Queer Eye | Issue 26
Now I don’t want to focus on what might be wrong with this this speech but rather focus on what was right. In my humble cisgender male perspective, it is important to continue extending an invitation to men to take an active role in movements that promote gender equality and to do so in a non-threatening way. Many men want to be better and to do better but have no idea where to begin. I specifically believe it is the role of men who have already begun a feminist journey to be evangelists for other men to join in.
One person who helped me on my feminist journey was a blogger called Michael Urbina who penned an article called “101 Everyday Ways for Men to Be Allies to Women.” Reading this I rejoiced (in quiet smugness) at how many of his suggestions I was either consciously or subconsciously already doing. I also enjoyed fun tips, like: “Turn magazines that promote sexism and unhealthy body image backwards at your local supermarkets and newsstands.” This whole feminism thing sounded fun, achievable and a way in which I could be a great ally for women!
There were a couple of tips, though, which I thought were a bit silly and over the top. One said, “Walk on the other side of the street when a woman is walking towards you at night.” I thought this was a little ridiculous especially in the well-lit and safe streets of Dunedin. Of course this was my male privilege at work as I was to find out just a couple of weeks later.
It happened to be evening and I was walking home from the Octagon when I turned a corner and ended up on an empty street following a lone women. By the looks of her mat and clothes she had just left a yoga class. It was autumn so I was in my usual black jacket and I should mention that I have a fairly tall and broad build. I was following her at what I thought was a safe distance of about 50 metres but she heard my steps and glanced behind her. My silhouette was clearly disturbing to her as she kept glancing back as she picked up her pace. Her glances became more and more anxious as she upped her pace into a sprint. I stopped, stunned as I realised that she was terrified about being along on an empty street with me just because of my size and gender.
So, men: I join with Emma Watson to call on you to become a part of the movement for gender equality. To do this you must first educate yourself. Read some articles, read some blogs and, most importantly, read books written by Bell Hooks, Betty Friedan, Virginia Woolf, Judith Butler and Margaret Atwood. Then take your learning and apply it in your everyday life by understanding your privileges and taking concrete steps to challenge them.