The Barbershop Conference

“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too”. Emma Watson’s speech at the launch of the campaign ‘He for...

“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too”. Emma Watson’s speech at the launch of the campaign ‘He for She’ has gained a lot of attention in the last month, and it seems the 24 year old has managed to put the point across.

The point of the campaign is that men should also be involved in the fight for women’s rights, plain and simple. The Gender Equality movement has had women as its main advocates since it started; it is only natural that, as women, we feel more strongly about defending our own rights, I definitely don’t blame the men for their lack of participation.

Only recently, men have started participating in the discourse and played a more active role, but to a very limited extent. It seems like Gender Equality is an issue many men don’t feel they should be talking about: especially those who believe in women’s rights often think that having a strong opinion about it, or an active role in defending them, would be overstepping the ‘one thing’ that women are actually leading. Around me for example, I have not seen a huge interest by the men in my life to actively participate in the fight for ‘Gender Equality”, and I know its not because they don’t believe it is right or have no interest in it at all, but because they think it’s “our thing” and they shouldn’t intervene.
Undoubtedly, this defeats the purpose. If we want equal rights, then we should have equal opportunities to participate in this social and political activity, and we should stop trying to define roles, or place pedestals everywhere. We are all on the ground. I think the idea tackled in the campaign is of great importance, and that men should stand up for this.

At the conference for women in 1995, Hilary Clinton was shocked by the lack of men at the event.

At the conference for women in 1995, Hilary Clinton was surprised by the lack of men at the event.

The point has with no doubt been understood, so much that on the 29th of September, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Iceland, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, announced that Iceland will host a ‘Men Only” conference on gender equality, with a special focus on violence on women.

Now, this can be taken in two ways. The first is to think that this is an outrageous misinterpretation of the gender equality fight, that it sends the message of excluding women, rather painting a picture of a man telling a woman “I’ll take it from here, sweetheart” as quoted by a journalist in the Guardian. However I think this interpretation simply doesn’t grasp the point.

The second way of interpreting this would be to think that this is a delightful way of making sure that men are ‘physically’ introduced in the discourse. They will have to sit in a room and discuss these sorts of issues; there will be no escaping. Moreover, lets presume that of the people that will attend the conference, many will have to prepare themselves before the event, as gender might not be an area of their expertise (who wants to go to a conference unprepared?). This will mean more men will have more detailed information on the issues that surround gender equality, gender violence and women’s rights, and therefore they will have a fuller understanding of what we women have been talking about all these years. Exposing men so directly to these issues is an important step towards a successful and equal fight towards gender equality.

If this is the case, whether this will be a successful conference all depends on the actual logistics and agenda of the event, my questions for now are: Will women be in the panel? Will there be women giving talks and telling their stories? Will women experts lead the conference on the issues and only have men participate?

I think it’s a great initiative and I hope it will bring men to actually find a true interest in gender issues and to spread the word to other men. This is not just our (women) fight; it is your fight too.

Categories
Gender
Virginia Vigliar

Virginia is a freelance journalist and editor based in Barcelona. She has worked in the development sector in Malawi and Kenya and Somalia before returning to Europe, where she gained experience in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Spain. She is currently also collaborating with Oxfam. She is a passionate advocate of human rights and freedom of speech. To see her work, look at her website here: http://virginiavigliar.com/
5 Comments on this post.
  • Julia louise ali
    27 August 2015 at 2:24 pm
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    I want to be able to try it out and see if I will like it

    • WiB Team
      WiB Team
      28 August 2015 at 1:30 pm
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      Hi Julie, are you referring to a subscription? Or to the article? All the best

  • Roger Hawcroft
    Roger Hawcroft
    3 September 2015 at 7:17 am
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    It is good to hear women say that they want men to participate in standing with them in the struggle for equity.

    As a man, I have experienced the negative response of many women, not least some of those who are most active and vocal in working to achieve change for women. I have been told that, “it isn’t your business” on more than one occasion. Often, I have felt that I have been seen as the “enemy” and therefore written off before even having been afforded the chance to engage.

    As president of a student union I resurrected and provided funding for a women’s group because, having many friends who were single mothers or simply, mature married women attempting to return to study or the workforce without support of their husbands or families, I had some contact with and consciousness of the many obstacles and difficulties facing women. Although I’m glad to say that the group did prosper, at the time I received much negative comment about my role and was told that it was patronising of me to revive the defunct group because I wasn’t a woman. My suggestion that the group be open to men was also rejected and the group operated without any direct input from my gender. That and other experiences certainly have caused me to be very careful of inputting into issues that are seen as “belonging” to women. Though, being a somewhat thick-headed Yorkshireman, and having a passionate desire to see equity throughout society, I have to admit that I still go “where no man fears to tread”.

    I have no wish to tell women what I think they should or shouldn’t think or feel. Nor do I see my gender as having any monopoly on sense, wisdom, creativity or anything else. I have learned much from women and continue to do so. I can’t help being male, any more than women can help being female. What I do wish is to understand better what women do care about that men may not, or that men may not readily appreciate. Even for that reason, and there are many others, my view is that it *is* important for women to include men who genuinely wish to assist women to overcome the negativity, inequity and discrimination with which they are so often faced.

    I think that is a side of inclusivity which is too often lost on those fighting for gender equity and, to me, isn’t the fight for equality of women really a part of the fight for all people, regardless of origin, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or whatever, to experience equity as HUMAN BEINGS?

  • A Real Engagement of Men Is Possible
    11 December 2015 at 1:05 pm
    Leave a Reply

    […] recent times more and more men have become engaged in activities to generate awareness about the vulnerability of women and girls in different societies and the need to address this issue. This has been happening along the […]

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