On International Women’s Day I want to take a moment and reflect on getting men involved in the conversation around gender equality.
One of the best sessions at the Australia India Youth Dialogue earlier this year was one that discussed gender equality.
I discovered during the session that unfortunately gender issues tend to be confined to being women driven even if men consciously try to engage. This is not because women do not provide that space for men to engage, rather it is due to an inherent fear a lot of men have about being insensitive.
The classic example at the panel itself was when as the Steering committee of the Dialogue we assumed that all panelists and moderators should be women. While we did not actively exclude men, we did not consider that option either. It was however pointed out very quickly by the moderator, Smita Sharma that if challenges of gender equality are to be overcome, men need to be engaged in the conversation.
The same point was raised the a few weeks ago by Christine Lagarde on ABC’s Q&A where while discussing progress of women, she said
… is making sure men and powerful men, like [Tony Jones], for instance, are on board and take ownership of the project. Because I believe that it’s not something that will be a woman’s business, a woman’s affair, but it’s going to be a human affair, and to have both men and women endorsing the project of these equal opportunities, of this fair access, of looking at the constraints in a very practical way to get things done is exactly the right way to go.
One of the key challenges I suppose through the process is not only encouraging male feminism but also actively showing support for it. Making men feel comfortable in the conversation is critical to gender equality.
While it may sound ironic, making male feminists sexy in the mainstream will go a long way to contributing to the broader gender equality conversation. Next time I see a man take a positive stand on gender equality I will make sure I vocally support that stand and highlight its importance.