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A Call to Men to join Women’s March

It’s not too late for a Men’s New Year’s Resolution: to show up in even greater numbers at this year’s Women’s March than ever before. Wherever they’re being held in Washington, DC or Anchorage, Alaska, let’s encourage men to march for gender equity, and to transform manhood.

The struggle for women’s equality is a struggle for dignity, justice, and freedom in all aspects of women’s lives—from home to work, from bedroom to boardroom. Too many men are slow as molasses to acknowledge the injustices women face. If we can get out of our own way, breathe through our fear of empowered women—if we’re ready to confront a misplaced dread of feminism—there’s a new world awaiting where men will live richer, more emotionally expressive lives.

Beginning in 2017, men joined the first Women’s March in large numbers. For this year’s march, let’s recruit more men. Seek them out in the locker room and the faith community; the poker game and the coffee shop. Invite them to not only advocate for gender justice, but also to speak out for racial, economic, religious, and environmental justice.

With the climate crisis threatening everything, let’s honor Greta Thunberg and a growing youth force rebellion; they are demand­ing we do more than pay lip service to a planet on fire because of the reckless disregard of privileged white men.

Consider: women (including transwomen) are the principal survivors of gender-based violence; women earn four-fifths of what men earn; women (and children) face the greatest risk from climate catastrophes; and it’s women whose reproductive rights are under attack. (Nine states now ban abortion before most women know they’re pregnant.)

Unwavering in their determination to right these wrongs, women are leading a social revolution, from the streets to the ballot box—from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements to women elected to office in 2018 and 2019 in unprecedented numbers. Central to their vision is achieving gender justice in a movement many men consider our cause, too. For two generations men of all races and ethnicities in the US and around the world have been working to prevent domestic and sexual violence, and to redefine and transform traditional ideas about manhood, fatherhood, and brotherhood. Voice Male, the magazine I edit, has been chronicling those efforts for three decades and this story’s next chapter will be told in part by men who join women at the march and beyond.

What can men do? First, take stock. Women’s marches can spur men to examine our lives, each step a chance to do some soul-searching, asking ourselves how we have contributed to prejudice, discrimination and abuse of women. With the insights we gain, we can help transform masculinity—and ourselves.

Let’s march as fathers, caregivers, grandfathers and mentors, raising boys to value compassion over competition, collaboration over isolation. Let’s march as sons and brothers, uncles and nephews, who recognize that “standard issue” manhood constricts our emotional lives, blinds us from seeing how we can be whole human beings. Let’s march as husbands and partners who recognize that when women are respected and empowered, they are happier and so is everyone around them.

Let’s march with signs reading, “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like,” and “Another Man Against Violence Against Women.” We’ll be following in the proud tradition of another historic movement: women’s suffrage.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s struggle to gain the right to vote. Many men dedicated themselves to that cause, marching behind a banner proclaiming, “Men’s League for Women Suffrage.” These “suffragents” were steadfast in promoting women’s enfranchisement. They took a stand. And later this month, surrounded by a sea of women in pussycat hats carrying signs signifying their resolve to never turn back, men will take a stand, too. If the collaborations and partnerships among women and men over the past few decades have taught me nothing else, it is that men and boys can be part of not just a women’s march, but a women-directed social revolution. If we’re willing to repair the blind spot of masculinity within us, there’s a place for men in this movement. We don’t have to man up, but we do have to stand up.

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Rob Okun is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and the editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity.

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