19 Ways Men Can Help in the Fight for Equality
On the heels of the #MeToo campaign, as more and more men are being added to the long list of predators, we’ve seen a lot of different reactions from men. Some of them are dismissive — women are just trying to get their 15 minutes! Some of them are disbelieving — assault can’t really be that prevalent, right? But some are saying, “This is awful — how can we help?”
Those are the good ones, and we want to focus on the good men—because they are out there (they have to be, right???). If you consider yourself to be a good man, this one’s for you. If you are a woman who knows a good man, send this to them. Because there’s always, always, always room for improvement. And the ongoing fight for equality could really use your help, guys.
(We also recorded an entire podcast on this topic, so if you want more in-depth examples on how you can help, listen below!)
1. Continue to Treat Women With Respect
If you’re already a good man who treats women like the human beings that they are, you’re already making a difference. Just keep doing it. (But don’t ask for credit for doing it. We’re not passing out cookies here.)
2. Listen and Empathize
You will never be able to truly know or understand what women go through, but you can believe us when we tell you without getting defensive and saying “but not all men…” Yes, we know “not all men.” That’s why we’re confiding in YOU.
3. Don’t Accuse Women of Exaggerating
When #MeToo first became popular, a lot of men were shocked. Which is understandable to a certain extent, but yes, it REALLY DOES HAPPEN THAT OFTEN. Here is where we would really like to provide screenshots from Facebook and Twitter, but we don’t want to be flooded out of house and home by male tears. So instead we’ll provide facts: Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Nine out of 10 of them are women. One out of six women has experienced attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. We could go on, or you could check out the statistics around sexual assault for yourself on RAINN. (Or you could just watch this amazing SNL skit on the daily crap women go through.)
4. Call Out Bad Behavior
Don’t make excuses for your friends. They’re not just being “bros” and it’s not “just locker room talk.” If you hear a dude say something creepy or you witness inappropriate behavior, please help out the women in the room by speaking up. As sad as this truth is, men are much more willing to listen to other men; when a woman speaks up for herself or for another woman, she’s often accused of being a “bitch” with “no sense of humor” and this can further isolate an already-isolated-enough issue.
When you hear a story, read an article, or get called out for something you’ve said, really stop to think. Not only about your actions or beliefs, but the norms society has placed on men and women as well. When a woman challenges you with, “But would you say that about a woman?” or something of a similar vein, keep in mind that she is not accusing you of being sexist; she is simply asking you to really think and put yourself in her shoes. Because chances are, if we’re confiding in you about awful experiences, we’re not talking about you.
6. Think Even Harder About the Issues That Affect You Personally
When something is personal, you’re more likely to have an emotional response instead of a logical one. If your fiance/wife doesn’t want to take your last name, think about how unfair it is for women to be expected to change their entire identity; don’t just get upset that they don’t want to keep with tradition, and definitely don’t take it as an attack on you/your last name/your family. Think about why that same expectation isn’t placed on men. Think, read, listen, without getting mad (unless you wanna get mad at the patriarchy).
Buzzfeed says it best: “Whenever a woman expresses an opinion that makes you feel uncomfortable, try to understand why it makes you feel that way instead of getting defensive or belittling her.”
7. Try to Steer Clear of Hurtful Terms (Because They Probably Have a Sexist History and Connotation)
Don’t call your girlfriend or ex-girlfriend “crazy.” Don’t comment on the way your girlfriend’s friend dresses. Don’t call a female co-worker a “bitch” for speaking to you the way a male co-worker would. Whether you’re aware of it or not, a lot of these terms come with a whole lot of gendered baggage. And again, think—would you use these same words to describe your male friends or co-workers?
If you’d like to see a comprehensive list of sexist words to avoid, check out this “Almost A-Z List” from Feminist Fight Club.
8. Watch Female-Led TV Shows and Movies
Think about it: No woman in the history of the world has ever said Iron Man, James Bond, or The Arrow are “too manly.” But how many times have you said “no” to watching something because it’s a “girl show?” Watch Gilmore Girls. Watch Jane the Virgin. Watch Wonder Woman. If you think women are “confusing” or “complicated,” maybe it’s because you’ve never actually put yourself in their shoes. You’d be surprised at how easy it actually is (and how much you’ll enjoy these TV shows and movies). Not to mention, by supporting female-led TV shows and movies, which will pave the way for more women in film.
9. Treat Young Girls The Same Way You Treat Boys
As a parent, ask your daughter to take out the garbage instead of washing the dishes. Not that anyone likes taking out the garbage – just that chores shouldn’t be gendered. Teach your son that women are human beings who deserve to be treated equally and with respect. They are not here for your entertainment or to cook your meals. Ask a little girl about what book she’s reading instead of telling her how pretty she looks.
And actually, it works both ways. If your son wants to play with a Barbie, let him play with it. Ross from Friends didn’t let his little boy play with Barbies. And you don’t want to be like Ross, right? Right.
10. Use Paternity Leave
Your wife grew a human being inside of her (and gave up drinking) for nine months and pushed that sucker out; you can stay home for a while and help her. This responsibility is not and should not be all on her; you participated in creating that thing.
Fellas, you might be saying, “But I don’t have paternity leave!” and to that, I say, if you don’t have Paternity leave, start asking “why.” As a dude in society, you’re in a position with some power to affect change.
11. Divide Household Responsibilities Evenly
That means cooking, cleaning, and walking the dogs (and/or scooping the kitty litter). And again, don’t look for applause; it’s just as much your job as it is hers, and you might not actually be pulling as much weight as you think you are.
Pay attention to things like women cleaning the table and doing the dishes while men sit and watch TV—especially during the holidays. Get up and help. Don’t think that it matters if you kick back just this once? Kids learn to undervalue women from watching how the adult people in their lives behave.
12. Don’t Treat Your Spouse Like a “Nag”
Women have been conditioned to take on all the household responsibilities until she explodes on you the same way men have been conditioned to see a dirty dish and assume someone else will wash it. In the words of Pamela Clark for XOJane: “If she is ‘nagging,’ you are probably lagging.”
13. Educate Yourself on Consent
Even if you’re in a relationship or married, everyone reserves the right to say “no.” Even if they’re smiling while they say it (they’re probably trying to be as nice as possible as not to offend you or piss you off). Even if they don’t have “a good reason.” No means no, not maybe. Not try harder.
14. Respect the Women You Work With
Ask your female co-workers to join you at lunch instead of forming a boys’ club. If your boss or superior is a woman, respect her the same way you would a male boss. AKA don’t call her a “boss lady.” She’s just a “boss.”
15. Amplify Their Voices; Don’t Talk Over Them
Give women the credit they deserve and don’t steal their ideas. If a woman spoke up with a great idea and you want to discuss it further, call attention to her great idea, and then add your thoughts. Female staffers at the White House used this strategy with great success, and if it’s good enough for the people who run our country, it’s good enough for your conference room.
16. Try Out The Rock Test
If you wouldn’t say it or do it to Dwayne The Rock Johnson, don’t say or do it to a woman. And then take a minute to ask yourself why you’d feel more comfortable with the idea of saying that to a woman than to The Rock. We’ll wait.
17. Understand That Your “Compliments” Can Offend Women
Whether it’s catcalling (which is disgusting) or hitting on a woman because she’s “just so beautiful,” you’re not doing women any favors. They probably knew they were hot without you yelling it at them from your car. Chances are they own quite a few mirrors. (And if they don’t know how amazing they are, they need to learn how to build their self-esteem on their own without accumulating it from fleeting compliments about their appearance.)
While genuine compliments can be welcome in the right setting (aka don’t tell a waitress or cashier how she’s “too pretty to work there;” she’ll feel compelled to be nice just so she doesn’t lose her tip or get in trouble with her boss, which is an inappropriate abuse of power), just keep in mind that a woman owes you nothing for said compliment. She does not owe you her number. She does not owe you dinner. She does not owe you literally anything. So if you still want to tell a woman how beautiful she is, without expecting anything in return, then proceed. Or prepare for the consequences.
18. Get Involved in Politics
Then stay involved. Vote for candidates who value women and women’s issues. Donate to their campaigns.
19. Use Your Privilege for Good
If you feel bad about making more money than women (as you should) (and yes, you do make more; let the numbers speak for themselves), donate to female-centric charities. If you’re in a position of power, use it for good. When you notice that a woman in the office is always stuck making coffee, speak up! Or make it yourself! There aren’t any women at the executive level of your company? Start trying to change it.
Articles we referenced and bonus resources:
- METRO | Here’s a List of Ways in Which Men Can Actually Help Women
- XO Jane | 35 Practical Steps Men Can Take to Support Feminism
- Bazaar | Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up
- The Cut | Obama’s Female Staffers Came Up With a Genius Strategy to Make Sure Their Voices Were Heard
- Buzzfeed | 11 Simple Things Men Can Do for Feminism
- The Washington Post | Where Do Kids Learn to Undervalue Women? From Their Parents.
- The Cut | Why Men Think They’re Doing More Chores Than They Actually Are
- Bitch Media | Don’t Say I’m “Dramatic” An Almost A-Z List of Words to Avoid When Talking About Women
Follow Meleah on Twitter: @meleahbowles
Last modified on May 24th, 2018