Tomorrow marks Women’s Equality Day, a day celebrating the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote. In just the last few weeks, we’ve seen history made political again as Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman of color vice presidential candidate. But even then, there’s still work to be done to make women’s equality a reality. And with the onslaught of misogynoir thrown Sen. Harris’s way and yet another year where women are excluded from the presidential election, we can’t rely on only one half of the population to fight for gender justice. If we want those in power to accurately represent us all, those with privilege must act as allies for the greater good—we’re looking at you, men! Here’s a list of 5 ways men can be allies in the movement to empower women in leadership and politics.
Women have always spoken out about their experiences—now is the time to listen. When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the House floor to speak on the verbal abuse she experienced at the hands of Rep. Ted Yoho, that was a reflection of a societal problem many women in leadership face. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren ended her campaign for president, leaving an all-male democratic race, she said, “One of the hardest parts of this is … all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years.” Women haven’t been silent about the obstacles they face and the lack of representation they have long dealt with. You just have to listen.
Do the hard work
Women have been vocal about their experiences but it’s still going to take men to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. Educate yourself. Read books and articles. Watch movies. Listen to feminist podcasts. But remember—it’s not women’s job to educate you on the subject of sexism. Aspen Russell of Association for Women in Science says, “Oppressed peoples do not shoulder the responsibility of educating you, or anyone else, on their struggle or history. Allies must show effort on their own to actively and responsively build an understanding of the histories, contexts, and current issues to effectively empathize with our colleagues and peers.”
Find other men doing the work.
You’re not alone in your efforts to become a male ally. Look to other men who are using their voices for good. Find inspiration in their work and share it with others who need to hear it. Feminist, actor, and activist Matt McGorry says, “Sexism and the oppression of women are presented as women’s issues, but in actuality they are men’s problems. There are limitless resources available to us that can teach us how we can be a part of the solution in deep and meaningful ways.”
Speak Out Against Everyday Sexism
We’ve all been in a situation when a colleague, friend, or family member has said something sexist. But the next time you hear grandpa comment on what a Congresswoman is wearing instead of focusing on her policies, you can say something. Or the next time your friend refers to a woman in power as a sexist slur—you can speak up. The Mask You Live In expert Jackson Katz says, “We need more men that have the courage to stand up and speak out, even when it means taking a risk. To go into male culture and say some things that are going to make other men uncomfortable. Because this is about leadership.” So true!
Use the #RepresentHer Hashtag
As we’ve seen this election cycle, the media has also been a perpetrator of sexist narratives. From headlines that focus on a woman’s likability to a Los Angeles Times title that referred to Joe Biden’s VP contenders as The Bachelor contestants, it’s clear that the media needs to be held accountable for coverage that’s holding women back. And with the election fewer than 100 days away, we can expect more antiquated gender norms to make their way into the news. Rather than let it slide, you can call out the media’s misrepresentation of women with the hashtag #RepresentHer to demand fair coverage of women in politics.
Take Action! Take these five steps to be a better ally. Share this list with the men in your life that need to hear it.