This Friday is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. There are so many remarkable women I could write about, but I decided to consider this year’s theme for International Women’s Day: “#BalanceforBetter.”
The International Women’s Day website says, “Better the balance, better the world. How will you celebrate women’s achievements on Friday, March 8, while calling for a more gender-balanced world?”
Balance is key. Gender equality is about finding an equilibrium between male, female and non-binary folk. Everyone plays a part in keeping the scale from tipping too far to one side.
Women often are the ones who are called upon to disrupt gender-based inequalities. There are numerous ad campaigns about women stepping up to defy expectations, such as Nike’s recent “Let’s show them all what crazy can do” video.
I am 100 percent in favor of these campaigns. Female empowerment is vital in our society. Women are a force to be reckoned with and can create incredible change.
However, gender equality is a multi-sided coin.
While it is incredibly important to teach women to find strength within themselves and among each other, it is also important for male-identifying people to re-examine the behaviors that society has been driving into them for generations.
These behaviors are, in many ways, the root of what is prohibiting gender balance.
On Jan. 14, Gillette released a video entitled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” The video opens by portraying men engaging in behaviors that society has deemed as normal, if unfortunate: mansplaining, sexually harassing women, embracing violence.
The second half of the video shows men at their best: empathetic, using privilege for good and intervening in hostile situations. The video includes a number of strong role models, driving home the message that children will learn from what they see.
The ad campaign has received significantly more “dislikes” (1.4 million) as “likes” (775 thousand) on YouTube.
There’s irony in the backlash — the people that took to Twitter to call for a boycott on Gillette razors are the same ones that the advertisement was calling out.
Some members of the dominant culture are not used to having the tables turned on them. But as @IamJoyceK on Twitter said, “Accountability feels like an attack when you’re not ready to acknowledge how your behavior harms others.”
No, it’s not all men that are the problem. It’s the prevailing stereotypes and expectations that many men do fill, whether intentionally or not, that are the problem.
The reason I find this commercial so refreshing is that it is one of very few pop culture examples that don’t make this just a women’s issue. Gender-equality is not one-sided — it isn’t just women who need to step up their game.
It’s time for men to take responsibility, too.
Yes, you also have to be a part of this movement. We’re trying to find a balance, remember? Balancing requires equal input from both sides.
It is imperative that society continues not only to empower women and non-binary people, but also to encourage men to acknowledge their role in making change for future generations.
Women and non-binary people aren’t the ones who created a gender divide. So why are they the only ones expected to end it?