Just last week our prime minister suggested women’s advancement shouldn’t come at the expense of men.
Not all men think like that. Some men are different. Men like my son who turned 18 on International Women’s Day. He had to give a speech to his school assembly about what International Women’s Day meant to him. I didn’t know he was doing it – he wrote this the night before at his father’s house. A parent contacted me to ask for the speech because her son had come home talking about it and how it had changed his perception of feminist politics. I don’t think I could be prouder. My greatest act of feminism. A man who thinks like this:
‘I have always held the immense privilege of having my birthday fall on International Women’s Day. From a young age I’ve always perceived it as such an important date, for reasons that stretch further than narcissism, self interest and self gain of course. Rather, I feel that today symbolises the incredible achievements of equally incredible women throughout history and still to this day. It is a celebration of how far we have come in the fight for gender equality whilst simultaneously being a recognition of the distance we have left to travel.
‘I have been exceptionally lucky in the sense that I have been at no shortage for incredible, powerful and intelligent women in my life. Be it my mother, my four sisters or my boundlessly beautiful friends. Whether knowingly or not, they have all worked to help shape the person – dare I say man – I am today. I think there is so much to be said about the importance of positive and strong female relationships in the lives of young men. Now as a young man, as someone who is around other young men, as someone who has both the luxury and sometimes the burden of partaking in conversations with other young men, it’s easy to distinguish that this teaching can sometimes be lost or corrupted.
‘On days like today which obviously have feminist connotations, it is easy to discern a certain disconnect. A sort of complacency that attempts to discredit the validity of these types of celebrations. Even in conversation with people prior to today’s service I received some dismissive remarks pertaining to feminism or International Women’s Day. By no means am I attempting to vilify anyone or speak down from this platform of perceived moral superiority. Rather the antithesis, as I completely understand where this thought process has its genesis. I do believe that there is a social tendency to narrativise the concept of feminism, and that its collective perception in a modern era is one built upon misinformation and misrepresentation.
‘An individual needn’t look any further than the front page of YouTube to ascertain what I’m talking about. You’ve all seen those videos that read ‘Top ten wrecked feminist moments’ or ‘Ben Shapiro eloquently ANNIHILATES man-hating feminist’. I think the inherent problem with sourcing your perspective from these sorts of videos, or other such resources, is that they are such a gross misrepresentation of what the feminist ideal preaches. Instead, they showcase the beliefs and attitudes of a select group of extremists and use this as a barometer with which to gauge the beliefs and attitudes of an entire population. It’s ridiculous! It has no more credence than me saying that one of you as a school student is completely and entirely indicative of the beliefs and attitudes of every student in the world.
‘The reason they do this of course is that it is far more interesting and palatable. No one wants to hear two rationally minded individuals engage in a civil conversation about feminism because that wouldn’t sell! So instead they showcase extremist values and ultimately perpetuate the narrative that feminism is an outdated, contradicting, man-hating practice.
‘I think this is so dangerous. I think it’s dangerous because it creates separation. It creates a distinction between men and women and encourages us to compete against one another instead of working together for the collective benefit of our human race. People are fooled by the name. Feminism. They take it at face value, without consideration of what it truly means. It pertains to everyone. Men and women. No more is this true than through the examination of the domestic violence epidemic. On average in Australia one woman is killed by her current or former partner each week. Of these attacks, upwards of 75 per cent of perpetrators were men.
‘I think herein lies the answer. Although propelled and motivated by powerful and driven women, real change in this respect will come with a new generation of men who refuse to be violent or succumb to the mistakes of past generations. There seems to be a common argument that presents itself in light of information such as this. That is the “not all men” argument. What I would say in response is this: to me this is an exceptionally self-serving and narrow-minded perception. Although it is true that not all men are violent or sexist, that isn’t the point. It’s about recognising your position within a culture of mistreatment and working as hard as you can to subvert this, irrespective of whether you yourself are contributing to one of these statistics.
‘This isn’t meant to be a pessimistic speech, really, it’s the opposite. What I ultimately want to communicate is that it is through fostering positive relationships between both men and women, and uniting through celebrations such as today, we can hope to achieve a world that isn’t founded upon separation, segregation and intolerance but rather cooperation, collaboration and acceptance.
‘In all honesty, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate day to be born. On a day where we celebrate the divine feminine energy. Because birthdays are about birth; about life. And women, of course, are the givers of life. So today let us celebrate life. Let us celebrate the achievements of incredible women, let us be inspired to be better. And if nothing else, let us listen to one another and work together for the benefit of all.
‘Happy International Women’s Day.’ Charlie Burton.
Maybe our prime minister needs to spend an afternoon with my 18 year old son.