I recently saw a vintage Superman comic that was edited in order to get an important point across. Superman was pictured conversing with a female reporter. Superman’s speech bubble read, “So what is my role as a man in feminism?” and the reporter responded, “Simply put, your role is to listen to women’s concerns, challenge your male privilege, and hold other men accountable.”
The more I thought about this comic, the more I realized that it perfectly addressed and simplified a societal issue. I am going to use the edited Superman comic as a template.
Feminism is not an exclusive club in which men must have allotted spots. If a man wishes to support gender equality, he can use the power and the voice that he has already been privileged with.
So how can men be feminists? If you truly want to listen to women, you cannot invalidate their feelings or experiences.
You do not get to decide what sexism is and isn’t. You also can’t decide which causes are worth fighting for. Lots of male anti-feminists ask why we feminists aren’t marching in Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Most of us don’t have the resources to travel to foreign countries to try to create change in languages we don’t speak. But we do elevate the voices of women of all countries and colors as feminists.
If you engage in those types of comparisons that purposely bring feminists down, you most likely don’t care about any women and you are part of the problem.
We also have to acknowledge that although things aren’t perfect for men—including men of color, LGBT men and men living in poverty — being a man in itself holds unique privilege.
There are layers of privilege that don’t cancel each other out. Multiple privileges can combine, just as disadvantages can.
There are valid problems for men regarding incarceration (women are often given shorter prison sentences than men for equal crimes) and child custody, which generally tends to favor mothers, but in the strides towards equality, we seek to solve those problems as well, even if they don’t benefit women directly.
Holding other men accountable for their negative (or even violent) behavior may be the most important thing that men can do to support women’s rights and safety.
If you see a friend continuously propositioning an uncomfortable woman at a party, confront him.
If a male coworker is often “accidentally” grazing against the body of a female coworker, the rest of the men should collectively disapprove and confront him! No man should let this type of behavior slide. Don’t protect other men when you know that they are contributing to the problem.
If you choose to have children, be a good dad. Raise your boys and girls with the same manners, values, and respect for each other. Instead of threatening your future daughter’s boyfriend with a shotgun, play an active role in creating a generation of sons that respects women and their boundaries.
You also shouldn’t need a female child, mother, sister, girlfriend or wife to care about women’s rights — because women should be defined as human individuals before they are defined by their relationship to you.
Lastly, use your votes. Now more than ever, the stability of women’s relatively recently earned rights are eroding.
Many feminists say that we don’t need men to support our cause in order to be successful, but the unfortunate reality is that often, when men are involved, women’s causes are taken more seriously. The majority of our government officials are men, and we need their support too.
Essentially, Superman isn’t being asked to picket on the streets or to wear a pink cat hat, but he is being asked to respect and listen to women. He is being asked to realize that although things aren’t ideal for all men, that we must level that playing field first and then focus on perfecting conditions for society as a whole.
He is, most importantly, being asked to do his part to stop the toxic mentalities and behaviors that have become all too tolerated in our society. We need men to help us and partner with us to break that chain.