Supporting women’s rights and equality

April 22, 2024

Photograph by Monstera Production from Pexels

Ruben Cudjoe advocates for gender justice

Growing up I often felt compelled to live up to traditional ideals of masculinity. My peers at school made jokes of a homophobic and sexist nature and I felt pressured to kept quiet out of a fear of exclusion. Resisting this prejudice can be challenging, yet I firmly believe that young men have a vital role to play in combatting gender inequality and violence.

Through my journey of self-reflection and education, I’ve realised the significance of challenging these harmful norms and actively working towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

It all begins with getting informed! Here are six ways we can begin advocating for gender justice.

Education and awareness
Young men can start by educating themselves about feminist principles and the ways in which patriarchal systems perpetuate inequality.

This could involve reading feminist literature, engaging with friends, peers and mentors, or even attending workshops and lectures on gender equity. Changing our mindset can sometimes be difficult. It’s important to remain open minded, accepting and respectful of gender differences.

Music has always been a way for me to find inspiration but also get informed about feminism and breaking gender norms. Missy Elliott, Grace Jones, Tina Turner, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone are all artists who have, directly or indirectly, made a huge difference in challenging gender stereotypes, domestic abuse and racism, whilst promoting intersectional feminism.

The scholar and writer, bell hooks’ feminist theory  recognises that social classifications (e.g. race, gender, sexual identity, class, etc.) are interconnected. This is a great place to start. Also you can check out some suggestions here from Wade Davis, American speaker, feminist activist, writer and educator.

Do some research and find artists, musicians and other activists that challenge patriarchal norms or seek out people in your own life who themselves inspire change.

Self-reflection and unlearning
Our society is set up to benefit men in ways we often don’t realise. It can be confusing for young men but recognising this privilege starts to provide a better understanding of gender inequality.

According to Dr Michael Kauffman, gender equality educator and co-founder of White Ribbon UK, we must engage in critical self-reflection to identify and unlearn the harmful attitudes and behaviours that society encourages. This includes questioning traditional ideas of masculinity and the misconception that power and dominance are essential aspects of manhood.

By examining our own advantages and biases, we can become more conscious of the ways we contribute to gender inequality ourselves. This means we can take steps to change our own behaviour and challenge others when they take advantage of their privilege. Check out more from Kauffman in this podcast episode ‘A guys guide to feminism’.

Challenging stereotypes
Addressing innate sexist attitudes is crucial. Whether it’s through your clothes, music, art, activism, sport or social media. Getting creative can be a positive way to challenge the patriarchy and break down barriers. We can actively resist pressure to conform to narrow definitions of masculinity that promote aggression, emotional repression and dominance over others.

We can create space for ourselves and others to express a full range of emotions and interests. Embracing creativity can help with this, so we become more confident expressing ourselves in ways that make us happy and encourage others when they do so too.

For me, it is important that when I express myself, whether this be through writing, music, sport or fashion, I keep a positive mindset and try not to be afraid of being different.

Promoting consent and respectful relationships
Respecting other people’s boundaries irrespective of gender or sexuality is extremely important.

As young men, we can play a pivotal role in advocating for affirmative consent practices and challenging rape culture. Rachel Pascua, an esteemed educator in respectful relationships, asserts that ‘Consent should be an enthusiastic agreement – if it’s not a clear Yes, it’s a No. There’s no grey area about it’s being maybe. Or I might. That means NO!’ We must always actively seek consent in sexual encounters. If you believe consent is not present in a situation and it’s safe to do so, intervene. Check out more about consent here.

Fostering a culture of accountability amongst your peers and friends is a great place to start. It may be difficult to call out abuse, especially if you know the person, but it can make a huge positive difference in the long term.

Supporting women and marginalised genders
Supporting your friends, family and those in your community who face discrimination is important. Take the time to listen to their experiences, offer empathy and understanding, and stand in solidarity with them.

You could also try participating in activism or endorse women-led initiatives, and utilise their platforms to raise awareness about gender-based issues.  Check out here for a step by step guide to being a good friend and ally to those in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Role modelling positive behaviours
Finally, we can promote gender equality by serving as a role model and mentor to our peers and future generations. This could be at local sports clubs, schools, or in the workplace by embodying traits such as compassion, respect and humility.

We must show that masculinity is not synonymous with aggression or dominance. Through our actions and words, we can inspire others to embrace a more inclusive vision of manhood.

Although it’s a tough topic at times, confronting gender norms can be liberating and allow us to express ourselves. By doing this we can create a space for others to express themselves too. Our support can be transformative, offering validation, empowerment and hope to those facing discrimination. Let’s unite; young men, women and all genders, standing together for equality!

Ruben has recently graduated with an International relations degree form SOAS university of London. Growing up with a keen interest in humanities, he has a passion for studying the history of the British colonial diaspora. Ruben works as a fundraiser for the charity Concern Worldwide and plans to do a masters in Postcolonial Theory in September. 

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