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.


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.)

Diversity vs Patriarchy – Let’s catch the next Wave!

Author: Karsten Jahn (coach & consultant) 

Recently I attended a conference, dealing with organizational change. One of the sessions there was about human resources (HR). This is the department of an organization that is supposed to support individuals within the organization. Here people were talking about how to evaluate the skills of employees, how to train them and the role of leadership in all this. At one point during this session a young woman from the audience got up and confronted a high-ranked HR manager from a large German energy provider, also female, with an interesting subject.

The young woman said that she was at the very beginning of her career. She recently read that a study, which shows that the careers of women are often hindered by other women, not so much by men. This sounded counter intuitive to her, as she thought women would support each other.

The HR lady responded that she has never been hindered by other women or experienced a lack of support for that matter. She continued pointing out this would not happen in her company. All that in a tone, close to scolding. Which in my opinion shows a major lack of sympathy and basically already proves the point of the study. But she continued talking, and not without pride in her voice (paraphrased):

“At our company we do not have a lot of female managers, especially in HR, even though a majority of the people in this division are women. But it’s not that they wouldn’t be able to, they do not want to go for a management career. Many young, skilled, intelligent women tell me that they rather not aim for higher management, the personal investment is way too high. So it’s a matter of choice, not of sexism.”

Instead of thinking critically about what the young woman said and discussing the very serious matter, she basically responds with disrespect and rejects the topic. That made me really mad. And I’m a white male, much further in my career. I can only imagine how the women that asked the question must have felt. Probably not encouraged, inspired or taken seriously, which is a shame, because exactly that is what HR should do. Encourage people, inspire them and take them seriously.

The question behind all this is, why do women not want to go for higher management and why do we want them to do that though. The answer is simple. Because we lack diversity. That’s also the reason why this question is not obvious to all of us. And sadly enough not even to the female HR manager…

Diversity is Valuable

We all want to learn, we all want to develop, it’s in our nature. And nothing supports this more than embracing the huge potential in the differences between and around us. People with different backgrounds add different perspectives, which help us reflect on what we do and what we think we know. That’s how we learn. Your sense of taste won’t develop if you always eat the same things, no successful musician only listens to the same type of music, no athlete just keeps repeating the same exercise. Variety is important.

When it comes to people, diversity relates to everything we can be different in: Gender, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. Even mixing cat and dog people is valuable.

comfortzoneBut instead of mixing we often group with those that are similar. Psychologists explain this by the way our brain is set up. We feel more secure with those that are similar to ourselves, trust them easier. That’s why expats always stick to one another. And within each expat community you’ll find subgroups sorted by nationality. Or maybe by religion or language. And of course all of which are gossiping against each the other groups and all together against the host nation. It’s easier, it’s our comfort zone.

We say that birds of a feather flock together. And it’s true, it’s deeply rooted in our brains. That’s probably how we ended up with racism and sexism to begin with. But humans became very smart. And we found out that those who dare to leave their comfort zone, can achieve higher results. Our history books are full of examples for this. Embrace differences is leaving the personal comfort zone. Which is never easy. For no one. But it might be worth it.

Research shows that teams of knowledge workers, who have to operate creatively, are better equipped when they are staffed heterogeneously. Diverse teams achieve more. Designers collaborating with engineers, technicians with business people, senior with junior. Major synergies spark, when the mix works. But everyone has an experience, where it did not. It was probably build to fail and then served as a reasoning for people to not try again. So now we usually have homogeneous teams, everyone is similar.

Adding new perspectives would be hugely beneficial, though. But we have to want it ourselves, else it will just fail again. So we need to support minorities (i.e. underrepresented genders, age groups, cultures, whatever). And it’s not the minority as such, but it’s about looking at every person’s individual skills and needs, which emerge from their culture, their gender and so on.

If we just give them a desk and tell them our schedules, it will fail again. If we don’t adapt our styles so it comforts others, we will only get those that “convert” to our style. That is not really what we want. No one should have to change who they are in order to be successful. Only if we’re free to be ourselves, we can be truly creative. It’s time to fire the next stage…

Waves of Feminism

Feminism, as in the fight for women’s rights, is being classified in different waves. The first one was about acknowledgment and ended around 100 years ago in the western world (whatever that is). In focus were basic legal issues and to understand that women are people, too, who deserve the right to vote, to drive a car and such.

The second wave of feminism was then about extending the legal equality and had its peak in the 1960s and 1970s in large parts of the western world. Women are able do the same things as men and they have to be allowed to do that, too. Families, education, jobs… we had to adjust our laws so that women had the same options as men and that domestic violence became illegal. It was forbidden for women in Germany to play football until 1970, by the German football association.

Both waves of feminist activity were a revolution mostly dedicated to white middleclass women. According to the norms of the white male. The result, our current reality in large parts of the western world, is that we actually get to meet women in higher management positions. Very few ones, though. And most of those are “masculinized”. They appear in a business look, which is a merely female version of the men’s suit. They have to follow the lifestyle of business men. They have to play according to the rules of patriarchy. Again, not exactly what we have in mind, when we’re thinking about equality. Patriarchy is still up and running.

The third wave of feminism is addressing exactly that, taking care of the individual and their needs. It’s not just about women anymore, it’s about individuals. No privileges due to gender, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, etc. We don’t really know how true equality would look like, but let’s go for it, because more people will be able to live and work the way they want. And happy people are more efficient workers, resulting in products and organizations of higher quality.

What we need to do…

This brings us back to the HR lady from the conference, who said that many women at her company don’t want to go for higher management career, as the demand does not fit their lifestyle. Those are intelligent women that deny being squeezed into a structure that was created for someone else. And so they should!

We have to understand that it’s not their loss, if they don’t want to aim for a career like this, but ours. We need diversity in our societies and organizations. But we are not prepared for that. Expecting others to adopt to our system, which does not work for and barely accepts minorities, is obviously ridiculous. Yet, that is what we keep doing. We’re still stuck in wave 2.

I would expect that HR managers are aware of this. And I would expect that women in management are aware of this. A higher ranked female HR manager that is proud that their management level lacks women, because they use their freedom of choice, is mind-boggling and makes me really mad.

Our business world has been created by white men, to suit their own lives. That is a fact. We might not necessarily see it straight away, but that’s the problem with privileges. They are invisible to those, who have them (Michael Kimmel). We have to find solutions so that people can have a management career and a family at the same time. We have to find solutions so that people of different cultures can collaborate without having to abandon their own background.

Diversity is not necessarily comfortable. But it’s worth it. Let’s get out of our comfort zones. Let’s get rid of patriarchy. Let’s get rid of privileges for majorities, so that we can get rid of majorities. All that hinders diversity, which we need to be better, smarter, more creative and flexible. As a society as well as an organization.

Let’s empower minorities and listen to their needs.

Hi, my name is Karsten and I’m a feminist.


(This blogpost has originally been published here.)

#men4equality – Warum wir nicht mehr auf reinen Männer-Events sprechen wollen

Veranstaltungen und Podien, auf denen lediglich Männer mit Männern sprechen, sind einseitig, unvollständig und nicht repräsentativ – und daher langweilig und irrelevant. Es ist für Zuhörer*innen, Teilnehmer*innen und Veranstalter*innen stets besser, dass solch einseitig besetzte Events gar nicht erst stattfinden, als dass auf qualitativ niedrigem Niveau gesprochen wird. Deshalb haben die Unterzeichner sich entschieden künftig nicht mehr an reinen Männerpodien (all-male panels) teilzunehmen.

Mit der Aktion #men4equality wollen wir Bewusstsein für die Tatsache schaffen, dass die Besetzung von Podien entscheidenden Einfluss auf die Qualität der Debatte hat, die dort geführt wird. Wir verstehen #men4equality als Einladung an Veranstalter*innen schon in der Programmplanung auf diesen Aspekt einzugehen. Wenn sie ein all-male panel planen, müssen wir unsere Teilnahme leider absagen. Solche Veranstaltungen genügen unseren qualitativen Ansprüchen einfach nicht.

Liste der Erstunterzeichner:

  • Rowan Barnett, Senior Director Market Development & Media, Twitter 
  • Torsten Bittlingmeier, Founder TalentManagers
  • Leonhard Dobusch, Professor Universität Innsbruck
  • Thomas Feinen, Geschäftsführer Hoffmann und Campe Verlag
  • Robert Franken, Digitaler Potenzialentfalter
  • Stephan Grabmeier, Chief Innovation Evangelist Haufe-umantis AG
  • Joachim Graf, Zukunftsforscher & Publizist
  • Hendrik Haase aka wurstsack, Aktivist
  • Ralf Heimann, Journalist & Autor 
  • Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Tom Hillenbrand, Journalist & Autor       
  • Mark Hoffmann, Co-Founder & CEO Vertical Media GmbH
  • Simon Hurtz, Journalist      
  • Christoph Kappes, Geschäftsführer Fructus & Sobooks.de
  • Friedemann Karig, Journalist & Autor     
  • Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, Staatssekretär im BMFSFJ   
  • Johannes Kleske, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Wolfgang Lünenbürger-Reidenbach, Geschäftsführer Cohn & Wolfe PR
  • Stephan Noller, Founder ubirch
  • Christian Schiffer, Journalist
  • Igor Schwartzmann, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Michael Seemann, Autor    
  • Martin Speer, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Hakan Tanriverdi, Journalist
  • Tarik Tesfu, Netzkolumnist, YouTuber und Macher von “Tariks Genderkrise”
  • Dirk von Gehlen, Journalist & Autor 
  • Leander Wattig, Veranstalter & Publisher          
  • Felix Wegener, Veranstalter & Blogger    

Hier sind drei kurze Impulse für Veranstalter*innen, wie ein Event aus unserer Sicht relevant wird:

  • Wenn Sie Veranstalter*in sind, dann sorgen Sie für ausgewogene Podien. Es gibt genügend Organisationen, die ihnen dabei helfen exzellente Speakerinnen zu jedem Thema zu finden, wie z.B. speakerinnen.org oder die Women Speaker Foundation.
  • Wenn Sie eine Veranstaltung konzipieren, dann machen Sie ausgeglichene Podien zu einem unverrückbaren Projektziel. Nur wenn eine solche Balance integraler Bestandteil Ihrer Planung ist, kann Ausgeglichenheit gelingen.
  • Beziehen Sie bereits in der Planungsphase Frauen mit ein. So stellen Sie sicher, dass die männliche Perspektive ein Gegengewicht erhält.

Und hier noch vier Tipps, wie man als Mann zu einem Teil der Lösung wird, statt Teil des Problems zu bleiben:

  • Wenn man Sie einlädt auf einer Veranstaltung zu sprechen oder an einer Podiumsdiskussion teilzunehmen, stellen Sie sicher, dass die Balance bzw. Vielfalt gegeben ist.
  • Bevor Sie Ihre Teilnahme zusagen: Fragen Sie, ob die Teilnehmenden nur Männer oder Männer* und Frauen* sind – die Moderation nicht mit eingerechnet. In einigen, wenigen Industrien (uns fällt gerade maximal Bergbau ein) ist ein starker Männerüberschuss vielleicht akzeptabel, viel mehr als 70% deutet hingegen auf mangelnden Willen auf Veranstalter*innen-Seite hin.
  • Sprechen Sie darüber, aus welchen Gründen Sie Ihre Teilnahme abgesagt haben. Sie können nur Aufmerksamkeit für das Thema schaffen indem Sie sich zu Wort melden.
  • Machen Sie Ihr Umfeld auf die Problematik aufmerksam. Fragen Sie ggf. nach, warum jemand kein Problem darin sieht an rein männlich besetzten Diskussionsrunden teilzunehmen. Helfen Sie mit, dass sich mehr Männer ihrer Verantwortung bewusst werden.

Und denken Sie immer daran:

Veranstaltungen, auf denen ausschließlich Männer sprechen, sind uninteressant.

Ausgeglichene Podien müssen unser aller Ziel sein.

Helfen Sie mit dies zu erreichen. Erzählen Sie es weiter! #men4equality

#men4equality – Why we won’t speak at all-male panels any longer

Events and panels, where only men are talking to men, are unrepresentative, one-dimensional and incomplete – and therefore boring and irrelevant. It is better, for audiences, participants and organizers, to call off such one-dimensional events rather than allowing a conversation on a low-quality level. This is why the signatories to this declaration have decided not to take part in all-male panels any more.

With #men4equality we are creating awareness for the fact that the very casting of panel lineups has a massive influence on the quality of the debate itself. We understand men#4equality as an invitation to event organizers to take this important matter into account when preparing their programs. If you’re still planning to have an all-male event, we will have to cancel our participation. Events of such kind simply do not live up to our expectations concerning quality.

List of initial signatories:

  • Rowan Barnett, Senior Director Market Development & Media, Twitter 
  • Torsten Bittlingmeier, Founder TalentManagers
  • Leonhard Dobusch, Professor Universität Innsbruck
  • Thomas Feinen, Geschäftsführer Hoffmann und Campe Verlag
  • Robert Franken, Digitaler Potenzialentfalter
  • Stephan Grabmeier, Chief Innovation Evangelist Haufe-umantis AG
  • Joachim Graf, Zukunftsforscher & Publizist
  • Hendrik Haase aka wurstsack, Aktivist
  • Ralf Heimann, Journalist & Autor 
  • Vincent-Immanuel Herr, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Tom Hillenbrand, Journalist & Autor       
  • Mark Hoffmann, Co-Founder & CEO Vertical Media GmbH
  • Simon Hurtz, Journalist      
  • Christoph Kappes, Geschäftsführer Fructus & Sobooks.de
  • Friedemann Karig, Journalist & Autor 
  • Dr. Ralf Kleindiek, State Secretary Federal Ministry for Family Affairs BMFSFJ 
  • Johannes Kleske, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Wolfgang Lünenbürger-Reidenbach, Geschäftsführer Cohn & Wolfe PR
  • Stephan Noller, Founder ubirch
  • Christian Schiffer, Journalist
  • Igor Schwartzmann, Co-Founder Third Wave
  • Michael Seemann, Autor    
  • Martin Speer, Autor & Aktivist HERR & SPEER
  • Hakan Tanriverdi, Journalist
  • Tarik Tesfu, YouTuber und mastermind behind “Tariks Genderkrise”
  • Dirk von Gehlen, Journalist & Autor     
  • Leander Wattig, Veranstalter & Publisher          
  • Felix Wegener, Veranstalter & Blogger    

Here’s a short list of things you as an event organizer should take into account when trying to make your panel relevant and successful:

  • If you are an event host, get the balance right. Reach out to organizations like e.g. the Women Speaker Foundation or speakerinnen.org in Germany, they can help you find excellent female speakers on virtually any topic.
  • When you are preparing for an event, make sure that you make gender balance your objective and not just some goal. It needs to be an integral part of your conference or panel setup.
  • Think about involving women in your planning process.

And here are just three ideas how you as a man can be(come) part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem:

  • If you’re invited to speak at a conference: Make sure that there’s a balance in diversity among the speakers.
  • Before you take part in a panel discussion: Ask the question whether there are just men on stage or men* and women* in a balanced diversity setup – hostess not included. 70% men may be o.k. in some industries, but more would only mean a lack of effort.
  • Speak out about the reasons for not attending male-only events. If you remain silent, you miss the chance of creating awareness for this problem.
  • Create awareness among your peers. Ask them why they wouldn’t bother reflecting on this issue. Help them make up their minds, too.

Always Remember:

All-male setups are simply boring.

Balanced lineups must become the norm.

Help us change the ratio. Spread the word: #men4equality

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.

Feminism for men  –  a manual

Author: Robert Franken (blogger and digital consultant)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been following the debate on gender equality and feminism. And the longer I’ve listening, the more I can feel how hard it seems to be for men to come to terms with the concept, the vocabulary and their own attitude towards these issues.

This very often leads to a severe lack of participation from the male side in the debate as well as in the organizational change process. And this is the main reason for the whole issue to be somehow stalled: 50 % attention rate simply isn’t enough.

Unfortunately, there is a significant degree of negative agitation and even aggressive animosity withinthis set of topics. Some of my male colleagues not only fail to support the feminist idea, their slogans are often a direct attack on one of the most important questions of our lifetime: How do we want to live and work together in the future?

One could use one’s energy for the search for reasons why male participation is so low or to campaign against more or less open aggression by the male side. But without the knowledge of where the obvious male discomfort is rooted, there won’t be much progress.

From my point of view, there are three categories of men: Continue reading “Feminism for men  –  a manual”