There are many labels under which people advocate for gender equality, so whether you are a new feminist, masculist, egalitarian, or other I hope you find this helpful. It could possibly also be helpful for trans activists, but less complete as they face much more ignorance and hate, I believe. This isn’t for humanists, though. Humanism is a movement that started well before gender equality became one and so successful that its principles are a transparent part of our lives now. Humanism has nothing to do with gender equality and everything to do with the human reason and ideas that are considered independent from God. Here’s the definition and history:
I’m not usually one for lists, but I find it hard to ignore in my month of Taking Action that there are some things that would have been helpful to know or practice at the beginning. I strive to practice these now, though I’m not perfect. I’m also sure that the list is far from perfect, but I find these to be the broad basics.
1. Know your privilege – There are various levels of privilege that intersect and counterbalance in people’s lives. Just because you are oppressed by one thing, does not mean that you aren’t privileged by something else. Knowing what you are privileged in will help you when you speak out to not sound petty or ignorant as well as allow you to realize when others are not so privileged. Our privileges can be transparent to us and it’s hard to see how others are oppressed by these things. If you know your privileges, they can be used to help those who are not privileged in the same manner and to realize that others don’t always see their privileges either. It can help you to have sympathy in this fight.
2. Learn the rhetoric – You have to know what you’re talking about and understand what other people are talking about if you’re going to advocate for or against it. That doesn’t mean the entire history of feminism or anything, but the issue you’re discussing, at least. It’s expected that people link supporting documentation or acknowledge when their view is unsubstantiated by research.
3. Hear the opposition with an open mind – This can be hard. I can usually only do it if the others can manage to keep hate rhetoric outside of it. Some people don’t care who they offend or put off and that can be distracting. It also makes social media hard to handle during weeks when the hottest story is something like Shirtstorm. But try to hear them, try to see their point of view. You can’t expect someone to listen to you with an open mind if you are not willing to do so for them.
4. Be open to new ideas of what the isms include – Remember and embrace that we are different and can have opposing ideas in the same ideology. When I try to whittle it down, each of the isms really come down to equality of choice and benefits. None of these ideologies that fight for their view of equality are trying to insist on gender roles or reverse them, but they want people to be able to choose the role they want or any combination of the options.
5. Learn the history – if you don’t know how things came about, you can’t have a good discussion on what it has become and what it was intended to be. I start with Wikipedia most of the time, but social changes can be harder to track as they happen. Masculism is up and coming just as a fourth wave of feminism appears to be on the horizon as well.
6. Have intelligent discourse (which mostly means: try to not just shout into the storm or attack people) – I’ve had a few conversations that have gone downhill quickly. What I learned was that it was better to preserve my own dignity and peace of mind than to engage in mudslinging with someone who was determined to remain ignorant or just being obnoxious. There are people who just like to spin other people up. Having intelligent discourse can help everyone concerned and everyone who comes along to see the points without the emotion. And every side gets emotional, so don’t assume it will be one or the other who does it first. If you can’t keep it rational and thought out, just disengage. Shouting at people doesn’t help either side of the argument.
7. Don’t underestimate the power in silence – we don’t always have to tell people our beliefs. Acting out what you advocate can be much stronger than talking about it. Choosing battles wisely also helps to not seem like you’re always going to argue, even when people deserve it. Modeling gender equality, as with anything else, is far more impressive than talking about It.
8. Know your label– while it’s important to understand all the labels, it’s especially crucial to know how to identify yourself during conversation. You can have more than one, too. I am a Jesus feminist, fourth wave feminist, equity feminist, and egalitarian. I am also a masculist, trans and non-binary ally. Allies are important and so is knowing how to be a good one. Click here for information on being a good ally: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/01/30-ways-to-be-a-better-ally-in-2014/
9. Everyone has problems – yes, even able-bodied cis hetero white men have problems. Just because they don’t have problems that are the same as you doesn’t mean they don’t exist, even when they do have problems you’d rather have. Treat people how you want to be treated when discussing your problem with an issue.
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