For the 58th time The United Nations hosted one of its largest annual events, the Commission on the Status of Women. 5000+ feminists, womanists, mothers, daughters, and sisters, from all over the world gathered in solidarity to uplift critical issues regarding women and girl’s rights. And then there was me…a he.
As a male attendee I found myself in a unique position, and I had a few questions: What was my role at CSW? Moreover, what is my role as a man in the fight for women and girl’s rights? Do men even have a role? One week after the start of the 58th Commission on the Status of Women, I now have a few answers to accompany those questions, following careful thought and reflection.
My role at CSW was to not only hear what was being said, but to also listen intently, because hearing and listening are very different. Hearing is simply the perception of sound; if you aren’t hearing-impaired, hearing just happens. Listening on the other hand, is something you consciously choose to do. It’s concentration on processing meaning from what you are hearing. Listening, then…leads to learning. By listening, I learned about the successes and the failures of the millennium develop goals as it relates to gender equality, and I learned that in order to sustain those goals, she for she won’t suffice. But she for she + he for she makes for a formidable opponent to the opposition of gender justice, and together we for she can make a difference. My role at CSW was to listen, then learn, then use what I’d learned to speak up and speak out against the denial of the human rights of women and girls.
It’s my role as a man to not only be an ally for women and girl’s rights, but to also be an advocate, because being an ally and being an advocate are very different. In this context, an ally is one who simply supports women. Alliance however, is an inactive gesture. *Thumbs up!* “Hang in there!” “I’m rooting for you!” An ally is essentially a cheerleader standing on the sideline. But an advocate is an active partner cheering women on by accompanying them in the race; running along side she because he realizes his liberation is bound to hers. Even when she has not fully embraced he as a partner in seeking gender justice, a male advocate still fights for she, in-spite of her resistance. Many times during the 58th Commission on the Status of Women did it feel more like the omission of the participation of men. In retrospect I understand the burden carried by the women present at CSW and how that weight often manifested into tension toward components of patriarchy. Nonetheless, I was not discouraged or deterred in my role. I am not simply a male ally. I’m an advocate; and as an advocate I’m committed to he for she even when we don’t see eye to eye.
In fact, men not only have a role but we have a responsibility to defend the rights of women and girls if we consider ourselves partners with she in the pilgrimage of gender justice. It’s our mandate to recognize our male privilege and utilize it in the arenas that women are not present, to ensure they have a seat at the table. It’s the only way to dismantle the pillars of gender injustice, inequality, and inequity in board rooms, court rooms, operation rooms, and church pulpits. No structure of marginalizing power has ever been overcome without active support from a dissenting member of that very same power structure. American slavery could not have been overcome if not for the active support of white abolitionists. The Holocaust would have been far worse if it were not for German allies to oppressed Jews. The LGBTQ movement for equal rights under the law would not be an ongoing reality if not for hetero-normative partners. South African apartheid would not have ended if not for the unapologetic voices of white South Africans. The Israeli occupation in Palestine will not cease without Israeli disobedience to Zionism, misguided nationalism and the politics of fear. Likewise, demolishing the oppressive and suppressive paradigm of patriarchy CANNOT and WILL NOT happen without the active advocacy of members of the very power structure we for she seek to conquer: patriarchs.
For the 58th time The United Nations hosted one of its largest annual events, the Commission on the Status of Women. 5000+ feminists, womanists, mothers, daughters, and sisters, from all over the world gathered in solidarity to uplift critical issues regarding women and girl’s rights. And then there was me…a he for she. Won’t you join us? http://www.heforshe.org/