The Table: A call for renewed male participation in the feminists’ fight

By Allison Pfotzer

In the fall of 2014 the “He for She” campaign began to sweep through the world, its focus: calling on men to stand up and campaign for the rights of women. Inspired by the demonizing of feminists as “raging, crazy, and PMSing,” it was attempting to close the gap between the spheres created to make sure men and women played for their own separate sides. But following the unveiling of the “He for She” campaign by Emma Watson last September, came a backlash of criticism of the movement. The main complaint being: feminism as it stands is not a male inclusive sphere.  And here in lies the great divide within the feminist community: the “come to the table” feminist verses the“just listen or go away” feminist.

We have all met the raging woman in the “I Eat Men for Breakfast” t-shirt, who starts a fight with any man who tries to open the door for her. And while this is the extreme, this extreme often serves as a form of extreme isolation in getting people on-board the gender-equality train. The feminists of the “come to the table” brand, however, tend to be those who truly want the opinions and input of men in their fight for gender equality. As a member of the latter camp I have always found the former to be intimidating to me—someone who is both a woman and an ardent feminist. I truly believe that to create effective change we have to engage as many people as possible in our fight for equality. And as the other 50%* of the earth’s population, engaging men in this conversation is key to the success of the movement.

Patriarchy is evident globally in the spheres of academia, business, politics, and the STEM fields, where women are employed less frequently, paid less, trained less and are less encouraged to enter these fields. While women are given the “fluffier” realms—nursing, fashion, homemakers, assistants, teachers, hairdressers and other aesthetics industries. Inherently our value of these “fluffier” industries tend to be associated with those of a lower pay, further perpetuating the wage gap of females as compared to males. And while this is a systematic problem engrained into the very society we inhabit—regardless of our location on this planet—I do not believe that by isolating men from the conversation can we get a thing done.

Yes, there will always be problems with those people who don’t support women and ignore or even refute the problems and difficulties we face. But those people will only be turned off more, and pushed further away by the extreme isolation that comes from the self-proclaimed men haters. I’m also perfectly aware that I have been criticized for not being “feminist” enough with my liberal but moderate views on feminism. And perhaps this is so—though a different conversation for a different day—but my preferred methods of inclusion are much more likely to attract real change that those of my isolating critics.

Thus, I shall remain a feminist, and more importantly a supporter of universal human rights and equality. Call it my radicalism, optimism, education or patriotism: freedom and equality have too long been promised with no follow up in our world. So this is my renewed invitation, and I dare say the invitation of many feminists around the world: everyone please come to the table.

*In my reference of engaging the “other 50% of the world’s population,” I want to clarify that this blog is calling upon all human’s participation. I am aware that the globe’s population is composed of more people than those identifying themselves on a binary spectrum, and I hope for us to universally participate in the fight for gender equality.

Allison Pfotzer, a member of the GUWIL Writing Committee, is a sophomore in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown with a passion for women’s human rights in all sectors of the developed and developing world.