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Women’s Rights


Are You Kenough? I’m Striving to be.

By Women's Rights, Workplace Culture

Have you watched the movie “Barbie”?

To be honest, I felt indifferent about going to see it. However, I went because some of the people whose opinions I hold in high regard insisted that it was worthwhile – and they were absolutely right.

Having grown up during the era of Barbie, I was elated by how the movie turned the tables on many of the sexist messages and stereotypes associated with Barbie during my youth. I applaud the courage of the producers, writers, and actors who brought this movie to life. It provoked me in a positive way.

I don’t claim to have grasped all the subtle innuendos or messages conveyed in the movie. In fact, I feel like I need to watch it again to catch what I might have missed.

Nevertheless, here are a few initial takeaways that resonated with me:

Patriarchy is at play in societies worldwide, even if us men don’t readily see it. I feel defensive when someone accuses me of being part of the patriarchy. I put in conscious effort to overcome my own sense of entitlement and the privileges I enjoy in society. I like to believe that this effort exempts me from contributing to the patriarchy. However, the truth is that the system is skewed, and men, whether consciously or unconsciously, reap the benefits of this imbalance.

The role of men in our evolving society is changing, and our partnerships with women and others must evolve as well. In the movie, Ken faces an identity crisis when Barbie realizes that the real world isn’t as kind to her as the make-believe Barbie-land. In Barbie’s fantasy world, Ken derives his self-worth solely from Barbie’s attention. However, in reality, Ken needs to listen to and empathize with Barbie’s complex emotions and reactions. Barbie instructs Ken to find his own identity apart from her. As Ken witnesses Barbie confront and articulate these challenges, he responds with withdrawal and oversimplification, saying, “I just want to ride my horse.” This scene reminds me of the times I asked my female colleagues to “just tell me what to do” instead of figuring things out on my own.

Our duty as men is to confront our insecurities and consciously transcend them – to recognize that we are already sufficient just as we are. Toward the end of the movie, as Ken discovers his true identity and recognizes that he is more than merely an accessory to Barbie, we see him wearing a hoodie that reads “I am Kenough.” This signifies his growth and maturity. Fortunately, in my professional and personal life, I am encountering more men who are open to discussing their vulnerabilities and feelings of inadequacy.

Whether the lessons I gleaned from Barbie were intentional or inadvertent, I’m simply grateful for how the movie spurred me to introspect and to refine my beliefs and actions.

So, I ask you: Are you “Kenough”?

Let’s Start a Men’s Movement! Mandatory Vasectomies for All!

By Men's work, Women's Rights

Let’s hear it for Chaz Stevens. 

Never heard of him? I haven’t either, until today when a colleague told me of his story. Chaz, it seems, wants to ban the Bible in Florida public schools.

Chaz questioned the age-appropriateness of the Bible, pointing to its “casual” references to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and fornication. “Do we really want to teach our youth about drunken orgies?” he said. He also noted the number of Biblical references to rape, bestiality, cannibalism, and infanticide.

I’m not against the Bible at all. But I am for the establishment clause of the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) and I am most definitely for Mr. Stevens who—no joke—- petitioned 63 Florida school districts to ban the Bible. 

What’s more, in Broward County, he also petitioned to ban the Oxford Dictionary, calling it “a weighty tome over 1,000 years old, containing more than 600,000 words; all very troubling if we’re trying to keep our youth from learning about race, gender, sex, and such.”

I am finally seeing a white man who isn’t a movie star or politician (though he is a self-described satirist and “stunt activist”) express his outrage at policies like the Florida state law that makes it easier for parents and county residents to challenge books in schools and having his views make the news. He didn’t just get on the news; he used his time, energy, and resources to put his idea into action.  

In light of my continued frustration at men’s complacency over the Dobbs vs. Jackson Health decision that overturned Roe v Wade, I was inspired by Chaz Stevens’ courage and creativity. What keeps the rest of us from taking a Chaz Stevens kind of step, including me?

Chaz Stevens at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2013. Brendan Farrington/AP

I have an idea, finally: Men, let’s get organized and suggest to our state representatives that we introduce a bill that requires all men to get a vasectomy or use a male version of the birth control pill until they want to have a child when then they can apply somehow for permission. Of course, this will be almost impossible to enforce, so we’ll have to require all pregnant women to register pregnancies and claim who the father is—then the government can prosecute him/them. And for convicted rapists or deadbeat dads who don’t pay child support, let’s give them vasectomies as well. It’ll be an elegant solution for overpopulation and a strong deterrent for those who have perpetrated violence on women. Maybe the new law will soften the blow for the majority of women in the US who are outraged that their government is telling them they cannot have sovereignty over their own bodies. It’ll be a quid pro quo of sorts. 

In the name of equity, one could argue that women should also have to go on birth control and face sterilization for rape, but of course, that isn’t really necessary. Men rape women in our society, rarely is it the other way around. Yet women are the group who get penalized for being the parent nature assigned to carry a child.

If you are a man, and you read the preceding paragraphs thinking, “wow, dictating who gets sterilized and making men use birth control feels like overreach for a country like the U.S.”,  the truth is, it’s not overreaching since we overturned Roe. We now have a precedent for how far into our lives the government can exert its influence, thanks to Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health.

MEN, if we don’t fight for women’s reproductive rights, we’d better be ready to deal with the consequences when the tables are turned on us. 

But I know you don’t really believe the tables could be turned, do you, men? Yeah, neither do I. 

A lot of other mindsets and cultural beliefs—some of which are 500 years old—would have to be turned upside down before we need to be worried about government-mandated vasectomies or birth control for men. 

But reproductive rights are just the tip of the iceberg.  

What about the default view that in our society, women raise children regardless of if they are employed?  In our society, women are expected to have TWO jobs—one that takes care of domestic issues and child-rearing, and frequently, another income-earning job as well. Yes, that’s shifting some; thank God for millennials and Gen Zers—but we have a long way to go.  

What about pay equity for women at work?  Oh, that’s OK, we don’t have to pay women as much because they can’t work the same long hours as many men since women shoulder more of the domestic obligation, even if they don’t want to. This “motherhood penalty” is why mothers make 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. It’s clear that employees need to update their policies to reflect the reality of today’s working moms and dads.

What about single women who don’t have children? They aren’t impacted, are they? They will be now if they need an abortion and live in a state where they can go to jail for getting one. 

No matter what the issue is, there are layers upon layers of embedded cultural habits and beliefs that help sustain the status quo, which in this and many cases in our society, benefit men and disadvantage women. And our U.S. Supreme Court just made a major contribution to ensuring women will be in this weakened position for at least another generation.

Fellas, we better start lobbying now, or we’ll be next.    

On some basic level, I’m betting Chaz Stephens knows how systemic all of this is, hence his strategy: they want to ban reading books like “Gender Queer –  A Memoir” because if kids shouldn’t be exposed to LGBTQ+ issues at school (even if they are queer or gender-fluid) then we better ban the book where all of these elements are first described. 

Thank you Chaz for your courage. I’ve been stuck and struggling with where to begin. With all the social media and news I consume, yours was the first white male voice I have heard that really speaks to these issues.  

Maybe we’ll call it “The Chaz Act” when we legalize mandatory vasectomies. Won’t that be an honor for Chaz? Hmmmm.

Never mind, I’m off to write to my representative


**Special thanks to Peggy Nagae from The Diversity Collaborative for her ideas and positive provocation and conceptualization in the creation of this piece.

bans off my body

Not My Independence Day

By Women's Rights

The Supreme Court has decided to strike down Roe v Wade, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito and obtained by Politico [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

What Men Can Do to Stand Up for a Woman’s Right to Choose

Well, at least I waited until after July 4th to publish this. We all deserve a break, but now it’s time to get back to work.

I struggled mightily to celebrate our independence this year. Was it hard for you?  I hate to say it, but  I hope it was. I hope I am not alone. 

It’s hard to celebrate our collective independence when I feel like our independence as a society is shrinking, or maybe it’s just that our interdependence is shrinking. 

Perhaps we should rename it “Interdependence Day” as a reminder of what makes us and keeps us strong…

I used to be able to convince myself that being male insulated me to some degree from any direct impacts of the overturning of the Roe v Wade (Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization) decision. But in truth, I am impacted, and so is every man.

We now live in a society where fully one-half of our population has fewer rights and freedom about their own bodies than they had prior to Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health. They have less independence or “agency,” as the dissenting judges named it, to make decisions about what to do if they become pregnant. Meanwhile, there isn’t a law or statute in the land that makes their male counterparts responsible—even just a little—for impregnating them. Living in a country where half of the population is experiencing direct marginalization due to ideological overreach is something I feel and notice. As the saying goes, “some of my best friends are women.” How could I not be impacted by the decision, knowing and seeing the impact of overturning Roe v Wade has on them?

Is my sense of freedom and independence lessened by the decision, when every woman in my life now has less independence? Of course it is. All the women in my life are feminists and are outspoken advocates for women’s rights. It doesn’t matter if they are beyond childbearing years or not.

This Supreme Court decision is heartbreaking for women in ways I can only begin to fathom. 

I’ve been in three different discussions in as many weeks with groups of men in which at least one of them has said that women “…just need to speak up louder about their rights” in response to the ruling. To me, their advice goes beyond the pale—it’s egregiously inappropriate. There is no excuse and no reason to say it, and claiming innocent ignorance won’t get you a pass with me any longer.

Throughout my entire life, women have been fighting for their rights, not only for reproductive freedom, but also in regards to pay equity, family and parental status, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and women’s health. The issue isn’t how loudly or how many of them speak up—saying as much perpetuates the idea that these issues are theirs to solve. The issues, I submit, are also OURS to solve because it’s us—men—that have the firmest grasp on maintaining the status quo, and it is we who continue to do and say the most things that minimize the issue and degrade progress.

In a variety of ways, we’ve been telling women to speak up their whole lives. When we give them career or professional advice, we often tell them to be more assertive—to be more like us. When it comes to sharing their opinions, we are far more likely to harshly judge or challenge women than we are our male counterparts. And literally, when they are in meetings with us, we tell them to speak louder because we can’t hear them over the volume and frequency of our own voices and the amount of time and space, proportionally, that we take up compared to them.

Independence? I don’t think so…not today.

Men, here’s what I am trying/doing/experimenting with to find out what helps the most:

Listen with empathy. This is HUGE. What I hear from the women in my life as they don’t necessarily need me to fix the problem, but they do need me to listen to their experiences. I have to admit, listening to anyone tell me about their problems without rendering a suggestion for a solution makes it hard for me to stay present. However, I’ve been repeatedly told they don’t need my opinions, they need me to understand and empathize with their reality.

Become more aware of the power that is yours because you are a man. Notice what is easier for you either because of your own physical power or because of the prestige or credibility that your gender gives you. This applies to everything from how car salesmen treat you to your own assumption that women just have to be more assertive. Those are examples of your power talking. And incidentally, stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re more powerful than a woman. Overall you aren’t, but there are ways in which society values and favors our strengths versus women’s strengths, and that unfairly tips the scales for us.

Become less tolerant of men who are unaware of their own sexism or misogyny. I’m not saying you should pick a fight with them or intentionally insult or abuse them, but it’s time to take off the kid gloves when men make ignorant statements about women. You’ve seen it, the uncomfortable situation where a man says or does something you just know he would not do in the presence of women, and he expects to get away with it because he is in the safety of only men. Don’t collude anymore; call him on it. The era of silent collusion needs to be over.

Publicly intervene with yourself when you say things or behave in the ways that you’re critical of other men for doing. Call yourself out publicly; the intent here isn’t for you to practice performative self-flagellation, but rather to model and practice your own developing self-awareness. If you want to be a model for other men, do so by correcting yourself when you blow it, not just by proving how aware or sensitive you are.

Stand up for women in leadership roles and notice your own and other men’s tendency to be (overly) critical of them. I’m fatigued hearing men talk about “strong women” in ways that also degrade them for being too much like a man, or too “butch” or just too assertive. Let your observations about women’s leadership stand without needing to offer a critique to offset their attributes. I notice that as males, we do this a lot more with women than we do with other men.

Loudly voice your dissent and dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court’s decision. Don’t assume that the way things are is just the way things will be. We simply cannot allow the Supreme Court decision to stand without vehemently but peacefully protesting our discontent with the decision. We also must pursue all available means to overturn the decision in ways that reflect the popular opinion of most U.S. citizens.

Let’s work alongside women to help find ways to change things, now. We owe it to their—and our—legacy of interdependence as a democratic society.