As a man I am constantly horrified by the way so many other men treat women so badly, be they their daughters, wives, sisters, neighbours, fellow worshipers et al. Women are our equals in all things and should never live in fear as a result of men’s actions or beliefs.
Interviewing hundreds of women for my book ‘The Butterfly Room’ which discusses domestic violence and abuse, it was clear ignorant and prejudiced men hate and fear one thing the most: a strong, educated woman. Getting girls educated is key to the success of future equality. Those who wish to demean women & girls are scared of educated females, because they know the power would shift.
There is no question that in developing countries and even in some more developed countries woman are shamelessly treated as second rate.
My book details experiences in South Asian culture and in India, for example, gender inequality is very complex, because due to the caste system, a lot of men are treated as second rate too.
I agree that all of this is appalling and anything that can be done should be done, although how you change the attitudes of nations with far bigger populations than ours from afar, where these things are so deeply ingrained into both their religion and culture is more difficult to envisage.
Thanks to charities like The Sharan Project, I do know that in reality the situation in our own society is in fact highly advanced regarding this issue. However, we cannot be complacent. Rwanda has more female parliamentarians than any other Western countries apart from a few Nordics. We cannot be smug in the West, and have a lot to work on.
We also have to shift attitudes away from feminism being seen as some kind of ‘better than you’ movement. How ironic given what women are fighting for. Feminism is needed more than ever. The atrocities committed against women are exposed every day in the news. It generates a sense of solidarity with all women. Those of us who benefit from the fight of our predecessors must move the battle forward for all women. Feminism is at the centre of the fight for human rights for all people.
As a man, I learned a great deal from the research for my book and I thought I was quite liberal minded. I think empowering women isn’t just a moral imperative, it’s a practical one – we’ll need to harness all our human resources to overcome the global challenges that face us, such as protecting the environment, and devising a fairer means of distributing resources.
In addition, there’s a streak of masculinity that has held a strong grip on the world throughout history which needs to be rooted out. It is vain, bullying, conflict-loving, self-entitled, hostile to difference/complexity, power-hungry, and generally destructive. Women need to be empowered so they can stand against it, and all those men – hopefully the majority – who reject this manifestation of masculinity need to stand at their side.
So some may shrug and simply say “empower women, that’s so 2005” well empowerment is more than just a tag line. What can you do? You can donate to charities like The Sharan Project which work to stop things which go on, or help people who have had bad things happen to them. At home and abroad.
You can also get involved in charities and help organisations put pressure on our government to try and help those involved because if they don’t do it, nobody is going to listen.
Women can also take responsibility themselves too. That might sound arrogant coming from a man but consider the fashion industry. Without naming names, when a lady I was with refused to shop at a certain low price chain because of the appalling conditions of its (mostly female) workers, our mutual friends (women) usually laugh, roll their eyes and generally think my lady friend was being “saintly”. However, it’s one thoroughly practical way we can try to improve the lot of women in those countries. Don’t buy the tat in the first place until the manufacturers improve the lot of their “employees”.
Feminism is social, political and equal rights and treatment of women. It encompasses a broad range of views and opinions on how to achieve that. It is just as important and relevant in the UK as it is anywhere else in the world. For example two women a week die from gender based violence in the UK, only 22% women in parliament and women are the lowest paid and have most care responsibilities. Men control the media only 23% of journalists are women and one editor of a daily national Female medial students outnumber males but males outnumber women in the top jobs and specialisms…we have a long way to go.
People who shout women down for demanding equality and respect this International Women’s Day are bullies. Keep moving ahead instead.