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14 March 2015

HeFor…well what exactly?

Written by: Alex Eeles, Principal Writer at Edelman

Culture

So what exactly is the deal with men and feminism?

One minute Ed and Nick are wearing T-shirts and Dave is getting pilloried for not. Then the T-shirt brigade takes a hammering for tokenism too. Next Esquire tells me that being a male feminist simply involves not behaving like a d!*k. And all the while, the likes of Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham are re-inventing the notion of modern feminism.

Trying to make sense of it all is enough to make any 21st century male feel like Neanderthal man.

Luckily, I am fortunate to be surrounded by a multitude of talented female role models – from my wife to my colleagues – all of whom can help me get my head around it. I even had the pleasure of working on Edelman’s recent feminism study with Elle. Check it out here for a fascinating picture of modern womanhood as described by the UK’s men and women.

I also work part-time, sharing fiscal and familial responsibilities with Mrs Eeles and spending my Wednesdays being assaulted in swimming pools by my eldest son or pretending that pureed avocado is a perfectly pleasant evening repast to my seven-month-old.

But does all this make me a fully signed-up male feminist, whatever that is? I can’t see that it does.

Sure, being aware and engaged in the issues facing both sexes nowadays is part of it but for me, feminism, gender equality, HeForShe or whatever else you might wish to call it is far more nebulous than knowing it’s unacceptable to praise a stranger’s breasts on the street. Much more important than ‘doing my bit’ with the kids or around the house.

I mean, the very concept that I am somehow doing my wife a favour by loading the dishwasher is as ludicrous as it is offensive. Why on earth is that her job for me to relieve her of? Just like why is making the money our family needs to survive solely the burden of yours truly?

Instead, the equal world I want to inhabit is one where gender is not based on some distorted form of reciprocal altruism. Nor does it involve the type of positive discrimination where women are patronisingly donated the same opportunities afforded their male counterparts.

Instead, it is one where meritocracy rules uncorrupted. Where anyone and everyone is fairly supported and rewarded. Where I can appreciate Beyoncé’s non-musical abilities without being labelled sexist and my wife can unashamedly read Fifty Shades of Grey on the tube.

Most of all, it’s a world where shared responsibilities means shared opportunities – at work, at home, in politics, in the boardroom, on a date, the list goes on.

Even I can get my head around that.

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