I was having a conversation with a male friend of mine a couple weeks ago. We were discussing the word “feminism,” and how the world has watched its definition unfold at warp speed over the past year. My friend was relaying to me how difficult it was to talk openly about this important topic with women, especially in the era of #MeToo. He explained how in one of his college electives, the female “feminist” Professor made all the boys line up against the wall of the classroom. She asked each of the girls to walk up to them and ask provoking, embarrassing questions such as: “Why do you want to rape me?” This astounded me. I was appalled that an avowed feminist, a so-called “expert” on the subject, would so radically declare null and void the opinions of young men in order to isolate them from the conversation. In the words of my friend: “I want to feel like I’m a part of the conversation, too.”
And he’s right. The truth is: how can we have a global, groundbreaking conversation if half the world isn’t invited to the table?
I have many male friends. I want each one of them to feel like it is okay, and not just okay, but necessary, to voice their opinions, solutions, and ideas for a more balanced, just, and empowered tomorrow. We surely need theirs as much as we need ours.
In 2018, it’s easy to have a distorted view of what being a strong, free, and empowered woman truly means. In fact (and contrary to popular belief) there is no one right definition. A strong, free, and empowered woman looks and sounds different based on geography, class, and culture. In America, the “idealistic woman” can even be blurrier than in many, more notably rigid societies around the world. Does an empowered young woman living in Kabul, Afghanistan define “freedom” in the same way as a young woman living in East London? Most likely not. So, what separates the two?
I invite you to consider the following question: what authentically defines the “empowered woman” as we, in a Westernized culture, have to come to know her? What is the role your own society plays? What is the role your friends play? What is the role social media plays? What is the role you play? These are not trick questions, and no, there isn’t one right answer. Hell, I’m still figuring it out myself.
The word “feminism” has, in the past year alone, bolstered and broadened, while at the same, banned and blacklisted. Not only is the latter not our intention, it is – by all means – counterproductive to the fundamental goal. Of course, there must be consequences when willfully infringing on someone else’s dignity. That’s why protective laws must be enforced and cultural norms must be bravely challenged. In order to achieve equality in all aspects of life, we need to have a respectful and receptive conversation… a conversation that excludes no one and listens to everyone.
To all the men out there, young and old: you are most certainly invited to the table. In fact, not only are you invited, but we can’t commence the conversation until you show up. So, let’s break bread and crack open the wine bottle. Let’s talk, let’s listen, and together… let’s change the world.