“To put up a good fight, it works well to think your adversary is evil.Then you can hate your enemy and hate can fuel many confrontations. But in our hearts, we naturally love men. Just as men naturally love women.”
~ Alison Armstrong in Keys to the Kingdom
The word “feminist” has a negative taste for some—especially some men.
Throughout the word’s history, some people (men and women) have chosen to fight for women’s rights by making men evil adversaries because, as Alison Armstrong wrote, every fight needs an adversary, and making your adversary evil can powerfully fuel the fight.
But at its core, the essence of feminism is a worthy one. Being a “feminist” doesn’t mean we have to set women on pedestals and toss men under buses. It simply means we can stand for every woman’s right to live fully free of oppression, just as any man that has that same right.
It’s that simple. Being a feminist means I stand for all women to be able to live on this planet with the same rights and freedoms I enjoy as a man. Nothing less. Nothing more.
I believe being a feminist, in its truest essence, is a label every man should be eager and proud to wear. Here’s seven specific reasons why:
1) It’s our sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives and daughters the world is still mistreating every day.
If you personally know a woman—I’m not sure how you could not—then you almost certainly know a woman who is regularly harassed, demeaned, accosted (subtly or otherwise), professionally overlooked and denied, or has been the victim of sexual abuse.
One in five women in the U.S. is sexually abused in their lifetime. Countless women are harassed on the streets everyday, in classrooms, while jogging, at the office or the grocery store. While this isn’t as much about equality for women, it is absolutely about how men value women in general.
I am passionate about creating a world in which my three sisters, two mothers and someday wife (wherever she is now) can walk through the world knowing the men in their midst value them as far more than warm bodies for their pleasure and control. So call me a feminist. I’m in.
2) Businesses can thrive with women in leadership roles.
A recent report by Credit Suisse Research Institute found that companies with women in senior leadership positions fare better on average—including higher return on equity and higher payout ratios—than companies without even one woman at the executive management level.
In fact, major corporations with women CEOs also generally perform better than businesses with male CEOs. Yet only 5% of Fortune 1,000 companies are run by women. And women are forced out of their CEO positions at a rate higher than men (as opposed to leaving voluntarily). Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg wrote, “It should be a badge of honor for men to mentor women.” It would also just be wise for every economy in the world. According to the World Bank, closing the joblessness gap between women and men would increase the GDP of developing countries on average 1.2% in just one year. Imagine if many of those women went on to become business leaders, too.
This doesn’t mean men shouldn’t run businesses, or that women are simply better at it. It just means there’s a lot men can learn from women about how to manage well, and research bears this out. According to a study by KLCM, more people prefer leaders who embody management styles more common in women than men. The report says “female leaders are seen as markedly better at displaying far more of the attributes deemed important for effective leaders.” Simply put, women lead good businesses and benefit economies. Hiring a woman to run your company might be a brilliant call. So might proudly calling yourself a feminist.
3) They are the Mothers to your children.
Mom is likely the human your children will have the most direct contact with for the first 18 years of their lives. They will learn so much about the world from their mothers. Today, close to 20% of American adults may be clinically depressed, with women twice as likely to be so, many of them mothers.
Why isn’t this a recognized national crisis? Research shows babies of stressed-out mothers experience more mood disorders later in life. There are other negative effects of stressed-out moms, too, the least of which is stressed-out kids. Don’t we want our children exposed to women who everyday feel safe, happy, fulfilled in their lives? Absolutely we do!
By taking an active stand to ensure women are not just equally valued, but truly honored throughout society, we play a real part in ensuring women are safe to fully live in their joy, and thus help raise our children happier and healthier.
4) A happy lifetime partner is good for you.
As a man, some part of you lives to see your woman radiant and genuinely happy. If she isn’t thrilled about her everyday life, you won’t be, either. Not because she’s responsible for your feelings (she’s not), but because one of the best gifts she could ever give you is her authentic happiness. If she’s happy, it’s easier for you to be happy.
If you’ve ever had a relationship with a woman, you know what I’m talking about. Since you’re going to spend more time with this one person than any other on the planet, and for a very long time if you’re lucky, wouldn’t you want her to be fully empowered to live in ways that light her up and make her happy?
If you insist on the right of women to live as true equals—not the same, but equal—safe and free to pursue life, liberty and happiness, you’ll be your woman’s hero forever. Your own woman will even gladly let you call her “your woman” because she’ll be so proud to stand beside a man who claims the world for her and all her sisters, daughters and mothers. Her admiration is the next best gift she could give you after her own happiness. Being her hero really turns her on, too, you sexy feminist, you.
5) A strong woman can make you a better man.
Throughout my life, women have made me a better man. Mom held my early world together with almost impossible strength and conviction. She was a single mom pulling midnight shifts at a Washington D.C. crisis center, and I would sleep under a conference table while she worked to create a stable world in which I could explore, play, learn, eat well and grow stronger.
After mom, as I journeyed into adulthood, strong women peers started holding my masculine feet in the transformational fires of romantic love. They were forcing me to burn away all the adolescent bullsh*t stories, confusion and fears I was living in that prevented me from showing up as a man and loving them fully. No one had ever taught me how to really love a woman. No man taught me how to be a man, either, or what that even meant.
It has mostly been amazing female friends and passionate lovers who enabled the mature masculine man in me to eventually awaken. Whether through their loving patience and mysterious feminine vision, or through fiery rage when I showed up a boy rather than the man they yearned for, women have always been the wild, fierce winds slowly sculpting me into a much better man.
I’m honored to call myself a feminist for their service to my evolution as a man.
6) Women are not the enemy.
Many of us were taught since childhood to view girls with suspicion. They’ll distract us, make us sin and seduce us into craziness. They throw weird, are weak and unstable. They’re a burden to be carried and put up with. These are the tall tales told by men still afraid of the immense and mysterious power that is woman.
But like yin and yang bound together in one perfect circle, always flowing one into the other in an endless dance of opposites, we are forever joined in divine partnership with our female counterparts. We can resist this primal, sometimes chaotic dance, or embrace it. When we resist, we create the war of the sexes. That war is a lie. There is resistance to the partnership, but no real war. The moment we fully embrace women as our true equal partners in life, we end this made-up war.
7) As women thrive, so shall the planet thrive.
Women are half the global population. They’re half the people in your city, your neighborhood. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Women are subject to awful injustices everyday, everywhere. Sure, men are, too, often at the hands of other men. But in calling myself a feminist, I speak the language of a devoted humanist, committed to creating a world in which all people can thrive. Clearly, a consequence of a better world for women will be a world better for men, too.
I’m a proud feminist. Are you?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own