I swear I began writing this post before Emma Watson’s landmark UN speech (you know, this one). But I’m not going to complain about having a wave to ride. One of Ms. Watson’s salient themes regarded the current inability of men and women to openly and equally participate in “the conversation” (to be read as an actual quote, not sarcasm). As I see it, though, that’s putting the issue very mildly. Throughout this “conversation” women are consistently dismissed entirely and men are principally villainized, and an otherwise open dialogue is prematurely stifled. I believe it is Ms. Watson’s desire, and my objective here, to keep that dialogue open. To that end, I echo her “formal invitation” to men, and I propose two simple rules for discussing gender disparity.
1. Men are not allowed to talk about athletic superiority.
Men, do you know what happens when you pick a hill to die on? Turns out, you die on that hill. Yes, I understand it is a biological fact that on a general scale men are physically dominant (and have an unfortunate knack for showing it). Simply, we’re bigger and stronger. No matter which way you say it, it’s not our trump card; it’s our death warrant. Being athletically superior does not make one a superior person, and whenever we bring it up we’re essentially admitting that we’ve no longer deemed the situation worth tackling on an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level. We’re alienating ourselves from the human condition and we’re living up to the brutish, bull-headed Neanderthalic stereotype that we began the conversation attempting to escape. We name ourselves as the enemy. And nobody really wants that— this movement isn’t about picking sides and going to war. It’s about the whole human family coming together so that we can move forward together.
2. Women are not allowed to express themselves apologetically.
Women, I know very well that this small change does not come close to addressing the fundamental socialization issues at hand. For its subtlety, however, it manifests as a major contributor to the lack of credence you so often seem to experience in any mixed-gender situation. And it is at least my theory that if you can consciously stop doing it, the mentality will spread to all aspects of conduct, reversing the effects of those sociological pressures that caused it in the first place (nothing like a grandiose claim to back up an untested theory). What is “it,” exactly? It is simple: don’t ever apologize for speaking up. Don’t ever apologize for not appearing, in your dress and your makeup and whatever else, “feminine enough” (to be read as actual sarcasm, not a quote; go ahead, read it again with a disgusted voice and finger movements). Instead of telling me that you just think something is wrong with society and you just think something should be done about it, sorry, tell me that something IS wrong with society and we NEED to do something about it. PERIOD. Instead of apologizing when I step in your way, allow me the opportunity to get my head out of my own back side.
I suppose I should end with a disclaimer: these two things WILL NOT (and frankly, aren’t meant to) solve our gender inequality problems. But the mentalities behind them may just be what we need to keep “the conversation” open, free, and productive. Which might be the foothold we need to actually take the necessary steps forward. HeForShe, everybody. Let’s make like the Beatles and come together on this one.