Writing this post was both challenging and fulfilling; I was filled with apprehension because I wondered about the place of a man in writing a post for “Feminist Fridays” and I was filled with excitement over the possibility of giving back to a community so important to me.
I reflected upon how I could contribute—to recognizing the achievements of women, to supporting women in the drive for equity, to increasing the number of men who say, without reservation, “I am a feminist.” I know that my privilege means never having to explain a career choice or an outfit choice. I know that my privilege means I am likely to earn more money than a woman. I know that some will value my words above a woman’s. All because I am a man. Through reflection, I realized that I had an opportunity to use my privilege.
So now I say, proudly, that I am a feminist. I am a feminist simply because I believe with all my heart that women should never have to defend their worth, their achievements, or their desires. No one should have to say, “Women are the equals of men” because no one would dare imply that men might not be the equals of women. Feminism as I understand it is not a rallying cry to castrate men, discredit masculinity, or establish matriarchy—it is the longed-for declaration that there is inequality in our world and we must change this if we are to realize the potential of humanity.
The change we need and the change we seek will not take place overnight but we cannot wait forever. In the words of Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” It is in the moments that the course of the world unfolds. How wonderful is it, then, that our lives contain so many moments!
I have come to realize that the women in my life have had a positive impact on my growth and my development through seemingly insignificant moments of time. A coworker who says, “You don’t seem okay. How can I help?” A student who takes the time to thank me for talking with her late in the evening. A professor who asks, “Why not?” when asked about a research idea.
I could convey a thousand stories of a thousand moments, but the one that stands out to me today is that of a first-year university student who had just moved into his residence hall. He was nervous and excited to meet the other students on his floor; he did not see the mixed emotions of his parents who were about to say goodbye. He rushed through that interaction and quickly turned to other things, giving little thought to what his parents might be feeling.
Two weeks later, he called home and blurted out, “I want to come home. I hate it here.” His mom then betrayed him and said, “No. You can’t come home until Thanksgiving.” Surprised by this, he said, “I thought you were going to be there for me—always.” She said with a choking voice, “I am here for you. I love you and I have to go, honey.”
Little did he realize this would set him on a different course, a better course. Because it forced him to begin standing on his own two feet, to make friends, to learn how to make his way in the world. And that way would include joy and sadness and triumph and defeat and it would be blessed. Truly blessed.
When I talked to my mom about this years after, I asked her what made her say no. She told me that she knew I had to do it on my own. She said, “That was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.”
I know the power of moments because I have experienced the power of moments. Individual women have given me so much:
-A woman gave birth to me, raised me, comforted me, sheltered me, and challenged me.
-A woman taught me how to read and write.
-A woman inspired me to study history.
-A woman encouraged me in the depth of my struggle with suicide.
-A woman mentored me during my master’s thesis process.
-A woman invited me to start running.
-A woman gave up so much so that I could have enough.
So I leave you with this:
Honor the moments in your life. Hold onto the moments as if they were all that mattered—because they’re all that do. Tell your loved ones that you love them.
Honor women in your life. Not just because they are your mothers, your sisters, or your partners, but because it’s the right thing to do.