Jeanine Prime of Catalyst is a writer I’ve only recently got acquainted with, but I find her experience worth reflecting on. Much of her work seems to focus on ways to engage men in the promotion of gender parity and what I find especially striking about her approach is that it’s so direct and so unapologetic in asking this of men.
Seeing this approach described so plainly brought something up in me: I instinctively felt that many women would shy away from directly giving guidance to men on how to contribute positively to this situation. And that made me wonder where this thought came from!
I concluded that one big reason is that doing so might feel to some like a kind of admission that the power is men’s, as if asking this of men is like going to them cap in hand. Some women, I suspect, would only view improvements in gender equality as valid if that improvement has somehow been traced exclusively to the work of other women, with as little input from men as possible.
Or perhaps at play here is a holding on to the sense that the search for gender equality is a ‘struggle’, that women must somehow wrestle power from men, not ask for them to be so kind as to share it.
But I’d say that both of these positions – while understandable – are wrongheaded. Excluding men from the conversation comes from a place of insecurity – acknowledging that men have been in a privileged position for a very long time is in no way an admission that this privileged position has been justified.
And asking men for their collaboration in the process is not an admission of some inherent female weakness – the very nonsensical type of weakness to which certain people might be inclined to explain women’s less elevated status.
Asking men to get involved, like Jeanine Prime is doing, is an empowered, confident act.