Women's Day, a chance for men to learn

This month we celebrate International Women's Day and while there are many women that don't need to be reminded of this, I'd wager that most men do. You may realise the irony of a white, straight, cisgender man writing about Women's Day, but hear me out. I'm not going to try and pat myself on the back for doing so. I won't try to mansplain the challenges women face in a patriarchal world. Lastly, and most importantly, I'm certainly not even going to pretend to understand what it's actually like being a woman. Instead, this article is about men. It seems strange that I would write about men for International Women's Day, but what I really mean is that this is aimed at men.

March 8 is about women, and we men really need to check our privilege at the door. The inherent problem is that I have to sit here and spell out the inherent problem: for some men to listen, why does it take a man to make them listen? From school to work, men benefit from male privilege in most ways throughout life, and we still get defensive of our identities when someone tries to explain theirs. That seems quite ridiculous, and yet it's true. It's exactly what some men do when women have one day out of the year —the only day— outside of the patriarchy. If women individually or collectively share their experience(s) of what being a woman is like, men don't get to determine, or question, the accuracy of those lived experiences.

Without making this a much-needed conversation on the topic of gender, to say nothing of the stark inequalities therein, it exists on a spectrum. Like sexual orientation, you absolutely cannot expect someone else to adhere to your personal understanding of gender. That seems quite preposterously simple. So, in conversations about International Women's Day, female identity is not, should not, and must not be something we (men) define, since it's something we can't identify with.

It should not fall on women's shoulders alone to help us be better men. We have to make an effort. We should educate ourselves. How? Listen. Read. Mostly, instead of trying to tell women about men who aren't the problem, respect women's spaces as just that —spaces for women! We need to stop involving ourselves in women's conversations about women, and if your feelings are hurt by women identifying themselves on their own terms, then your feelings are allowed to be hurt.

I read something recently along the lines of: sexism is structured on an oppressive system. So, having built and upheld this structure, we men cannot make ourselves scarce in dismantling it. Far be it for me to dictate how all men should act, but sit down, shut up, listen, and learn.

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