This past weekend, I was honored when one of my teachers and dear friends, Cynthia Winton-Henry, shared her latest newsletter from “The Hidden Monastery.”
Cynthia reflected on the importance of International Women’s Day. She noted that the world does not need an International Men’s Day, but she would like to see a day that recognizes:
“Men who follow women, men who understand the role of women, men who listen to women, and especially men who dignify the role of highly sensitive women, men who do not feel a loss of gendered expression or knowingness in relation to women.”
I was among the small group of men whom Cynthia recognized for this distinction, which was much appreciated.
Women’s rights are my social justice focus. It began early in my life as I watched my father recognize and honore my mother’s contributions as his business partner. It continued to grow, especially after I met my wife, Sheila, who was and remains deeply committed to feminist issues.
One of my favorite stories of my work in this arena is when I served as the evaluator for my (then future wife’s) grant project on training K-12 educators on implementing a newly passed law, colloquially named Title IX. The coaches, in particular, were against the idea of sharing the athletic facilities with the girls. They eventually understood the importance, especially when we told them it was the law and they needed to follow it.
When they returned the following summer for year two of the training, they were all high-fiving each other on how well their daughters did in sports, showing off their team trophies and announcing bragging rights for state championships. Nothing helps move society forward more than seeing your kids celebrating their sports victories.
I told myself that this would all be good. Social change is challenging, and the road is never smooth but much good has happened over the past 50 years. My participation with the Board of the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh reminds me frequently, however, that there is still much to do.
The opportunity is for each man to take a step on behalf of their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and sons to continue working for equality. Here are a few things I’ve been focused on:
- Listen: Research shows that men talk more in meetings at work than women and that women are often talked over when they attempt to contribute. I’ve taken to being quiet and not always initiating comments to allow for others, especially women to share their thoughts. Take some time to observe who talks and how much at your work meetings.
- Credit women’s actions fairly: Women’s ideas are sometimes undervalued at work, and men, who may be more accustomed to competition, may do less to acknowledge their colleagues’ accomplishments. Sometimes, just a thank you or statement of appreciation establishes a benchmark for others to recognize good work.
- Sexist language” This is a tough one to do because of the old boy’s club and I’ve had trouble stepping in, at times. Yet, when I hear language that is inappropriate, I shake my head, frown a bit, and then let the other person know that it is that funny. I’ve not lost any friends yet and I know I’ve done the right thing.
- Share housework: Research shows that men think they are equally involved in childcare and housework, but women seem to disagree. I’ve always enjoyed being organized and keeping things clean, so I’ve found my tasks to contribute. I think Sheila would agree but I’ll see how she responds to this post.
I would probably grade myself as a “B” Overall, which means that I can probably do better. I’m grateful that Cynthia placed me on the good list. I trust her judgement.
© Richard Citrin 2023