I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve engaged in gender discrimination. As a colleague, boss, and husband — and I’m not proud of it. I don’t think my transgressions have been severe (and I’m happy to discuss them specifically in person) but they have been the result of ignorance, immaturity, and even arrogance/entitlement.
I’ve discovered these transgressions primarily through my own self exploration and have become more comfortable discussing the topic with friends and peers, both male and female. What has been evident is that many men want to engage — but feel uncomfortable doing so and just shelve the desire. A wasted opportunity. This is flawed and I want to bring more men into the conversation, more allies to drive change.
Why the discomfort? For starters, the vernacular is intimidating which makes me (us) scared of putting my foot in my own mouth. I don’t even know how to name the issue — is it Gender Bias, Female Empowerment, Discrimination, Inclusion, Diversity… the list goes on and on. Furthermore, I have been afraid of using the wrong terminology and coming across as insensitive. Does speaking of empowerment imply that women have less power? Am I even supposed to be discussing these sensitive topics as a male? Does this mean I’m becoming a feminist?
As an example, I write a weekly newsletter of curated articles called Rad Reads. I wanted to bring gender issues to the forefront in a special issue which I called the “Rad Ladies.” I solicited feedback from the female subscriber base, but quickly realized that I didn’t know what I was asking for. I left things very open-ended and wrote the following request over email:
If you have articles around women-related topics (I leave this very open) ranging from (but definitely not limited to) diversity, pay gap, discrimination, challenges as a mother, LGBT, marriage/spouse partnerships, insecurities, interesting profiles of bad-ass women, historical perspectives, studies, great books, podcasts, people to follow on twitter, talks, video links, etc…. WIDE OPEN (I’m probably missing a ton) pls send them to me for inclusion.
The responses to the above email were limited — was I even asking the right question? I didn’t even know how to describe my intent, so I left it consciously vague as “Rad Ladies.” The responses to the actual newsletter were also extremely varied and ranged from “huge thanks for doing this” to “this is more an issue I need to resolve for myself.” One friend and reader left confused by my opaque intentions (mistakenly thinking I had segmented the list by gender) found it “borderline offensive.”
Self-doubt crept in and I was very tempted to file this in the category of “ideas not worth pursuing any further.” But that would be cowardly. A missed opportunity. So I would like to emphatically state the following.
- I care deeply about Eliminating Gender Discrimination. I care because I believe vehemently in all types of equality. I care because I think I can make a difference. And I care because it will impact my daughter as she grows up. There is no ego in this intention.
- I will probably trip myself up in the vernacular — likely my own subconscious biases creeping in. I’d rather get called out then not ask the questions.
- My intent is to open dialogue, particularly for other men. I know many men who care deeply about Eliminating Gender Discrimination but struggle with the right form of engagement. And I believe that this battle can only be won if we put our collective hearts and mind into it.
I intend on rallying a group of likeminded individuals (at first the aforementioned men) both on social media (#RadLadies) and IRL, engaging in conversation, and sharing my learnings. Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey.