Is sex equality in the interest of men? Our boy Kristof weighs in.

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In last Wednesday’s op-ed by  Nicholas Kristof, he touched on a question that I have thought about for some time now: Is sex equality in the interest of men? Now you’ll remember Kristof for his co-penning of Half the Sky. His work is largely preoccupied with the plight of Non-western women. But every once in a while he throws US women a bone:

We men want our wives and daughters to encounter opportunity in the workplace, not sexual harassment; women want their husbands and sons to be in the executive suite, not jail. Nearly all of us root for fairness, not for our own sex.

The truth is that we men have typically benefited as women have gained greater equality. Those men who have lost their jobs in the recession are now more likely to have a wife who still has a job and can keep up the mortgage payments. And women have been particularly prominent in the social sector, devising new programs for the mostly male ranks of the jobless or homeless.

It is important to note that these comments are made in reaction to the widely challenged Atlantic piece by Hannah Rosin bemoaning “The End of Men.” Swatting away a lot of the unnecessary panic that piece and recent employment data incites is helpful. But the problem with Kristof’s analysis is the notion that the point of access that men have to gender equality is their association with women. Now I know I got warm all over when I saw this fine-as-hell man with perfect teeth carrying his daughter. I mean, really, how could sex equality not be in your interest when a girl-child with cheeks like those is that close to your heart?

Taking this to an extreme for a moment, just imagine what the world would be like if our only hope for a gender equal society rested on heterosexual marriage licenses and the female birth rate? Should it really take embarking on a family through marriage or birth to recognize that discriminating against women is wrong? If we can’t get a guy like Kristof who is married and politicized on global gender issues to routinely advocate for US women, how do we persuade the childless, unmarried and economically stable men to join the ranks of US feminism?

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6 Comments

  1. Posted July 27, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I think people often need a reference point. “How does this relate to me?” is perhaps the first step. But cultivating compassion beyond one’s own personal experiences arrives with time for many. I think we start by examining ourselves and then transition to thinking about others.

  2. Posted July 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciate being introduced to Kristof, as I am relatively new to the feminist movement on all fronts and had recently come across the idea of post-colonial feminism–focusing on the plight of non-western women. You really had me there until the last sentence when you complained of not being able to get this man to advocate for US women. As far as I can tell, women in the US are very advocated for. We obviously haven’t reached full social and political equality, but our struggles are really nothing compared to those of women outside of the developed western world. To me, it seems you’re asking him to distract himself from the issues of other women to focus more on us, when we are perfectly capable of advocating for ourselves. Sure, it would be helpful to us to have more male advocates, but aren’t their voices better spent advocating for women who can’t? Women who would be tortured or put to death for speaking up?

    • Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      I think ROSE’s main point was-

      how do we persuade the childless, unmarried and economically stable men to join the ranks of US feminism?

      Bad use of Kristof, sure, but it’s a really good question. And I think the only answer is by raising them, um, us, that way. That’s 33.3% feminist household, 33.3% feminist programs starting in kindergarten, and 33.3% feminist pop culture for every child. Not just boys since there are many girls who grow up in patriarchy and end up supporting and keeping it alive as women.

  3. Posted July 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for mentioning that he co-penned “Half the Sky”- Sheryl WuDunn never gets press for her involvement in that amazing book.

  4. Posted July 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    “How do we persuade the childless, unmarried and economically stable men to join the ranks of US feminism?”

    I wish I knew. I get so frustrated trying to answer that question.

    • Posted August 23, 2010 at 5:04 am | Permalink

      Gender equality would be a welcomed change to many young men. Men, though harder to employ, are still today expected to be the provider, come up with date ideas, and pick up the check. So why, they must ask themselves, choose to change attitudes and sexual privilege?

      It’s a good idea for men to have equality with women, but only if it is actual equality. When young men can get taken seriously being themselves-not deep pocketed supermen-and feel more dating equity, it will be easier to market morality.

      Cultural attitudes on all sides must, and unavoidably will in this era of upheaval, change, compromise, and evolve. In a nutshell, everybody seems to dislike a feminist, who could oppose gender equality?

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