I finished reading Speak with my English class and took off running, trying not to inhale my mask, backpack bouncing against my back. There is no pretty way to run with a backpack. I had a Zoom call with Bouchra and Clémentine, representing The Urban Woman in Belgium. We were discussing how men and women might collaborate to speed up gender equality.
Up until I started GoodMenders, I held a pretty strict no-social-media policy. I used Facebook to remember birthdays and made a LinkedIn profile because my college career office told me to. But, thanks to my business LinkedIn page, a shared connection pointing me to Clémentine’s blog post (“Speeding Up Gender Equality: on Men Building Better Men”), and my fancy new Instagram, here we were. 3,000 miles apart, six-hour time difference, #buildingbetterculture.
I had never met Bouchra or Clémentine before, and I will be forever grateful for their initiative and vision (they set up our call). We talked about how men and women are not enemies. We talked about how women are not looking to be saved and how male saviorism will not solve toxic masculinity. Rather, that would be a more manipulative way to control and degrade women. Roll the music of little kids singing, “We don’t need no saviorism. We don’t need no thought control.”
Finally, we talked about men and women coming together as one force — two different yet authentic voices — singing the same sweet song of gender equality. Gender equality is love. Plain and simple. It is seeing another human and appreciating every inch of them — not in a creepy way, but in a V for Vendetta never-give-up-your-final-inch-of-integrity way (where you at old students?). Loving their too-loud laugh or their far-out dream or their eating ice cream for dinner because it’s what they do. It is letting people be, and it is not fear. We fear the loss of love, yes, but we also fear people who we do not know.
We must know each other to do the work of gender equality.
I love working with boys and men to discuss toxic masculinity, but we will not detox it on our own — even though it is in our best interests. Men must know and share themselves, but they also need to know women. They need to learn feminine ideas, to respect and value them. Dare I say, express them? As Omar Little said, “Oh indeed.”
Feminine ideas brought me together with Bouchra and Clémentine. We have lived completely separate lives, and, by the end of our call, I had the feeling of talking to close friends — to teammates. People say it will be at least 100 years until we achieve gender equality. I’m excited to start crunching the numbers with The Urban Woman. That’s love, and that’s why we play the game.