The recent U.S. presidential election elucidated the massive amount of social, political, economic and environmental work that remains to be done in the world.
For me, the issue that hits closest to home is gender inequality, also known as women’s rights, or feminism.
Women’s Rights Aren’t Just About Women
Not only do women’s rights affect the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of women–an aspect of feminism that interests me greatly as a women’s health practitioner–women’s rights also affect men and children.
In fact, women’s rights affect the entire world. After all, women make up half the population on the planet.
Anyone who has ever felt marginalized sees the world through that oppressed lens.
They possess a hypersensitivity that those who have not felt marginalized do not possess–whether due to the color of their skin, sexuality, gender, physical capability, country of origin or any other state of being.
Men And Women Need To Communicate About Feminism
I am struck by the inherent ways that my husband and I view and process the world around us.
I am consistently pointing out ways in which the media belittles, shames, or simply ignores women and girls, and I am acutely aware of the messages we are sending our young daughters in the words we speak and don’t speak.
Gender inequality is the lens through which I view the world and always have.
If men don’t become aware of this lens, we will never experience gender equality.
Unless you are from one of the six matriarchal or matrilineal modern societies that exist in rural parts of the world today (see list below), then you live in a male-dominated world, aka the patriarchy.
This means that women aren’t valued equally to men, the results of which permeate every aspect of our society.
Women’s stories, voices, work, opinions, contributions, efforts, bodies, and more are not valued or respected equally to men’s in our culture.
If Not Now, When?
Feminist activism is just as imperative and relevant as it’s ever been, but this U.S. presidential election was a wake up call for many people around the world.
I am more motivated and committed than I’ve ever been of using my voice and my talents to lift women up and to spread awareness of the importance not only of women’s rights, but of women’s equality and inherent value.
This post is my attempt to give you a variety of tools to start the conversation in your circles of influence about feminism–what it is, why it’s important, and what you can do to help advance the feminist movement and gender equality.
I am awake, I will stay vigilant. I hope you will, too.
Without further ado, drawing upon my Women’s Studies background and lifelong passion for women’s equality…
What Is A Feminist?
A feminist is anyone who believes in and supports equal rights for women and men socially, politically, and economically.
Men can be feminists, too. In fact, if we’re every going to experience gender equality, men need to become feminists.
If you click on nothing else in this list, watch Emma Watson’s moving UN speech where extends a formal invitation to men to join the feminist movement.
Here’s a link to the HeForShe campaign that Emma talks about in her speech.
The Male Gaze
A crucial concept for men to begin to understand how women experience the world is the “male gaze,” a term coined in 1975 by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey.
The Wikipedia definition of the male gaze is “the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure.”
I believe the male gaze is important for men and women to be aware of because the media strongly influences the way we view the world.
In other words, the media’s portrayal of women shapes the way women and men view women.
When you know this, you can question it and look for more diverse viewpoints.
Matriarchal and Matrilineal Modern Societies
If we’re living in a patriarchy, what does living in a matriarchy look like?
The differences are fascinating to me and worth thinking and talking about. Tons of conversational material here!
Poignant Podcast Episodes
In the first episode listed below, Cheryl and Steve discuss the issues that arose in Cheryl’s marriage following the wildly successful (pun intended) publication of her book, Wild.
Cheryl’s husband calls in to give his point of view.
In the second episode below, pay special attention to the second letter writer’s conundrum who is a “bi-sexual, colored, immigrant woman living in the U.S. who has recently gotten into a relationship with a heterosexual, white man.”
She asks the Sugars how she can help him understand what he’ll never experience.
Feminist Clothing For Him And Her
Need something to wear to the Women’s March on January 21st? Or any time for that matter.
You’ll see my favorite pair of underwear, gifted to me by my best friend. Sooooo comfortable. Gentlemen, great gift idea.
And what better way to show your support than sporting a feminist t-shirt yourself?
Feminist Reading List (Books + Articles)
Feminist TED Talks
I recently attended the TEDx MileHi Women event in Denver, Colorado, where I listened to a full day of TEDx talks centered on women and women’s issues.
My only regret was not bringing my husband and other men in my life.
Two talks stood out to me as being particularly relevant to include in the ongoing feminist dialogue between women and men.
One was an eye-opening and controversial talk by gender equalist Betsy Cairo, a reproductive biologist and professor at University of Northern Colorado, who posed the idea that we need a different word for feminism, which seems to elicit anger and increase the gender divide.
That word is equalism.
The other talk was given by birthing rights activist, writer, and doula Miriam Zoila Perez (which was live-streamed from the TED Women conference in San Francisco) about the success of a new medical model that eliminates the stress of racial, economic, and gender prejudiced treatment of pregnant patients, and how it positively affected their babies’ birth weights.
I loved Perez’s talk because it gave concrete, tangible evidence of how women–specifically, women of color and women who are economically disadvantaged–experience oppression in their bodies, which is something I would love for men to understand.
Unfortunately, Perez’s talk is not yet released on video, but keep checking back to her website (listed below) to watch it when it becomes available.
Next time you watch a movie, ask yourself these three questions:
1) Does this movie have more than one female character in it (who also have names)?
2) Do the female characters talk to each other?
3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
You will be AMAZED by how many films do not meet these extremely low requirements, also known as the Bechdel test.
Gender Balanced Search Engine Plugin
The fact that this exists should be a wake-up call in and of itself.
This list is by no means exhaustive, I would love for you to add any links or resources in the comments below.
Please share with the women and men in your life and let’s keep the conversation going.
Photo: Lisa Rundall Photography
Outfit Styling: Hirs & Co