IWD guest post: I’m a feminist, and I’m not wearing a bra either

He sits next to me every day at work, but even I didn’t know The Biscuit Cruncher would make this declaration in his guest post. I’m excited:

It’s International Women’s Day, so time for a poignant declaration. I am a man and I am a feminist.

That’s not something I’ve ever said before, so I’m going to have to try and justify it – and, given this is a blog, fast.

Feminism has a bad name. As a chiefly blokish bloke, when I think of feminists, all manner of ugly stereotypes pop into my head. No need to go into them now – you know what I’m talking about. So it’s not this kind of feminism I’m labelling myself with (although I don’t shave my legs either).

To me, feminism is about realising the value of the female of the species and establishing the equality of the contributions women and men make to society, the workplace, the home. And in that vein, I’m an ardent feminist (preach it, sister!).

That said, I don’t think we’re the same, and sometimes, this means our roles are different. An obvious statement perhaps, but much of the tension between the sexes comes when one or other of us feels we’ve been marginalised because of our gender, rather than because of our differences.

Men and women are not the same, and because of that, we have natural strengths and weaknesses. When men and women are working together as equals, we complement each other – a fine thing indeed.

Let’s take a facile, but comprehensible example – physicality. My wife has small hands and is great at sewing buttons. I have spades for hands, which means for me, sewing is like trying to park a Hummer in an NCP car park. Likewise, when our car had a flat tyre the other day, I replaced it, not my wife. My biceps are bigger than hers (quite impressively so, in fact), and it’s been known for the smell of rubber to improve my odour. She could change a tyre if she had to, but I’m better proportioned to do it than her. We find harmony (cloying word, I admit) in acknowledging these differences – let’s call them complements.

The complements are endless. My wife and I became parents 20 months ago, which is teaching us both all sorts of interesting things about the way we’re wired as male and female. We bring different qualities to the table, and although I can’t vouch for her 100 per cent given some of my parenting skills, we wouldn’t have undertaken this parenthood adventure without each other.

To use a newsier example, what does this mean in the boardroom? Take Primark, whose customers are 80 per cent female, but whose board is 100 per cent male. A lot has been asked about who’s to blame for this. The answer always seems to be either men, or women. ‘Of course!’, you might say, and it may be there’s chronic sexism at work here, or that the female execs need to be ballsier – I don’t know. But the answer could just as well be both, or even neither.

Neither, because if that board is made up of people who have been selected on their ability to do the job and complement each other in doing it, then it shouldn’t matter whether they’re all men, all women, or a combination of the two. At least, all things being equal, it shouldn’t. What does it matter what gender they are if they’re doing a good job?

Equality of the sexes is about value – not sameness. If the contributions of either men or women are undervalued, more fool the chump who made the call, because there is enormous potential in harnessing the value they bring together.

With that belief, I’m a feminist, and, for the record, a masculinist too. And I’m happy saying so. Just don’t expect me to appear at the next bra-burning party.

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