I was speaking at an event this week when someone asked a question I’ve been asked a hundred times before: How can feminists do a better job of reaching men? It’s a reasonable query, and for years I’ve answered it by pointing out all the ways women can talk to the men in their lives about feminism, and how they can help. But this time, I’d run out of patience.
I answered that I don’t really care about reaching men anymore. It’s too exhausting, too demeaning. It’s absurd that a woman should have to persuade someone else of her humanity (which is, remember, what feminism is actually about).
That’s not to say I don’t think men’s support is necessary for women to make real progress. It is. But men can and should figure out for themselves how to be a true ally to women — without creating more work for us.
We should not have to “bring you along”; you should be outraged already.
Right now, we are living under the most explicitly misogynist president in modern history, in a country where an accused sexual abuser was just appointed to the Supreme Court. Women are being killed for saying no to men. Ohio has passed a bill that makes abortion a crime if the fetus has a heartbeat. And the wage gap is actually much wider than we originally thought.
Men, if you see all of this and still require convincing — why in the world would we want you on our side? How can we trust a person who can look at the victim blaming and backlash, the discrimination and bigotry, and still not be sure that feminism is necessary?
We should not have to persuade you or try to “bring you along”; you should be outraged already. And not just because we are your “wives, daughters, or mothers” — but because we are people.
Maybe you are outraged — that’s great! Now, are you doing something about it? Because while we appreciate your retweets and the moral support you offer us in private, it’s not enough. A new poll shows that only 45 percent of U.S. men are comfortable with the idea of a female president. Are you out there talking to other 55 percent about what the fuck is wrong with them?
When I look at who is doing the phone-banking and door-knocking, I see a lot of women. When I look at who is marching, I see a lot of women. Where are you? I know that all the news coverage of women’s wins and feminist cultural gains make it seem as if we have this whole thing handled; I assure you that we do not. We are exhausted. Fighting this fight is a full-time job, and we have to do it on top of working every day and doing the second shift at home, where women still are largely the ones taking care of the kids, cooking the dinner, and picking up your socks.
So, expecting women to explain how you can help is just a way of creating more work for those of us who are already tapped dry.
You are smart. You can see what issues are most urgent by reading the newspaper or sites like this one: we are writing, and talking, and sharing articles about what matters to us every day. Men, if you hear all this and still require convincing that the issues we face are real, and important, and painful, then we may not want you on our side after all.
I realize this may come across as harsh (maybe we’d be more pleasant if we didn’t feel as if the world was crashing in around us 24 hours a day). But the truth is that expecting your support — without having to do the work of bringing you along — isn’t a symptom of rage. It’s a sign of hope.