Yesterday I learnt about something that women frequently experience. It was something I was unaware of but was possibly contributing to. A study conducted by researchers set out to observe a busy high street, its purpose was to understand which sex was more likely to move out of the way to avoid a collision. Results showed that it was overwhelmingly the women who moved, while their male counterparts continued on their trajectory. I was surprised to hear about this game of ‘Patriarchy chicken’. What happens when as a woman you don’t play the game right? Well from some of the posts I read, there is utter confusion at best, and shoulder barging aggression at worst from strident, space commanding men.
I would regard myself as a Pro-feminist (whether men can be actual feminists is a longer discussion) which means I try to take a proactive and positive approach to support feminism. For me this is more than tagging or re-forwarding #MeToo posts, agreeing that women deserve equal pay or nodding vehemently when female friends describe their daily experiences of male micro-aggressions (being talked over, having things ‘mansplained’ to them) or overt sexism (last week a friend’s music teacher stated that women ‘bring on’ aggression from their ‘nagging’ of poor men). For me it means taking a proactive stance to beter understand the experiences of many women, to consider my own role and behaviour as a man in this experience and to passionately defend and promote gender equality.
I underline try because it’s tricky work. Like the chicken patriarchy example, when you’re not on the receiving end of an experience, it is easy for such behaviours go unnoticed – you don’t know what you don’t know and therefore, it becomes challenging to recognise your behaviour and its impact. Like a fish understanding that it’s in water, it only notices what water is when you take it out of it. For instance, especially for male readers here, do you notice who speaks first at meetings, most and often also makes the last point? Whose ideas are more likely to be recognised and implemented? Who do people look to to make decisions? How is physical space taken up and by whom? The list to notice and be curious about goes on.
Like most things - once you’ve been helped to see, you start noticing. I actually subscribe to a couple of feminist blogs to help me notice, I actively discuss experiences with female friends to help me notice and I actively spend time and energy being curious about noticing my actions ,why I do them and notice their impact.
If you think this isn’t about you or for you, then I highly recommend watching the amazing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TED talk ‘Why we should all be feminists.’
I intend on joining EMLA’s new women’s network, as a guest and ally and I’d encourage others to do the same. In words of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau talking about feminism ‘I’ll keep saying it loud and clear until it is met with a shrug’
I hope to notice you at the Women’s network and that you notice the journey I am on.
To find out more about the network please contact Vicki Richardson