With International Women’s Day behind us, and having taken part in a few activities which led up to and happened on the day, I was exposed to something very interesting in my preparation for the day.
In looking for events to attend I quickly came across the ‘Million Women Rise‘ march that took place in London, UK. It was a large gathering of women, marching through the multicultural and mutli-national streets of London; women chanted, sang, danced, and drummed to ‘end male violence against women’. I was geared up and excited to attend, to take part in an event that fundamentally had a necessary place. But I was quickly dissuaded from attending when I found out it was a women and children ONLY march.
The role of men in the women’s rights movement is often under-represented, and in the case of ‘Million Women Rise’, it is my opinion that it is sometimes a form of reverse-sexism that can only be detrimental to the progression and proliferation of women’s rights. I use Liberia as the strongest example in my defense. Liberian women struggled for 14 long years under the brutal dictatorship of Charles Taylor, depriving them of peace, prosperity, and a place in society. Taylor was finally ousted from power by the same women he sought to oppress.
Today Nobel Peace Prize winner and elected president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has rebuilt the nation on the fundamental belief in equality and justice for all. The images we have see of hundreds of women encircling Taylor’s cavalcades and home, dressed in white and publicly demanding freedom from oppression, is often void of the hundreds more men who stood behind these women and supported them to their success. Sirleaf has repeatedly, in interviews and speeches recognized the crucial role that men play in the women’s liberation and women’s rights movement.
I don’t think it necessary to dwell in the 1800s when most men, and not all, excluded women from the public sphere and kept them oppressed in the private. We use those memories as a starting point for progression, to exclude and openly deny men the opportunity to take part in a social movement is the very thing in inverse of what was done to us. Without women men cannot succeed, and without men, women cannot move forward.
I am reminded of one of my favourite campaigns, the ‘White Ribbon Campaign‘. Organized by men this campaign charges men around the world to end violence against women. To rally together and to swear against gender-based violence. It is a campaign, by men, for men, for the benefit of women. It assures my belief that though women can raise their voice and march their feet, without men taking an oath the women’s rights campaign will forever be one-sided.