Life

How to Show Solidarity on International Women’s Day

As a trans bodied man, I have had the distinct honour of having once been a woman — so I can say, with confidence, that my connection to women is one rooted in deep understanding, empathy, respect and solidarity. I have a deep affinity for International Women’s Day, a marker to globally celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements, past and present, and to bring awareness to the plight of gender inequality. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, a call for all of us to challenge gender bias and inequality.

You’d think as someone who was once female, the man I am today would come with a multitude of answers on how to best support women and be the perfect ally. The reality, however, is that I, too, must unpack my own gender biases and challenge a feeling I know many share – that not having been personally responsible for the historical oppression of women, I’m not held to account for its dismantling. What I have discovered, as I reflect, is that all men are accountable – no matter what their role in society. We are all responsible for doing the emotional labor that comes with making women feel safe and supported. All women, including trans women.

As I moved through my identity from female to male, the most defining moment of my transition happened when I came to truly understand male privilege. Strangely, that revelation came as I walked home alone, half drunk, from a night of clubbing. I’d been on testosterone for about two years, anxiously awaiting the moment when I no longer would be misgendered, the moment when I’d be seen for who I was. A man. And that moment came when I realized I had just walked home alone, late at night, un-harassed. I remembered thinking, “So, this is what it’s like to feel safe in the world.”

Understanding Male Privilege

As I moved through my identity from female to male, the most defining moment of my transition happened when I came to truly understand male privilege. Strangely, that revelation came as I walked home alone, half drunk, from a night of clubbing. I’d been on testosterone for about two years, anxiously awaiting the moment when I no longer would be misgendered, the moment when I’d be seen for who I was. A man. And that moment came when I realized I had just walked home alone, late at night, un-harassed. I remembered thinking, “So, this is what it’s like to feel safe in the world.”

As I began to be read as male, I started unpacking the societal responsibility of my new gender role. I went from victim to oppressor overnight and, although that was a hard pill to swallow, my experience informed me that for any man to be a good ally to women, they must fully acknowledge (without defensiveness) that women do not innately feel safe around men. I felt deep grief and anger in having to acknowledge that my journey into manhood aligned me with the historical oppression of women. It is an inescapable irony that in finally being seen as a man, I needed to now be invisible in my lived female experience, solidarity and intentions towards women.

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Gestures of solidarity go a long way toward creating a world where women feel safer and more valued.

The ego drove this thought home over and over: “Why should I be responsible for oppression I had nothing to do with?” So, listen. I’m not telling you this to give cis men a glimpse into my trans male experience but, rather, because I feel that many cis men feel the same set of emotions when it comes to taking responsibility in the dismantling of gender inequality – even if they’re arriving at these emotions through an entirely different context.

The answer to my question only arrived when I stopped seeing myself as a victim or an oppressor – and my firm conclusion was this: ALL men still benefit from the historical oppression of women. As a result, all men are accountable and responsible for dismantling it. Unfortunately, we do not yet live in a post-patriarchal, post-sexist society. International Women’s Day exists for a reason, just as the #metoo movement does.

These events are necessary as the result of a ubiquitous lack of awareness of just how bad things still are for women. If you want to show solidarity with women in your life and, more broadly, in society, use this International Women’s Day as the catalyst to change your personal narrative from oppressor to ally.

The following gestures of solidarity go a long way toward creating a world where women feel safer and more valued, and where equal opportunity will become a reality:

Cross The Street!

This small gesture speaks volumes. If you see a woman walking toward you late at night or happen to be strolling behind her, just cross the street. Don’t decide that you’re a nice guy and she has nothing to be scared of. She might not feel the same way.

Call Out And Call In

Call out male friends/family/strangers when they act in oppressive ways toward women, privately or publicly. Don’t be complicit in behavior that enables the continued oppression of women. When you don’t acknowledge it, you’re part of the problem.

Step Back Or Step Out

If a woman is equally or better qualified for a job that you’re up for, step back or step out. Solidarity means acknowledging male privilege and being active about it, especially when you’re a cis white man. If you are the male employer in this scenario, here’s a chance to be an active ally to women in your hiring practices.

Create Intersectional Solidarity For Women

Recognize that white women have more privilege and opportunity than women of colour and trans women, and that the latter suffer a disproportionate amount of bias, inequality and violence by comparison. Be active in that knowledge and implement ways to support them that differ from how you support white women.

Don’t Challenge A Woman’s Experience (aka don’t gaslight women)

Just because you have never seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Don’t minimize or tell a woman that her experience of gender bias is all in her head. Instead, be active in listening, learn from her experience and ask how you can better support her to become a better ally.

FAQs

In 1980 in Iceland, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the first democratically elected female president in any nation.

International Women’s Day was first recognized by the United Nations in 1975. The General Assembly officially formalized the day two years later, in 1977.

Writer/director Janet Mock made history in 2019 by signing an overall deal with Netflix!

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