arguments will likely also apply to other parts of the world, but this article will focus on a European context.)  Continue reading “More Feminists”

Feminism is for all of us

Author: Henrik Marstal (writer and musician) 

Some time ago, the international initiative #WomenAgainstFeminism flourished on various social media. Within a remarkably short period of time, thousands of women united because they felt repelled by feminism.

In Denmark, a 23-year-old female educationalist caused a stir in the national media by stating that because feminists hate men, they make her feel ashamed of her own sex. A Danish female blogger even opposed to any kind of feminist thought and compared feminism to religious fanaticism – and me, an outspoken feminist and a blogger myself, being her only example.

Thus, for many people, feminism is simply a word they do not bother to learn (more) about. Moreover, it is a word that apparently is connected with something negative and annoying because feminism is perceived as sincerely superfluous and irrelevant. But I am pretty sure that this resistance is primarily an expression of a universal truth: pressure causes counter-pressure. While a feminist approach as being a solution to many of the world’s problems has shown growing attention among people all over the Western world, the resistance to this approach has been on the rise, too.

This resistance comes not only from men, who regard the movement as a serious threat to inherited patriarchal privileges. It also comes from privileged women, who do not want to be reminded of the fact that they still find themselves in a highly unequal position compared to men concerning economic matters, power, justice etc.

Many people subscribe to the notion of feminism as being a totalitarian ideology with its  primary purpose being to spread misandry (male hatred), to claim womanhood as a victim, to promote a matriarchal world order and to offend patriarchal matters, even in places where women feel quite satisfied with the state of affairs.

But if these people asked feminists what they want to focus on, most of them will come up with an answer that doesn’t quite fit all the resentment. I bet that most feminists would answer that they are working to fully realize equality matters between the sexes in terms of politics, social issues, sexuality, economy and notions of power. And while they answer, they will refer to statistics, reports, studies and empirical observations rather than to their own emotions.

The Swedish author and feminist Nina Björk has said it like this:

“Feminism is a political movement with its goal being to make gender an uninteresting category in everyones’ social lives.”

Ulla Tornemand, a chairwoman from Danish Women’s Society (founded in 1871) , puts it this way:

“Being a feminist means working to end oppression, discrimination and exploitation of people just because of their gender, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation and/or other issues. The correspondence of the movement’s name with the female gender is historically conditioned. So today, to be a feminist is to believe in and work for equality.”

So, with a few radical exceptions, feminists are neither male-haters or religious fanatics. For the same reason, a rapidly growing number of men have declared themselves feminists. These men, I believe, know that true equality between the sexes will help putting an end to patriarchal norms which are of no benefit for them, either.

In the aforementioned #WomenAgainstFeminism movement, there were several women with a handwritten sign which rejected feminism, including a woman with a sign that said: “I do not need feminism because I enjoy being a stay-at-home housewife and do not feel less valuable for that reason.”

Unfortunately, this woman did not know what feminism is all about. Had she known, she would have been aware that feminists do not look down on housewives, and that the movement works for equal rights between the genders in connection with childbirths, divorces and parental rights.

One of my friends paraphrased the woman’s statement like this:

“I do not need feminism because I am totally indifferent to all the women who do not thrive in the traditional roles which men often expect us to join. I therefore give up everything that feminists before my time fought for so fiercely and sometimes paid a high price for: my voice and vote, my education right, my right to be respected for who I am, my right to not constantly be viewed as a sex object by all men (until I get about the age of 45-50 years), my right to abortion and my right not to be beaten, raped or murdered by my partner. These are all factors which, even in the 21st century, are still not taken for granted outside the Western World – and only to a certain extent within this area.”

The woman might also be devoid of empathy for other women; devoid of empathy for the 29,000 women who each year are subject to domestic violence in Denmark alone (10,000 of them are exposed to repeated, serious abuse). Moreover, she might be devoid of empathy for women who suffer from having less favourable terms in economic, social or legal matters.

Finally, she might be devoid of empathy with women for whom gender stereotyping in the media, in advertising, in fashion and in porn hampers their self-expression and drains their self-esteem. This applies not less to the many women who have repeatedly been experiencing serious problems with sexism, threats of rape as well as rape without being taken seriously by the authorities as well as their friends and families.

It seems that we could draw a parallel line between the women’s liberation movement and the labor movement: Both made enormous progress for a very large social group, and both will continue to be necessary. If not, the world as we know it runs the risk of being pulled back in time. To all of us, it is indeed true that equality never happened automatically – it has to be fought for every inch.

Not many people would have missed the trade union movement. I am sure that many people admit that something similar is true for the women’s liberation movement. So put down the reservations, all you people out there: Feminism is for all of us.

Tony Porter: A Call to Men (TEDWomen Talk)

At TEDWomen 2010, educator, activist and lecturer Tony Porter has made call to men everywhere: “Don’t act like a man.” He asks all men to break free of the “man box.” Although this talk is already more than five years old, it hasn’t lost any of its power.