Let’s say there’s a dad who’s coaching his daughter’s baseball team. It’s the bottom of the ninth inning and his team is down by one run and they’re down to their final. The scheduled batter is Lisa, a smallish girl who isn’t known for her skill at the plate but who the dad knows loves baseball and being part of a team.
On the bench sits the teams best hitter, Matt, who the dad has been sitting all game because he hasn’t been listening at practice and has been degrading his teammates when they miss plays.
Matt’s dad yells at the coach to “man up and put in his best player,” because if he doesn’t “this little girl is going to screw it all up.”
The “it” to which he refers is the baseball team’s playoff chances. “It” is not the feelings of the little girl.
The coach does what he believes is acting like a man and lets the little girl bat. She hits the ball to the pitcher and she’s thrown out at first base. The team is done for the year, their best player never getting a chance to swing the bat in their last game. Matt’s dad makes sure to let the dad know how big “a pussy” he has for making his decision and swears his kid will never again play on a team coached by him.
The parents of the little girl on the other hand, stop to talk to the coach about how Lisa hasn’t stopped smiling since she took that swing. “It’s the first time she’s actually made contact this year,” they tell him. “Thank you for letting her play.”
Matt will go on to play plenty more years of baseball, getting in trouble with coaches plenty more times and making few friends along the way.
Lisa won’t ever play another inning of baseball. “I think I’d like soccer more,” she tells her parents one morning when they ask her what she’d like to try next. But the picture they took at the end of the season of their baseball team sits on her dresser until she moves out.
I’m not terribly good at paraphrasing even 15 word sentences so I’m sure I’ll fail at trying to paraphrase Emma Watson’s recent delivery to the UN:
Inequality is a human problem,
That’s what I take from it. It’s not a women are better than men or men are better than women thing. It’s not taking away men’s rights to ensure women have nice things too. It’s not suggesting life is perfect for every man the same as it isn’t perfect for many women. Things aren’t perfect and they never will be. But, it’s a problem for everyone to solve. The concept isn’t new. It isn’t hers, she just has a very strong voice right now. And it’s very nice to hear being spoken and accepted so loudly.
The truth is, I’m very, very privileged. I’m privileged no matter what part of the world you live in. I’m a straight, white, married male with two kids and a good job. I’m the kind of face people who take the Bible much too seriously think of when they hold signs telling other people they aren’t living the right way. I’ve never been catcalled, I’ve never had someone tell me I’m too fat to wear my suit. I’ve never been told “I was asking for it.”
But that’s just what I look like. I yell at my kids too quickly, I need to walk away from discussions from my partner, I swear a strangers when I’m driving, I’ve made sexist comments, I don’t have enough money saved up for my children to go to university and I shy away from controversial discussion far too easily. I’m anything but perfect.
I am privileged, I do have problems, but as a man I have a voice in the equality discussion too. And more importantly than my voice (certainly when it comes to my daughters) I can act as though I’m part of the group fighting for equality for women. I can’t just write blog posts and think I’m making a difference. Words, for anyone who’s ever tried to write them, are actually quite easy put forward. It’s harder to tell your best friends to stop looking at leaked nude pictures of celebrities or to speak up when someone is calling across the room to a woman telling her how pretty she looks in that dress. But it shouldn’t be that hard and if it is, it’s something we have a responsibility to do anyway.
We don’t need articles explaining why men can’t be feminists. We don’t need articles explaining how feminists are man-haters. We don’t need to shame men because it took them until they have daughters to realize more fully the inequality between men and women and we don’t need men telling women that street harassment is simply a form of flattery.
There will always be those on the extreme ends of either side who aren’t looking for help from the others but I’m not sure who that helps. Men, to some, can’t be feminists because they’re already afforded a privilege that precludes them from fighting for equality for women. Too many men think women are looking to take away that privilege instead of simply looking to achieve the same level.
Ever since I wrote my first piece detailing how my girls can do anything a boy can do I’ve been afraid of being called a feminist and not because I don’t want to be associated with equality for women. I’ve been afraid of being called a feminist or calling myself one, because I’m afraid that people who identify as feminists reject the idea that I can be one. I want to be part of the solution and want to feel as though I’m not doing so as an insider.
Women, in every part of the world, are judged differently from men. In certain places, the gap isn’t nearly as wide but any gap means there’s a problem. My partner works every day to reduce the gap and to make sure my daughters know they’re as important as any of their male classmates and that under any circumstance they can change the world. I want to be part of that message too.
It is offensive when companies bring dad-as-the-idiot commercials to the table because “well, dads are supposed to be the funny ones.” Dads can cry with their kids too. Dads are allowed to be horrible at fixing cars. Dads can be the serious ones and dads can be the sensitive ones. Dads can be the ones who stay home ironing and cooking. Dads can be the one their son or daughter comes out as gay too. Dads can be the ones who goes shopping for wedding dresses or suits.
Dads, like moms, can be great parents. And they can lobby for equality for their children.
We all need to lobby for one another without being afraid of how change might impact us. A man suggesting his female partner make the same amount of money as he does for doing the same things doesn’t reduce his salary. A mother saying their male partner is better at comforting a child in the middle of the night than they are doesn’t make them a worse parent. Telling men to stop raping women doesn’t mean all men are rapists.
We can’t be so judgmental about every decision a parent makes in the development of their child. We can’t make a mom feel so bad about breastfeeding that they only feel comfortable feeding their child in a bathroom stall or tell a dad he’s being “such a guy,” because he can’t get his daughter’s ponytail to stay in place for an entire dance class.
We’re all trying folks, we all need help.
We need men. We need women. We need men who love women and men who love men. We need women who love women…you get the idea. We kind of need everyone believing that everyone is equal.
Because everyone has problems.
A little girl in Africa needs help.
An elderly man in China needs help.
A family of four in Chile needs help
Your neighbour needs help.
Someone that sits at your dinner table needs help.
And just like everyone needs help relative to the life they live, we’re all capable of helping.
This isn’t a problem that needs to be solved by people with doctorates in social justice or gender studies. You don’t have to quit your job to go build houses in El Salvador to change a person’s life.
Equality is something solved by a dad who drives his daughter to school in the morning and then works a shift picking up garbage from the ditches of the street. It’s solved by the 15-year-old mother of two who lives in a barrio in Haiti. It’s solved by the men and women, single or married who never do have children but understand that kids still need to be kids and give them the room to do so.
Normal people doing normal things.
It’s solved by people with access to the internet and those that don’t. It’s solved by gay couples and straight couple. Single parents and people with no children at all. It’s solved by my wife and I telling our daughter she can play hockey. Or do ballet. Or do neither if that’s what she chooses. It’s solved by people everywhere who are willing to make a positive impression on children.
I’m an idealist with a lot of words, I get that. We tell our oldest daughter all the time that the things she does are far more important than the words she says. But the words are important to and they’re often a good first step.
I heard the tremors in Emma Watson’s voice as she delivered her speech and wondered how someone so practiced in delivering lines could get so nervous in front of a crowd. But the more I read her words, the more I realize how difficult it must have been to deliver a speech designed to unify people. The ideas aren’t hers alone, the thought has been there for a long time. But people seem to be ready to start listening.
An old woman lies in her hospital bed surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She’s too weak to speak to them but her vision is clear enough to make out the tears in their eyes. She knows what her future holds and she’s ok with that.
She looks at the faces of her daughters and her sons and sees love. She sees that over her years on earth she’s helped raise strong kids who see people for their most positive traits and help them with their weaker ones. She’s faced challenges but she’s never faced them alone.
She tries to stretch out her hand and her son, noticing, grabs onto it. She musters what strength she has to give it a squeeze and they both know it’s time to go.
She remembers playing baseball as a kid, remembers playing only one year. But for some reason, in this, one of her final moments on earth, she finds happiness in that memory.
3 responses to “#heforshe, can it unite us simply as people?”