My name is Andre Veloux. I am from the United Kingdom, now living in Princeton, New Jersey. I am a husband to my wonderful wife and a father to my inspirational daughter. I am standing up for women’s rights and gender equality both personally and professionally — as an artist — every single day.
You identify yourself as a feminist. Tell me the story of how you came to be (or realize that you were) a feminist.
Right now being a feminist means I want to help raise awareness of the many issues women face today, not limited to sexual assault, domestic violence, rape culture, campus rape, equal pay, body image, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation (FGM), girls’ education and forced marriages. When is this never-ending cycle of abuse of women by men going to stop? How do we stop it unless we take action and all call ourselves “feminists”?
Going back in time, I went to an all-boys school in the U.K. My parents thought it would be good for me, so you could say I more than served my time in an environment of toxic masculinity. By that I would mean rampant bullying, violence, misogyny, homophobia, and more.
I want to say I flatly rejected everything from that time. Of course, I knew what was right and what was wrong with all of it, but it took several years to realize the outside world didn’t have to be a larger version of that environment. Fortunately, I married a great woman, and we were able to take the raw material of ourselves and finally grow up together in an equal relationship, even if by then we were well into our twenties.
Looking back, I was by any standards a feminist by the time my daughter was born. I gave up my job to become a stay-at-home parent, as my wife had the beginnings of a successful career. It never crossed my mind that it should be any different, because this was the best solution for us as a family. We just agreed and did it.
It’s fair to say, I was continually attacked by other men for choosing to take this — in their opinion — inadequate path. They were always asking me when I was going to get a job, when I was going to stop being on holiday, or come out of retirement. It really opened my eyes to how other men undervalue this role. In addition, my own family would treat me as an embarrassment and also say things like my wife was “one of those women” pursuing a career, instead of being where she needed to be. Can you believe it?
We moved to Paris. I remember sitting in an apartment with a very active two-year-old, being able to speak very little French, and not knowing a soul, while my wife had just started a very stressful and time-consuming new job. Of course it was women who came to the rescue; the mothers of the British community in Paris took me in as one of their own and saved me. My life had turned full circle from the torturous days of an all-boys school.
After we moved to the U.S., my daughter grew to become an intelligent, powerful, and inspirational young person in her own right, with the world at her feet. I would call her a feminist, and in fact she is one of the touchstones I go to about my work. We as a family are all in this together.
How does it feel to be a man who identifies himself as a feminist? Do you think it affects how other men see and treat you? How women do?
Absolutely. Most men don’t want to hear any of it. It either makes them uncomfortable or, more likely, they don’t think it has anything to do with them. Sexism and being sexist is such an accepted and normal part of their lives, they can’t understand why I am doing this, especially as an artist. Men so desperately want to talk about my work from a sexist perspective.
You can imagine how they feel when I tell them that their reaction is exactly replicating the unacceptable treatment that women face. It is quite awkward. Only men feel the need to troll me or call me out to my face that I am wasting my time on this. I use it as validation. I call out sexist behavior these days. Sometimes that goes well, but sometimes you feel like you just ended the party.
Women, on the other hand, have been almost universally supportive of my feminist standpoint and work. I have actually been quite taken aback with the level of support. I can listen to women and discuss what feminism means to them in ways that few men seem able to do. It really hits home how women have to deal with all these issues of inequality, judgment, and harassment on a constant basis. So, yes, women treat me very differently.
What are your fears and concerns at this interesting moment in history?
My biggest fear is the lengths that these people went to in order to gain power. Now with the tools of government at their disposal, they will be able to go to even greater lengths to stay in power. By that I mean continuation of voter suppression, intimidation, lies, press manipulation, etc. Surely one of the most basic values of modern democracy is to encourage every person to participate. The government, as it stands, now is literally a threat to women everywhere, not to mention the entire planet.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I’m finding that very hard right now. I hope these marches show that one step backward will result in two steps forward — a future world where at a minimum women do not fear for their safety at home or in public, where women are the ones making choices about their bodies and their own health. I hope there will be a safe and healthy planet for future generations to live on.
I dream that one day men will realize the power and greatness they could unleash if they let every girl and woman realize their potential. I understand, however, that through their own individual and collective inadequacy, this is exactly what they fear. Men have ruled our society literally since the beginning; they have failed every one of us completely and abused women every step of the way. I really have to call myself a “feminist” to stand up to this?
Why are you planning to participate in the Women’s March, and which march are you attending?
Six months ago I was so happy that my work was striking a chord in this great new feminist movement that seemed basically unstoppable. I had so much hope for the future for all girls and women. But then the election happened. I realized I need to fight back, not be passive — to call myself an activist as much as an artist. I need to take every opportunity to stand up to this misogynist bully, his cronies, and those who say they support him. I want to be one of those people who said they stood up for what is right that day. I am standing with my wife and daughter, all the women in my life who inspire me every day, and for women everywhere. I want to be part of something that says we will not accept what this government without mandate stands for. I am attending the march in New York City.
What do you hope the Women’s March will achieve — for you personally and for the world?
Personally, I hope it will help with the raw anger I still feel, that the single most qualified candidate this country has ever had lost to this man who palpably demonstrates everything that is wrong with the patriarchal control of our society. The world will be watching, and I hope it inspires both men and women to continue this fight for everyone’s rights — to say that we are not going to accept this today, tomorrow, or at any time in the future.
[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted via email.]