This Father's Day, Celebrate Men as Advocates for Women
by Natasha Lamoreux
In the United States, Father's Day (this year on June 19) is a day where we celebrate and give thanks to the fathers we know. Traditionally we do this through by celebrating all things benignly masculine, like back yard cookouts, and gifts of tools and other "manly" items.
We take this day to acknowledge the important role that fathers play in the lives of their children; as role models, care givers, providers, protectors, supporters, friends, and the myriad other roles that men play in the lives of women and children. As feminists and women's rights advocates, we are also coming to realize that men have a significant part to play in the work that we do. It is common for us to point out the many ways in which women suffer as a result of men, through sexism, chauvinism, violence, hegemonic masculinity, institutionalized patriarchy, and on and on, but it is also important for us to realize that boys and men are harmed by these structures as well. Rigid definitions of identity based on gender are just as limiting to little boys as they are to little girls.
It has been more difficult, or at least less popular, to recognize that men are essential in achieving our goals as feminists. If, as we have so often stated, women account for half of the population, we hold up half the sky, we must acknowledge, engage, and accept men as our partners—they are the other half of the population, they hold up the other half of the sky. The truth is that women, and men, are becoming more cognizant of the importance of educating men and boys about gender equality and the many issues that face women and girls in societies around the world. And there is a growing number of organizations and programs that are working to engage men as partners in and advocates for women's rights.
It is therefore perhaps fitting that we use the Father's Day holiday as a reason to highlight some of these organizations, often led by men, which seek to enlist men as champions of women's rights, supporters of gender equity, and opponents of all forms of violence against women. In the United States, groups like Men Can Stop Rape and NOMAS (National Organization for Men Against Sexism) are raising awareness and creating resources for men to get involved as advocates for women. Internationally organizations like Man Up, The White Ribbon Campaign (check out their clever promotion for their upcoming "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event at http://vimeo.com/22357367!), and Men Stopping Violence are focused on helping men and boys end violence against women and girls, and V-Men, a program under V-Day, is enlisting men to write about violence against women from a male perspective. Bell Bejao (Ring the Bell) is aimed at encouraging men and boys to intervene in domestic violence situations by ringing the doorbell. Take a look at their PSAs on their website (www.bellbajaoglobal.org) What is remarkable about many of these organizations is that they do not shy away from the painful truth that it is at the hands of men that women suffer the most. They question traditional masculine values, what it means to be strong, what it means to be a man. They recognize that men, and the structures they create and support, are most often behind the oppression of women, and these men are working to deconstruct the institutions of patriarchy and challenge those common traditions and accepted norms that are harmful to women and girls, as well as to men and boys.
So this Father's Day, as you reflect on the men in your life who have made a positive impact on your life, take a few minutes to support and share the work that these, and other similar organizations, are doing to encourage boys and men to be equals, allies, and partners with women.
This article originally appeared on GlobalSister.org.
Natasha Lamoreux is a full-time graduate student at NYU's Center for Global Affairs with focus on women's human rights, gender equality, and empowerment and engagement of women and other marginalized communities. In addition to writing and contributing to various sites including the Atlantic Community and Feminist.com, she is serving as a Human Rights Education intern with the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest, Hungary.