Last week I was afforded the opportunity to sit down and listen to a panel of millennial and perennial women leaders have a discussion moderated by New York State’s Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul. They spoke of many things, but the conversation was mostly centered around the challenges women face in the workplace and what WE can do to overcome them. I say ‘we’ because now more than ever (especially given recent current events) this is an issue that us enlightened, progressive, feminist men need to help address. If we all cared about women’s rights, the office, no the world, would be a much better place, for everyone.
As a straight, white, male I’ve led a life with minimal barriers to my success that weren’t easily overcome or were self-imposed. I have rarely been afraid to speak up in meetings, I have no problem advocating for myself, my voice and my opinions are usually heard, I’m treated as an equal, I’m treated with respect, I’m taken seriously, I receive fair pay for the work that I do, I have never been sexually harassed, never feared for my safety, never felt pressured into relations with anyone to get ahead, my appearance has never been a topic of conversation amongst my supervisors, and I doubt that I’ve ever been the subject of water cooler talk. You know who has experienced most, if not all of that? Likely? Every single woman in my life. As I hear more and more women talking about this, they all seem to have very similar experiences, regardless of occupation or industry. It’s sickening and to think that my daughter will be subject to any of it makes my stomach turn.
I’m guilty of being passive. That ends now. It should have ended sooner. No more sitting on the sidelines reaping the benefits of being a white man while women (and others) are treated as second-class citizens. My hope is that there is a seismic shift in our society by the time Addison enters the workforce. Hopefully much sooner than that. I don’t want her to be afraid to speak up, or to ask questions, or to advocate on her own behalf. I don’t ever want her to be assaulted but if she is I don’t want her to be afraid to report it for fear of being retaliated against or not believed, or publicly mocked. The thought that someone would be paid more, promoted faster, or treated with more respect than her simply because of his ‘maleness’ is something I don’t ever want her to experience. We need more women speaking up, taking chances, being heard, and more women in leadership roles. We need more men helping to aide this process in whatever ways we can. I’m sorry that it took me this long to realize that there is still such gender inequality in today’s world. Maybe I was willfully ignorant to it. Real men treat women with respect, with dignity, and aren’t afraid to stand up for their rights and their equality. Going forward I will not look on and do nothing. I’ll speak up and do everything possible to help the cause. Real men don’t look on and do nothing.
I think maybe it took Addison being born for me to become a real man. Time to man up and raise a little girl that is worried less about glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings and breathing fire. Probably won’t hurt that she’s likely going to be a giant and tower over most people -male or female.