International Women’s Day was this past Saturday. Sebastian Molano has three great tips for the other 364 days in the year.
For more than a century, the International Women’s Day has been commemorated by different groups and on different dates across the world. It started vindicating equal accesses for political rights by socialist parties in Europe and the United States. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a day each year as the United Nations Day for Women’s rights and International Peace. Since then, each March 8 myriad organizations come together to hold activities to promote women’s rights and advocate for equality. Only in the US, 223 events are scheduled to celebrate this day. This year, the UN has chosen as the 2014 day theme: “Equality for women is progress for all”. In some countries, as my own, this day also serves as an opportunity to give flowers, write poems, and repeat tirelessly “happy women’s day!”
To contribute to the festivities, I would like to propose three specific ways in which, we, as men, can directly contribute to achieve equality for all women too. I was inspired by this awesome article by Gary Baker on the need to engage actively men in the pursuing for equality. Hopefully, these actions will get us beyond saying “happy women’s day”:
1. Fight sexual division of work.
How often do you get complements for cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes or cooking dinner? I bet you get them way more often than your partner, especially if you are in a heterosexual relation. Chores and household responsibilities have been attributed to women as part of “their duties” performing hard work non-paid household tasks. This situation is changing rapidly and who does what in a household today depends more on a negotiation process of dividing equally chores and who arrives first at home.
As men, there is a common belief that providing for the household is a key trait of what it means to be a man. This is why we give priority to work, and we take it very seriously. Now, ask yourself: how often do you get complements for sending the report to your boss on time, for keeping your office space tight or writing emails? Way less than for doing work at home. If you want to help in the quest for equality, start taking your household tasks and chores as seriously as you take your work responsibilities. It is your duty, not a favor you are doing to your partner.
2. Speak up:
Sexism is everywhere. On ads, TV, office spaces, lunches with friends. Don’t be indifferent to jokes, practices or attitudes that reinforce behaviors that threaten women’s rights or integrity. Silence means acceptance, silence means indifference. This is why it is important to speak up and move from passive actors to active advocates. This means engaging proactively to shape a different type of conversation from challenging the image of Barbie as the only stereotype of beauty, to fighting for the right to have paternity leave or wearing yoga pants to make a point. Speak up and stop being only a witness.
3. Set the example:
If you really want to be an advocate for promoting equal rights for women, start with yourself. Reflect on the kind of man you are today and the kind of man you want to be. Identify what changes you could make to be a living force pushing for a new era of gender relations. Do this at home, at work, with your loved ones, and with strangers. Stop saying “yeah, inequality sucks”. Be a man and get your hand on the hard work, take charge of your part in history and believe in it. Challenge yourself as a man.
Did I already say, happy women’s day?