Tokenistic and infuriating, diversity days are part of the problem not the solution.
I’m done with the 8th of March.
I’m done with this 24-hour female bonanza, where my social media will be flooded with #empowerment, #feminism, and of course, #metoo. I’m done with calls for equal pay. I’m done with being told that women have discovered their voice.
I’m done because International Women’s Day is a testament to a society that needs to allocate a symbolic day to an issue that should be part of a daily conversation. That may have been the case in the past, but just as the social conversation has naturally progressed into the #metoo era, as too could the way in which we shape the triggers of those conversations.
In a similar vein to Frances McDormand’s Best Actress speech at the 2018 Oscars: keep reading, because I’ve got some things to say.
Forget diversity days – it’s time to change the system for good. Women have not discovered their voice, it’s always been there. Worried about (thank you, President Trump, for this turn of phrase) being “destroyed by a mere allegation”? Suck up being born at a time of endemic change. Feeling afraid of being accused of sexual misconduct and being dragged under by the #metoo anchor? Imagine how afraid women have felt forever.
A note to men: Welcome to the era of redefining what it means to be a man. We are so lucky to be growing up in this revolutionary time - either become an agent of change, or get left behind. After all, we are the first #metoo natives – the first generation to begin to grow up knowing we are not part of the problem, we are the problem.
So we’re trying to fix it. We call each other out on the way we treat the women in our lives, from our girlfriends to our mothers. We’re confident enough to shush and listen to these women, not feeling manly by talking over them. We’re fearless enough to explore our hearts. We’re ambitious enough to begin to create a world where, as actor Justin Baldoni said so eloquently in his January TED talk, “we don’t have to live in a world where a woman has to risk everything and come forward to say the words “me too.”
If you’re a millennial male who uses today to whinge as to why there is no International Men’s Day, I shall be deleting you from my network.
A note to women: As Baldoni also expressed, as young men, we need your help. We need you to help us discover our vulnerabilities, to recondition our entrenched behaviours and to become better men. We always have needed your help – the only difference now is that society has now given you permission to shout your advice from a point of power, not whisper it in the depths of ‘radical feminism’. We need you to remind us that International Women’s Day is not symbolic – it’s how we need to see our mums, sisters, girlfriends and friends every day.
We also need your patience. This change will not happen overnight. We will say ignorant things, we try to act ‘manly’, we will probably try to pursue muscles, money and manhood.
Radical feminism isn’t something you do in words only or social media posts. Taking responsibility in tangible small ways is a good place to begin: leave air space at your family dinner table, don’t always ask your partner to reduce her feelings into ‘reasons’, acknowledge virtues no recognised by pay-grades or pieces of paper. In order to take the burden off women to assert their equality, we mustn’t leave it to them to aggressively push an agenda – it should be our agenda too. We must learn to ask questions rather than make statements, to invite and open the door rather than leave women to push it open with all their force.
The natural evolution of the #metoo movement must become #howto. The answer does not lie in a Women’s Day, it lies in a Women’s Decade.
I really believe that the first step in addressing the #howto is to have a conversation about the problem – me. We need to think about how I, as a 23 year-old male, treat the women around me.
Happy International Women’s Decade.