CAN I CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST?
In the wake of the #metoo movement, it seemed like there was a tsunami of men calling themselves 'feminists'. But whether that was a sudden realisation on the part of the individual, or a roguish marketing tactic, is debatable.
Even in the case of genuine proclamation, the question arises - can a man, not having lived a female's experience, indeed be a feminist?
While some women consider it a sign of support, others find the concept of a male feminist uncomfortable. And it's understandable. After all, how can a man claim to speak for women on issues they have not faced themselves?
As a man behind a female-brand, it's a consideration I must confront myself with daily.
Celestree, in many ways, celebrates the story of women. And while I would never claim to know all that it takes to be a woman, I have for a long time been drawn to the feminist ideal.
Strong women have surrounded, supported and guided me my whole life. People like my mother and late-wife, my sister, partner and even my daughter give me hope as to what a female-led world can accomplish.
It's not that men are inherently bad or are solely responsible for the broken parts of our world. But in their dominance, the contributions that women can make have been largely ignored or compromised.
Much of this is the result of conditioning.
Brothers and sisters alike have been taught what they can and cannot do. So profoundly ingrained are these gender-based concepts that even today, it's easier for a woman to accept the limits placed on her, than rise to her true potential.
As a father, this frightens me. The last thing I want is for my daughter to restrict herself from being all she can be. A restraining mindset is in many ways more dangerous than physical barriers, simply because its effects are less obvious but considerably more damaging.
For instance, have you ever stopped yourself wearing something because you worried what people would say? Have you found yourself apologising for expressing an opinion because it made you sound domineering?
Mindset and stereotypes aside, the fight for equality is challenged by systemic boundaries. The rights, privileges and opportunities men take for granted are often a far-fetched dream for their female counterparts. Even when it's not blatantly obvious, the system that gives men a leg-up does so while inconspicuously discriminating against women.
It is because I am aware of the plight that women face I feel more strongly connected with the feminist movement than that of equalism.
Both ideologies are focused on equal rights among all individuals. But while feminists emphasise the underprivileged status of women, equalists contend that focusing on female rights can imply their greater importance, compared to those of men.
Never has the phrase, "same same, but different", been more accurate. Both movements advocate a just and fair society, where everyone is afforded the same rights, privileges and opportunities, without discrimination. Yet they approach these goals distinctly.
My internal conviction contends that correcting the current imbalance between the rights of women and men is integral to overall equality. That's why if I can only accomplish one thing through Celestree, I hope it's that I can remind women of their brilliance and power.
Whether that makes me a feminist, a feminist ally, or merely a proponent of equal rights, is irrelevant. What's important is that I do my part to encourage women to look within themselves and be empowered by their own merit and undeniable strength.
I am not a man speaking for women. Nor am I a man permitting women to recognise their potential. I am simply an individual who believes that self-empowered women, with the same rights and opportunities as men, can raise up all of humanity.
Equality between the sexes will create a better world for us all.
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