International Women’s Day 2021: Time guys did more.
by Dr Anthony D. Cliffe
Today is International Women’s Day 2021, a very important day for Women but of course for Men too, to support, get involved, and be aware of the fantastic achievements of Women and continue to support them in the fight for equality. If you’re a woman reading this, I hope by the time you get to end the end that you know you have an ally. If you’re a guy, I hope by the end, if you’re not already that it will get you thinking about what you can do to support.
I’ve for many years, as colleagues and close friends will testify that I’ve been a major vocal champion of women, and I will continue to do so. I’ve been a part of gender equality research. I’ve gone to many IWD events and supported women in STEM. I hope that colleagues and female friends appreciate how much I have always supported you in your challenges and achievements. As a guy, I’ve been somewhat fortunate to have the privilege of growing up around strong women. These women have inspired me and women who continue to drive forward. I grew up being the only guy in the family, surrounded by close girl cousins. We’d spend nearly every weekend together growing up. Besides being tied up and forcibly had make up put onto me most weekends, in between the torture, I learned a lot. They joke that they have spent the best part of 28 years moulding me into the perfect man (the jury is out on that one!). 98% of my close friends are female, and I’ve been surrounded by female collueages and, most importantly, mentors for most of my life.
IWD raises many profiles of some of the unsung or often overlooked contributions to society of women. I can guarantee already before even searching on Twitter that there will be people who say IWD isn’t needed, equality exists (we’re getting there but nowhere close!). There will absolutely be males right now scoffing at IWD. “When is our day!” they demand (November 19th 2021 if you wanted to know!), or I know for a fact because I’ve had it said to me before whenever I speak up for women that “She’s not going to sleep with you mate”. Duh! I know, I’ve been single for 8 years. Pretty sure I would have changed tactics if that was my end goal, which again raises the issue of that. I often hear that the idea of a man supporting a woman, he must have a dark ulterior motive. Depressing! But if you are a guy who thinks we have equality or that you shouldn’t be standing up for women, let me talk you through some things below and let me ask you a few questions.
So for me, I’ve spent many years around women, I have a deep respect for and admiration for, and it genuinely annoys me the crap that women continue to go through. I genuinely have been fortunate to have worked with some amazing female researchers and colleagues over the years and have been inspired by my female mentors. Compassionate, understanding, driven, intelligent, the list goes on. Some of the best people I have been around and worked with and continue to work with are women. I’m not saying a Matriarchal society would be better than a patriarchal one but being surrounded by these amazing women is a good case for it. However, despite how fantastic in my eyes, they are, society is different. I watch the daily struggle of promotions, grants and papers rejected due to being a female. The glass ceiling is ever-present, the sticky floor continues to stick, and the inequality continues to be present. I worked on a research project a few years ago investigating the gender disparity of women in the REF. I knew things where bad, but I was astounded by how present it was. So my first question to you guys, Q., how would you feel if you did your absolute best and were the best candidate in the room, but you got overlooked because you were a guy? Disgruntled maybe?
Not only work-related issues, but in 2021 I still see a daily struggle of society for women, and these have to change. There are many, but let’s talk about some which really get my goat. Firstly, and this is well documented, the pressure women have to look good, the perfect figure, etc. Not helped by the utter chaos of complicated clothing sizes. As a guy, I never understand it, and I’ll never understand why it’s so unnecessarily complicated!? As a guy, we have sized Small, Medium, Large for shirts and jumpers, chest sizes for jackets, collar sizes for formal shirts, and Waist and Leg sizes for trousers. Simple. I know I can walk into any shop, and I know 34 waist and 31 leg pants will fit. I know a 42inch chest jacket will fit, regardless of store. A measurement is a measurement. A 10 can be a 14 in one shop for women, and a 14 can be the same as a 10 in another. What the hell are manufacturers playing at? If that’s not conducive to a low self-body image, I don’t know what is. Not to mention the whole no suitable sized pocket thing that female clothes have. Seriously, what’s with the phobia from designers about actual pockets in jeans? Q. How would you feel, guys, if our dreaded shopping trips became far longer because we have to go into multiple stores and try on numerous clothes because each size is different? Annoyed maybe?
I see a lot lately, too, which isn’t actually discussed much by males or females is the role of women in society as child bearers. I’m currently working with one of my dissertation students looking at women’s gendered role in China. It’s brought some interesting discussion between us. Not only that, I’ve had many conversations with my close female friends about this. There are a few issues I’d like to raise. Firstly, those females who do want kids literally have a clock on it. As a guy, as Bernie Eccelston has shown, you can be ancient and still produce kids way into your twilight years. For women, that’s not the case. I would love to be a father one day, It doesn’t look particularly likely anytime soon, but at least I don’t have an actual clock ticking down in order to get that done. It’s an utterly terrifying thought and something I don’t think many guys, if at all, ever consider that goes on in females minds. That is some pressure! That’s bad enough, but even worse is the notion that females should have kids and raise a child and that somehow, those females who decide either personal or forced situations to not have kids, they’re somehow deemed less worthy, less feminine, somehow not a female because you didn’t have a kid. Seriously, just stop! Not only for men to stop saying these things but even worse, fellow women, stop asking why hasn’t that woman got kids yet. Mind your damn business! There are a hundred and one reasons why a woman might not want kids, and that’s personal to her. Women are not here on this earth just to pop kids out; stop living in the dark ages! P.s. a family can be a family without your own born children. Adoption, pets etc., count in my opinion! Q. How would you feel if you were only validated by raising a child and that you’re not a man until you do? Outraged maybe?
Also, something that has always made me significantly angry is the taxation of necessities for women. As a guy, we absolutely got the good end of the deal when it came to our bodies. I can’t really think of anything particularly an issue other than when going through puberty. You’d get random boners at inappropriate moments and places. Your voice would randomly go up and down in octaves when your voice was breaking. Other than that, that’s it. We’re blessed that we don’t have to go through a period every month. It astounded me the other day watching a video on Facebook about women having to show their boyfriends and husbands what a tampon does, and they literally had no clue. Seriously, come on, lads! What makes it worse is that can last for 5 days, have the worst cramps, and add insult to injury; you get taxed on tampons and sanitary pads. Seriously it’s beyond a joke. Should never be taxed, should never even have to pay for them! That seriously needs to change. Don’t even get me started on paying extortionate amounts of money for simple products like a moisturiser. They’re the same ingredients that are in men’s products, but our products, if you can get past the macho sounding names like Turbo thunder face, are a 10th of the price! Q. Imagine bleeding for five days and then having to pay over the odds? Disgusted maybe?
If these aren’t bad enough, here is the biggest in my eyes of why we are a long way away from equality for women, and it depresses me no end. When my guy mates go for a walk on their own, go travelling on their own, go for a jog at night, never once does their safety ever cross my mind. When my guy mate wears something, never once does it ever cross my mind that something may happen to him because of it. Yet, for my female friends, that’s ever-present.
It’s so depressing to myself as a guy that I will cross the road when I walk behind a woman, especially in the evening or at night, because I know nine times out of ten she’ll be thinking if I’m an attacker. During Covid, it’s been essential to go for exercise and walks, but I know female friends won’t walk down the canal on their own for fear of being attacked. I know those headphones are only for show and that they’re continually looking out for the worst. I’ve had harrowing first-hand accounts of my female friends being intimidated by little immature shitheads out and about. Even worse, only walking and getting catcalled. Guys, no woman is ever, ever going to find that attractive. Stop it. It’s not a compliment, it’s creepy AF, and if you are a guy who thinks it’s banter, you need to be on a register.
As a guy, I can wear what I want; I can go for a walk or a run without the fear of being attacked or, worse, sexually assaulted. Not only that, but if the absolute worst came true and you were a victim of that horrific crime that you get told it was your fault for wearing what you did. Things desperately need to change. Q. How would you feel if you lost the freedom to walk at night because of the constant fear of being attacked? Impossible maybe?
I hope if you’re a female that you know that there are guys out there who admire and support you, who want equality, who want you to have the same rights and access to things and jobs as we do. I want you to know that I will keep championing this. I want you to know that there are guys out there who will cross the road for you and that will check in on their female friends to make sure they’re safe when out and about. I want you to know that there are guys out there who see your issues (although I don’t claim to know everything, this is only a snippet, there are many), that there are guys who will fight for a change in society, who will continue to stand by your side and continue to do their bit to support you.
Edit: I had a comment on this post before that this post made women sound weak and that they needed protecting, that cannot be further from the truth and I’m incredibly disappointed if that’s the take home message you take from this. I’m advocating for an equal society, a safe and inclusive society and a society were your gender is not a barrier. For some women reading this, you may never have experienced any prejudice, you may always feel safe on a walk, you may take questions about children in your stride, you may have no issue with jean size pockets and you may have never been impacted in your careers due to your gender. Amazing, it’s how it should be! However, from first hand experience I know not everyone is as lucky as you, hence why i’m raising these points today.
IWD is rightly for women, but for men, this day is important for you to, to stand up and make a change. We can’t change society if you’re not part of the communication. IWD is not a Males are a disgrace, and only Women should exist day. That’s not what today is about. Sure, some die hard’s have that view. However, most know today is a celebration of women’s achievements and an education of how far we still have to go. I am proud of being a guy. Yes, we face many issues as a guy in society in 2021, but supporting women’s equality doesn’t mean you have to diminish your own gender. Still, it does mean you have to acknowledge these issues exist and that we as guys contribute to it. So what can you do as a guy? You can start by supporting your female friends and colleagues and celebrating and shouting about their achievements. You can start being inclusive and stop the boys only mentality. If you’re in a position to hire make sure you’re hiring on ability and not discounting by gender and finally, if you see another male being sexist or misogynistic call them out on it and educate. We all make and will continue to make mistakes but if you don’t know you’re doing any wrong you’ll never change or learn. You don’t have to be a feminist to want equality for all, it’s just doing the decent thing.
Why do I continue to speak out as a guy for female equality, you may ask? Having been around women for many years and had first-hand access to these issues, my eyes are open more than most other guys. But the reason I write this blog and speak out about it because I don’t like how some of my close friends or female family members can’t go for a walk without fear on certain routes and times of day. I don’t like that exceptional talented individuals are looked over or unsupported in their careers based on their gender. If I’m ever lucky enough to have children and if I ever have a daughter, I don’t want her growing up in a world as described in this blog, where basic period essentials are taxed and expensive. I want her to grow up in a world where anything and any job is possible and where her gender is not a barrier. I want her to be able to jog at night with music on without any care in the world. I could not look my female family, friends or future kids in the eye if I passively sat back and had it easy as a guy. I don’t think I could look a future daughter in the eye if the world hasn’t changed and tell her the world is the way it is because men like me didn’t say anything.
So, on IWD 2021, we need to keep pushing for change. If you’re a woman, I hope you have a fantastic IWD that you continue to celebrate your incredible achievements and you continue to support each other. If you’re a guy, I hope this has been a trigger to think about things. I hope those questions posed throughout have opened some inner dialogue. If you refuse to get involved, why is that? If you’re scared to make a mistake, don’t be. I’ve made many mistakes in the past, stereotypes, misogynic kitchen jokes, making mistakes is part of learning. I continue to make mistakes, but it’s acknowledging them and learning from them. Now, if those questions posed above haven’t made you think or you’ve refused to acknowledge it, let me leave you with this.
Do you want to be on the right side of equality and history or the wrong side? Do you want to look at your mum, sister, friend, future daughter in the eye and tell them you did nothing to help change the world they live in for the better when you could have? Do you want to be part of the solution or the problem? It’s your choice.
Sure doing nothing is the easiest path to take, but it’s not the right one.
Happy IWD 2021