It is a great pleasure to speak before you today on International Women's Day. I am grateful to Mrs. Nicole Fontaine, President of the European Parliament, and to Margareta Winberg, the Swedish Minister for Gender Equality for honoring me with the invitation to speak here with you.
It is 90 years today since the first official International Women's Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, organized by the great German feminist Clara Zetkin, who wanted a single day to remember the 1857 strike of garment workers in the U.S. that led to the formation of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. On March 19, 1911 - the anniversary has changed since then - more than a million women and men rallied to demand the right to work, to hold public office, and to vote.
Think of how much has changed in those 90 years! Throughout most, if not all of Europe today, women have: gained the right to vote, to own property in their own name, to divorce, to work in every profession, to join the military, to control their own bodies, to challenge men's presumed "right" to sexual access once married, or on a date, or in the workplace,
Indeed, the women's movement is one of the great success stories of the 20th century, perhaps of any century. It is the story of a monumental, revolutionary transformation of the lives of more than half the population. But what about the other half.?
Today, this movement for women's equality remains stymied, stalled. Women continue to experience discrimination in the public sphere. They bump their heads on glass ceilings in the workplace, experience harassment and less-than fully welcoming environments in every institution the public sphere, still must fight to control their own bodies, and to end their victimization through rape, domestic violence, and trafficking in women.
I believe that the reason that the movement for women's equality remains only a partial victory has to do with men. In every arena - in politics, military, workplace, professions, and education - the single greatest obstacle to women's equality is the behaviors and attitudes of men.
I believe that changes among men represent the next phase of the movement for women's equality - that changes among men are vital if women are to achieve full equality. Men must come to see that gender equality is in their interests - as men.
This great movement for gender equality has already begun to notice that men must be involved in the transformation. The Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Congress on Women, in Beijing in 1995 said "The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue."
Four years later, a Fact Sheet entitled "Men and Equality" from the Swedish Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications, put it this way:
"Traditionally, gender equality issues have been the concern of women. Very few men have been involved in work to achieve equality. However, if equality is to become a reality in all areas of society, a genuine desire for change and active participation in the part of both women and men are called for."
But why should men participate in the movement for gender equality? Simply put, I believe that these changes among men will actually benefit men, that gender equality is not a loss for men, but an enormously positive thing that will enable us to live the kinds of lives we say we want to live.
In order to make this case, I will begin by pointing to several arenas in which women's have changed so drastically in the past half?century, and suggest some of the issues I believe we men are currently facing as a result.
First, women made gender visible. Women have demonstrated the centrality of gender in social life; in the past two decades, gender has joined race and class as the three primordial axes around which social life is organized, one of the primary building blocks of identity.
This is, today, so obvious that it hardly needs mentioning. Parliaments have Gender Committees, and the Nordic countries even have Ministers for Gender Equality. Every university in the U.S. has a Women's Studies Program. Yet just as often we forget just how recent this all is. The first Women's Studies program in the world was founded in 1972.
Second, women have transformed the workplace. Women are in the workplace to stay. Almost half the labor force is female. I often demonstrate this point to my university classes by asking the women who intend to have careers to raise their hands. All do. Then I ask them to keep their hands raised if their mothers have had a career outside the home for more than ten years without an interruption. Half put their hands down. Then I ask them to keep their hands raised if their grandmothers had a career for ten years. Virtually no hands remain raised. In three generations, they can visibly see the difference in women's working lives.
Just 40 years ago, in 1960, only about 40% of European adult women of working age were in the labor force; only Austria and Sweden had a majority of working-age women in the labor force. By 1994, only Italy, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain did not have a majority of working-age women in the labor force, and the European average had nearly doubled.
This has led to the third area of change in women's lives: the efforts to balance work and family life. Once upon a time, not so long ago, women were forced to choose between career and family. But beginning in the 1970s, women became increasingly unwilling to choose one or the other. They wanted both. Could a woman "have it all?" was a pressing question in the past two decades. Could she have a glamorous rewarding career and a great loving family?
The answer, of course, was "no." Women couldn't have it all because... men did. It's men who have the rewarding careers outside the home and the loving family to come home to. So if women are going to have it all, they are going to need men to share housework and childcare. Women have begun to question the "second shift," the household shift that has traditionally been their task, after the workplace shift is over.
Finally, women have changed the sexual landscape. As the dust is settling from the sexual revolution, what emerges in unmistakably finer detail is that it's been women, not men, who are our era's real sexual pioneers. Women now feel empowered to claim sexual desire. Women can like sex, want sex, seek sex. Women feel entitled to pleasure. They have learned to say yes to their own desires, claiming, in the process, sexual agency.
And men? What's been happening with men while women's lives have been so utterly and completely transformed? To put it bluntly, not very much. Sure some men have changed in some ways, but most men have not undergone a comparable revolution. This is, I think, the reason that so many men seem so confused about the meaning of masculinity these days.
In a sense, of course, our lives have changed dramatically. I think back to the world of my father's generation. Now in his mid-70s, my father could go to an all-male college, serve in an all male military, and spend his entire working life in a virtually all-male working environment. That world has completely disappeared.
So our lives have changed. But what have men done to prepare for this completely different world? Very little. What has not changed are the ideas we have about what it means to be a man. The ideology of masculinity has remained relatively intact for the past three generations. That's where men are these days: our lives have changed dramatically, but the notions we have about what it means to be a man remain locked in a pattern set decades ago, when the world looked very different.
What is that traditional ideology of masculinity? In the mid- I 970s, an American psychologist offered what he called the four basic rules of masculinity:
The past decade has found men bumping up against the limitations of that traditional definition, but without much of a sense of direction about where they might go to look for alternatives. We chafe against the edges of traditional masculinity, but seem unable or unwilling to break out of the constraints we feel by those four rules. Thus the defensiveness, the anger, the confusion that is everywhere in evidence.
These limits will become most visible around the four areas in which women have changed most dramatically: making gender visible, the workplace, the balance between work and home, and sexuality. They suggest the issues that must be placed on the agenda for men, and a blueprint for a transformed masculinity.
Let me pair up those four rules of manhood with the four arenas of change in women's lives and suggest some of the issues I believe we are facing around the world today.
First, though we now know that gender is a central axis around which social life revolves, most men do not know they are gendered beings. Courses on gender are still populated mostly by women. Those gender studies books on every university press list are still read virtually entirely by women.
I often tell a story about a conversation I observed in a feminist theory seminar that I participated in about a decade ago. A white woman was explaining to a black woman how their common experience of oppression under patriarchy bound them together as sisters. All women, she explained, had the same experience as women, she said.
The black woman demurred from quick agreement. "When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror," she asked the white woman, "what do you see?" "I see a woman," responded the white woman hopefully. "That's the problem," responded the black woman. "I see a black woman. To me race is visible, because it is how I am not privileged in society. Because you are privileged by race, race is invisible to you. It is a luxury, a privilege not to have to think about race every second of your life."
I groaned, embarrassed. And, as the only man in the room, all eyes turned to me. "When I wake up and look in the mirror," I confessed, "I see a human being. The generic person. As a middle class white man, I have no class, no race and no gender. I'm universally generalizable. I am Everyman." Lately, I've come to think that it was on that day in 1980 that I became a middle class white man, that these categories actually became operative to me. The privilege of privilege is that the terms of privilege are rendered invisible. It is a luxury not to have to think about race, or class, or gender. Only those marginalized by some category understand how powerful that category is when deployed against them.
Let me give you another example of how privilege is invisible to those who have it. Many of you have email addresses, and you write email messages to people all over the world. You've probably noticed that there is one big difference between email addresses in the United States and email addresses of people in other countries: your addresses have "country codes" at the end of the address. So, for example, if you were writing to, someone in South Africa, you'd put "za" at the end, or "jp" for Japan, or "uk" for England (United Kingdom) or"de" for Germany (Deutschland). But when you write to people in the United States, the email address ends with "edu" for an educational institution, "org" for an organization, "gov" for a federal government office, or "com" or "net" for commercial internet providers. But not us. Why not? Why is it that the United States doesn't have a country code?
It is because when you are the dominant power in the world, everyone else needs to be named. When you are "in power," you needn't draw attention to yourself as a specific entity, but, rather, you can pretend to be the generic, the universal, the generalizable. From the point of view of the United States, all other countries are "other" and thus need to be named, marked, noted. Once again, privilege is invisible. In the world of the Internet, as Michael Jackson sang, "we are the world."
Becoming aware of ourselves as gendered, recognizing the power of gender as a shaping influence in our lives, is made more difficult by that first rule of manhood - No Sissy Stuff. The constant, relentless efforts by boys men to prove that they are "real men" and not sissies or weak or gay is a dominant theme, especially in the lives of boys. As long as there is no adequate mechanism for men to experience a secure, confident and safe sense of themselves as men, we develop our own methods to "prove it." One of the central themes I discovered in my book, Manhood in America was the way that American manhood became a relentless test, a constant, interminable demonstration.
My recent research into the "gendered" nature of the resurgence of far?right neo-Nazi skinhead movements - movements of boys and young men - has revealed that these movements are fueled by this desire to prove masculinity by denying manhood to "others" - Jews, women, gays, immigrants.
As a culture, we must make gender visible, and give young boys and men the means to develop a secure, confident, inner sense of themselves as men. Only then will we be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The second arena in which women's lives have changed is the workplace. Recall the second rule of manhood: Be a Big Wheel. Most men derive their identity as breadwinners, as family providers. Often, though, the invisibility of masculinity makes it hard to see how gender equality will actually benefit us as men. For example, while we speak of the "feminization of poverty" we rarely "see" its other side - the "masculinization of wealth." While in the U.S. women's wages are expressed as a function of men's wages - so we read that women earn 70 cents for every man's dollar - what is concealed is what we might see if women's wages were the norm against which men's were measured. Men, on average, earn $1.30 for every dollar women earn. Now suddenly privilege is visible!
On the other hand, the economic landscape has changed dramatically. And currently, the economy has not necessarily been kind to most men either. The great global expansion of the 1990s affected the top 20% of the labor force. There are fewer and fewer "big wheels." European countries have traded growth for high unemployment, which will mean that more and more men will feel as though they haven't made the grade, will feel damaged, injured, powerless, men who will need to demonstrate their masculinity all over again.
Now, remember: here come women into the workplace in unprecedented numbers. Just when men's economic breadwinner status is threatened, women appear on the scene as easy targets for men's anger. Recently I appeared on a television talk show opposite three "angry white males" who felt they had been the victims of workplace discrimination. The show's title, no doubt to entice a large potential audience was "A Black Woman Took My Job." In my comments to these men, I invited them to consider what the word "my" meant in that title, that they felt that the jobs were originally "theirs," that they were entitled to them, and that when some "other" person - black, female - got the job, that person was really taking "their" job. But by what right is that his job? Only by his sense of entitlement, which he now perceives as threatened by the movement towards workplace gender equality.
It is also this context in which we must consider the question of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a distorted effort to put women back in their place, to remind women that they are not equal to men in the workplace, that they are, still, just women, even if they are in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a way of maintaining that sense of entitlement, of maintaining the illusion that the public sphere really belongs only to men. Sexual harassment is a way to remind women that they are not yet equals in the workplace, that they really don't belong there.
Every major corporation law firm, and university is scrambling to implement sexual harassment policies, to make sure that sexual harassment will be recognized and punished. This usually consists of explaining what sexual harassment is, and, for the men, how to avoid doing it, and, for the women, what to do if it happens to you. But our challenge is greater than admonition and post?hoc counseling. Our challenge will be to prevent sexual harassment before it happens.
And that will require that we demonstrate to men what men will gain by supporting women's efforts to end sexual harassment. Not only because sexual harassment is enormously costly - as increased rates of absenteeism, higher job turnover, retraining costs and lower productivity are just some of the results. But if you are a manager, your job performance depends on the strong performance of those who report to you. You should want everyone who works for you to feel comfortable, at their best, able to really produce. And thus it is in your interest as a man to make sure that everyone who works for you - male and female - feels comfortable, confident and safe in the workplace. Sexual harassment hurts women by reducing women's productivity. But it also hurts men because it hurts the women we work with, and therefore reduces our ability to work at out best as well.
It is also in our interests as men to begin to better balance work and family life. We have a saying in the U.S. that "no man on his deathbed ever wished he spent more time at the office."
Men will also need to balance work and family life. But remember the third rule of manhood - "Be a Sturdy Oak. What has traditionally made men reliable in a crisis is also what makes us unavailable emotionally to others. We are increasingly finding that the very things that we thought would make us real men impoverish our relationships with other men and with our children.
Fatherhood, friendship, partnership all require emotional resources that have been, traditionally, in short supply among men, resources such as patience, compassion, tenderness, attention to process. A "man isn't someone you'd want around in a crisis," wrote the actor Alan Alda, "like raising children or growing old together."
In the United States, men become more active fathers by "helping out" or by "pitching in" and that that they spend "quality time" with their children. But it is not "quality time" that will provide the deep intimate relationships that we say we want, either with our partners or with our children. It's quantity time - putting in those long, hard hours of thankless, unnoticed drudge work. It's quantity time that creates the foundation of intimacy. Nurture is doing the unheralded tasks, like holding someone when they are sick, doing the laundry, the ironing, washing the dishes. After all, men are capable of being surgeons and chefs, so we must be able to learn how to sew and to cook.
Workplace and family life are also joined in the public sphere. Several different kinds of policy reforms have been proposed to make the workplace more "family friendly" - to make the workplace more hospitable to our efforts to balance work and family. These reforms generally revolve around three issues: on-site childcare, flexible working hours, and parental leave. But how do we usually think of these family friendly workplace reforms? We think of them as women's issues. But these are not women's issues, they're parents' issues, and to the extent that we, men, identify ourselves as parents, they are reforms that we will want. Because they will enable us to live the lives we say we want to live. We want to have our children with us; we want to be able to arrange our work days to balance work and family with our wives and we want to be there when our children are born.
On this score, we American have so much to learn from Europeans, especially from the Nordic countries, which have been so visionary in their efforts to involve men in family life. In Sweden, for example, men are actively encouraged by state policies to take parental leave to be part of their children's first months. Before the institution of "Daddy Days" less than 20% of Swedish men took any parental leave at all. Today, though, the percentage of men who do has climbed to over 90%. That's a government that has "family values."
Finally, let's examine the last rule of manhood - "Give 'em Hell" - What this says to men is to take risks, live dangerously. It means we have to talk about sex and violence.
Remember that the greatest change in sexuality over the past 40 years has been among women. Just at the moment women are saying "yes" to their own sexual desires, however, there's an increased awareness of the problem of rape all over the world, especially of date and acquaintance rape. In one recent U.S. study, 45% of all college women said that they had had some form of sexual contact against their will, and a full 25% had been pressed or forced to have sexual intercourse against their will. When one psychologist asked freshmen men over the past ten years if they would commit rape if they were certain they could get away with it, almost one-half said they would.
Ironically, when men speak of rape they do not speak with a voice of power, control, domination. Listen, for a moment to a 23 year old man in San Francisco, who was asked to think about under what circumstances he might commit rape. He has never committed rape. He's simply an average guy, considering the circumstances under which he would commit an act of violence against a woman. Here's what he says:
Let's say I see a woman and she looks really pretty and really clean and sexy and she's giving off very feminine, sexy vibes. I think, wow I would love to make love to her, but I know she's not interested. It's a tease. A lot of times a woman knows that she's looking really good and she'll use that and flaunt it and it makes me feel like she's laughing at me and I feel degraded. If I were actually desperate enough to rape somebody it would be from wanting that person, but also it would be a very spiteful thing, just being able to say 'I have power over you and I can do anything I want with you' because really I feel that they have power over me just by their presence. Just the fact that they can come up to me and just melt me makes me feel like a dummy, makes me want revenge. They have power over me so I want power over them.
Notice how the stockboy also speaks not with the voice of someone in power, of someone in control over his life, but rather with the voice of powerlessness, of helplessness. For him, violence is a form of revenge, a form of retaliation, of getting even, a compensation for the power that he feels women have over him.
I think that perspective has been left out of our analyses of men's violence - both at the interpersonal, micro level of individual acts of men's violence against women-rape and battery, for example - and the aggregate, social and political analysis of violence expressed at the level of the nation state, the social movement, or the military institution. Violence may be more about getting the power to which you feel you're entitled than an expression of the power you already think you have.
I believe that we must see men's violence as the result of a breakdown of patriarchy, of entitlement thwarted. Again and again, what the research on rape, on domestic violence finds is that men initiate violence when they feel a loss of power to which they felt entitled. Thus he hits her when she fails to have the dinner ready, when she refuses to meet his sexual demands, i.e. when his power over her has broken down - not when she has dinner ready or is willing to have sex, which are, after all, expressions of his power and its legitimacy.
And this question of entitlement lies at the heart of current controversies over sex trafficking all over the world. As we have tried to confront this new international problem, we have focused on "supply" - especially the international cartels who often kidnap and imprison young girls and women - and, of course, extended our compassion for the "product," the women themselves. But few, if any, policies have targeted the "demand" side of the equation, policies that might be aimed at the men who are the consumers of these purloined and oppressed products., Why? Because we somehow understand that men feel entitled to consume women's bodies, however they might be supplied.
Nearly 20 years ago, anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday proposed a continuum.of propensity to commit rape upon which all societies could be plotted - from rape prone to rape free. (For the curious, by the way, the United States was ranked as a highly rape prone society, far more than any country in Europe; Norway and Sweden were among the most rape free.) Sanday found that the single best predictors of rape-proneness were (1) whether the woman continued to own property in her own name after marriage, a measure of women's autonomy; and (2) father's involvement in child?rearing, a measure of how valued parenting is, and how valued women's work.
So clearly here is an arena in which women's economic autonomy is a good predictor of their safety - as is men's participation in child-rearing. If men act at home the way we say we want to act, women will be safer.
Surely, these questions of violence and sexuality are an arena where we need strong measures to make clear our intolerance for date and acquaintance rape, laws that protect women, social attitudes that believe women who do come forward. And here, also, is another arena in which men's support of feminism will enable men to live the lives we say we want to live. If we make it clear that we, as men, will not tolerate a world in which women do not feel safe, and if we make it clear to our individual partners that we understand that no means no, then - and only then - can women begin to articulate the "yes" that is also their right.
Rather than resisting the transformation of our lives that gender equality offers, I believe that we should embrace these changes, both because they offer us the possibilities of social and economic equality, and because they also offer us the possibilities of richer, fuller, and happier lives with our friends, with our lovers, with our partners, and with our children. We, as men, should support gender equality - both at work and at home. Not because it's right and fair and just- although it is those things. But because of what it will do for us, as men. At work, it means working to end sexual harassment, supporting family friendly workplace policies, working to end the scourge of date and acquaintance rape, violence and abuse that terrorize women in our societies. At home it means sharing housework and childcare, as much because our partners demand it as because we want to spend that time with our children and because housework is a rather conventional way of nurturing and loving.
The feminist transformation of society is a revolution-in-progress. For nearly two centuries, we men have met insecurity by frantically shoring up our privilege or by running away. These strategies have never brought us the security and the peace we have sought. Perhaps now, as men, we can stand with women and embrace the rest of this revolution - embrace it because of our sense of justice and fairness, embrace it for our children, our wives, our partners, and ourselves,
Ninety-three years ago, 15,00 American women marched in New York demanding better pay, shorter working hours, the right to vote and an end to child labor. They summed up their demands with the memorable phrase "Bread and Roses" - they wanted both economic security and a better quality of life. Both money and beauty, they believed, were necessary for a sustainable life.
Three years later, a million women and men marched together in European cities marking the first International Women's Day.
Today, as hundreds of thousands - if not, millions - of women all over the world mark the 90'h anniversary of International Women's Day, we men are also coming to realize that gender equality is in our interests as men, that we will benefit from gender equality. That gender equality holds out a promise of better relationships with our wives, with our children, and with other men. Ninety-years ago, on the eve of the first International Women's Day, an American writer wrote an essay called "Feminism for Men." It's first line was this: "Feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free."
Remember that phrase from the first Women's Day: Bread and Roses. Only when we men share in the baking of the bread will we be able to smell the roses.