The fight for true gender equality is one which has been around for centuries, and while there are notable instances of movements and success across the world throughout history, what is more notable is the much more recent rise in the numbers of people calling for what right in recent years.
What I am saying does not of course suggest that the proportion of women who care about true equality has suddenly risen, rather it shows that through previous successes, they have been enabled to speak out further and louder than before and stand up for what is right, and through new mediums of social media, have been able to spread their voices further than before — It is unlikely that any of the Women’s March events in the past 12 months would have seen such a faith in humanity restoring turn out if it were not for modern forms of communications allowing the message to be spread from city to city, country to country and continent to continent.
Also clear in more recent years is the number of men who are standing up to also fight for equal rights for women. While many of these are well-intentioned however, it is clear that there are still many more who either don’t stand up at all, or stand up without conviction, as evidenced through their declarative statements that they ‘believe all women should be entitled to free birth control and the right to live without harassment’ being followed by the word ‘but’, or their tendency to focus not on the real issue, but how women must somehow in their mind be the cause of it.
It is this current stance by so many men that means while there are some media outlets claim men are having a bad week, I can only disagree and say what we are having isn’t a bad one, it’s a shameful one. The fight for women’s rights is not only a fight for women, it’s one for everyone, and every single man that claims to love a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, wife, girlfriend or friend has an obligation to make themselves part of that fight.
The allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein are ones which show that there is still a fundamental issue within Hollywood and the creative industries as a whole, no matter how accepting or progressive they may sometimes come across as, and that issue is how easy it still is for men to be able to get away with such actions for so long. While it is clear that one of the major contributors to enabling of such harassment is the nature of such industries allowing Weinstein to further abuse the same power that allowed him to commit such acts to also silence those he committed them against, it is not the fault of women that he has been able to get into such a position, it is the fault of men who have created such an enabling environment.
Of course, there are many men who every day don’t realize they are part of the problem that exists. It only takes a quick look online to see how many are happy to brag about how many women they have been able to sleep with or joke about harassing ways to flirt, all the while thinking that they are just being typical ‘men’ or having a ‘laugh’. It is this sort of attitude which men have a responsibility to change, whether that be in the way we act ourselves or, more importantly, whether or not we call it out for what it is when it happens.
Adding to their list of attacks on women over the past year, the Trump administration also this week announced that they would be rolling back an Obama era legislation that required the coverage of birth control in employer provided health insurance. As an issue which has been hard to miss hearing about in the past few days, it is clear by now the negative impact such a move will clearly have on the lives and health of millions of women across America. What has been much easier to miss however is the men who are prepared to call out this clear attack on women’s rights for what it is.
It is okay for other men to be claiming they support equal rights for women, but until they are prepared to actively acknowledge that the fight for fundamental things such as access free birth control, and the creation of an environment where women are able to speak out about sexual harassment openly straight away, then those claims are empty. Men don’t only have an obligation to call out harassment and attacks on fundamental rights for what they are, we have an obligation to call out men who don’t.