I am, it’s no secret, an arsey feminist. I also – again, no secret – love men. As people, I love men’s humour, their loyalty, their straightforwardness. Some of my best friends are men and I’d trust them through anything. My Dad and my brother are two of the kindest, funniest, loveliest people in the world and I’d walk through fire for them if I had to. (Dad, Nathan, if you’re reading this, MISS THE NEXT TWO PARAS).
And, quite frankly, when it comes to the physical appreciation of men, I bow to no-one. Short ones, tall ones, fat ones, thin ones, blondes, brunettes: In my time, I’ve loved ’em all. I love some for their great big bear hugs, some for their lithe nimbleness and grace. I love their multifariously-shaped, eager, jutting cocks and their pert little arses. I love lying in their arms, I love holding them in mine. I love smelling their skin and playing with their body hair.
I love lying in bed and having a tickling fight to see who has to go and make a cup of tea. I love giggling in the dark when you should be asleep but you’re telling stupid jokes instead because there’s no grown-ups to tell you to settle down. I love being late for work because neither of you could resist some loose-limbed tangling.
Ultimately, I love the sense of partnership, and the childlike joy, that comes from allowing yourself to be naked (in many senses) with another person. And I don’t see that that’s possible if you don’t view each other as equals.
We have to treat each other as people, first and foremost. We were all children together once, falling off haystacks and running in the street. That essence of happy, skipping, curious, freedom is still there inside all of us, underneath all the social conditioning crap and caution.
If we can treat each other as equals a women can joyfully and unashamedly seduce a man, not coyly submit cos girls aren’t supposed to like it. A man can admit his fears and a woman can comfort him.
The world, as we can see, is a great big mess, and we’re all in it together. Can we please be friends with each other and try to make the world better for all of us? Men, you have sisters, mothers, lovers, daughters, friends. If you’re not a wanker (and you’re not, right?) you want them to have the chance to grow up happy, secure and strong. You want them to reach their potential and have free choices in life. We want the same for you.
Men can be feminists too. You can truly love women, you can stand up for them, you can respect them. You can challenge men who don’t – because frankly, those sort aren’t going to listen to people like me. And if justice and a better world aren’t enough incentive, men who truly love women (and women who truly love men) will have much happier relationships and better sex – scientists have proved it.
Today is equal pay day. Because of gender pay disparity, on average, women work the rest of the year for free, while men are paid. This is not fair. It’s also a reason for widespread childhood poverty (as so many single-person households are headed by women) which leads to social exclusion and a multitude of social issues. There are many reasons for gender pay disparity but they include entrenched sexism, and women’s reticence, compared to men, about pushing themselves forwards.
Research shows that women – whether because of the way they are socialised or because of innate gender differences doesn’t really make much odds at the moment – are less likely to ask for pay rises. They are more likely to assume that working hard but not blowing your own trumpet will lead to recognition.
And saying ‘women should just be more forthright’ is not a sufficient solution. Research also shows that women who do behave ‘like men’ get a more negative reaction for it. It’s one of those irregular verbs – a man who stand up for himself is strong and decisive, a woman who does it is aggressive and strident. (Bad news for me, obviously:-)).
So if you’re a man who loves women, if you care about your mothers, sisters and friends, if you want to live in an equal world, what you can do is be aware of these things. You can think about how the world is different for you and for the women in your life.
If there are women who work for you, don’t wait until they ask you to think if they deserve a pay rise. If there are women you work with you could praise them where they won’t praise themselves, and raise the issue of gender parity where appropriate.
Dearest men, join us, and be a feminist too. You have nothing to lose but your stiff upper lips, and all the world to gain. We’ll happily love you, hold you when you cry and run to your arms for comfort when we do. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with you against the world, if you’ll do the same for us. Please help us, we need you. We can’t create a better, equal world on our own.