Criticizing our country is incredibly difficult and just plain impossible for some. America is the best country in the world! It’s a chant repeated at marches and protests. Those deep in denial may toss out, if you don’t like it here, leave. But like a toddler’s tantrums are best ignored so are these angry, unconscious comments. The United States’ history, like our children’s lives, is full of wonderful AND not so stellar moments. If I’d looked the other way when Cliff fibbed about studying at the library or took Gréta’s words that her teacher picked on her, where is the opportunity for their growth? They would have grown up to be self-centered people who don’t take responsibility and likely engage in self-pity when called on the carpet. They’d be grown-ups in sheep’s clothing.
When we see injustice, we speak up. Turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to “My country tis of thee—Sweet land of liberty” without ever questioning the truthfulness of the lyrics gives little hope for progress towards liberty and justice for all. It’s hard to admit you have allowed other people’s thinking to drown out your inner voice. It takes self-examination and courage. If a yearly physical leads to identifying early stages of cancer, so will an occasional check on our beliefs. And if we did, we would discover that in 2020 in America and throughout the world, women’s and girls’ rights continue to be violated and inequality continues. We’ve made progress, but it’s too early to rest on our laurels.
In the last three years, I’ve observed a promising movement. Powerful old men are speaking out in support of women as equals. Just when I thought it would never happen, like passing the 19th Amendment, the light of dawn for equal rights is shining hopeful. What these old guys, my peers, realize is that their women need their voice behind them. It’s why Tim took the pledge to “stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible, and united force for a gender-equal world.” Today, in addition to the few older men, younger males (our sons) are coming out in droves speaking out in support of equality for their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters.
Alan Alda is one of Hollywood’s earliest feminists. According to Vanity Fair, he’s become very knowledgeable about the history of women and the challenges women still face. “I think misogyny is like a disease that needs to be cured. And if we could eradicate polio, I don’t see why we can’t eradicate misogyny.”
Harry Belafonte marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. on Washington and from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in the 60s. Half-a-century plus later, he served as the co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington in 2017. Putting women’s rights at the forefront, he let political leaders know the electorate was watching. He said, “Let us use this century when we said we started the mission to end the violence and oppression of women.”
Former US president Jimmy Carter is a lifelong advocate for women’s rights. “More women need to be elected to office if democracies are to function,” he said in a 2018 interview. “There’s no doubt in my mind that a woman is more inclined to peace than a man is, so I think we can move towards peace if women get more and more positions in parliament and more and more positions as president.” Should we listen to a man who has walked the talk his whole lifes. A man who has visited places all over the world to see for himself the world’s state of affairs, or a loudmouth radio host who makes millions spreading hate and division?
Alexander De Croo, Belgium’s Prime Minister, attended the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg in 2018 for the sole purpose of advancing women’s rights. On stage, he committed $49 million towards women’s and girls’ health and rights. “To achieve the Global Goals,” he said, “we cannot leave women and girls behind.“
Actor, Forest Whitaker, who won the Oscar for best actor (2007) for his role in The Last King of Scotland, is a big supporter of HeForShe, an invitation for men to stand with women to create a united force for a gender-equal world. “You can’t really find peace in the world when fifty percent of the world is excluded from the conversation.”
Barack Obama is outspoken and resolute. At a 2018 town hall meeting with young African leaders, he called for gender equality to improve democracies around the world. Closer to home, he had this to say: “Every day I read the newspaper and just think, like, ‘Brothers, what’s wrong with you guys? What’s wrong with us?’ We’re violent, we’re bullying. Just not handling our business. I think empowering more women on the continent that … is going to lead to some better policies.” It’s powerful to hear men (and women) reflect on their conduct instead of blaming others for their unconscious behavior.
The NFL player turned actor Terry Crews was recognized as one of the “Silence Breakers,” and named as TIME’s 2017 “Person of the Year.” Days after the Weinstein scandal broke, Terry went public with his story, a powerful Hollywood agent had groped him. When you are 6’3“ and two hundred plus pounds, who is going to believe you? He experienced the same fear, rejection and humiliation, women do. The accusers employer suspended the agent for 30 days. Crews called on men to hold each other accountable. “If you are making anybody uncomfortable, don’t do that — it’s not that hard!”
The requirement for being a feminist is easy. You have to believe that people of all colors and gendersshould have equal rights. Frances Wright, a freethinker, and social reformer, said, “Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.” Now that men are joining their women, there is hope for progress and a better future. Perhaps our great-grandchildren will read of this period as the dawning of justness and integrity.