As a male it can be kind of daunting to approach the subject of feminism for the first time. After all, feminism is a movement "of women, for women," right? Is it even possible for men to be involved?
Yes, and here’s one man’s take on why.
As an immigrant rights advocate here in DC, I fight everyday in support of basic human rights for a vulnerable population living in our midst. I struggle to create a more tolerant, inclusive, understanding, accepting society where all people have equal rights, equal access to basic necessities and are free from harm. Where labels such as race, ethnicity, nationality or gender play no part in how a person is treated.
My involvement with immigration advocacy began after working as a translator at an immigration law firm. I heard firsthand how undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers suffered — both before coming to the US and after arriving. Women told me about being sold by their parents, about running away from arranged marriages, and being trafficked into the country. I met immigrant women who were trapped in abusive relationships, where their husbands would threaten to have them deported if they called the police. They all told me about living lives as second-class citizens, always trying to remain invisible and avoid attention. I encountered countless individuals who’s stories inspired me, saddened me and challenged me.
It wasn’t until I began working alongside a great number of feminist organizations that I began to see the how inseparable women’s rights were from the human rights I had been fighting for. I had been fighting for the same issues (asylum, trafficking, and detention issues) that feminist organizations were fighting for. I also learned (without really knowing it) that I already held a feminist outlook. Most importantly, I realized that this struggle for equality (which is such a huge part of who I am) is not a "male issue" or a "female issue" — it is a human issue. This connection to feminism has exposed me to a whole new dimension of the struggle for immigrants’ rights, and has really renewed my passion for what I do.
I have also found that I connect with feminism on a personal level, beyond my work as an advocate. I am ashamed that I live in a world where it is acceptable that my girlfriend could get paid 25% less than me for doing the same job. I am outraged to live in a world where my sister could be a silent victim of domestic violence. I am saddened that I live in a world where my friend could be sexually assaulted and made to feel like a criminal for reporting it. These inequalities hit me close to my heart, and I’ve found feminism to be a powerful tool to address them head-on.
In my mind, if social inequality bothers you, and you are willing to fight to change it, you’re already a feminist. I, for one, am proud to say that I consider myself a feminist.
Feminism doesn’t preclude men being involved, it necessitates it. Feminism has plenty to offer men, and we would be foolish to think we have no place in a discussion of what Feminism2.0 should look like. I am ready to learn, and can’t wait for the conference!