Why true feminists should speak up for men too

Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst in a Polling Booth circa 1910. She was one of the leaders of the m

Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst in a Polling Booth circa 1910. She was one of the leaders of the movement to secure votes for women. - Credit: PA

Nick Conrad looks forward to the day when true male-female equality is a 'given'.

I'm a feminist, and a proud one at that. I've been brought up by, and with, strong women who I love. In a week where we've celebrated the centenary of some women securing the vote, now more than ever do I want to highlight how this is a collective cause, a unisex movement for all of us.

A minority of dissenting voices suggested the positivity surrounding this week's centenary was ill-judged, pointing to the distance we still must travel before we can claim to have reached a 'utopian' equality. They might not be entirely wrong. However, by muting the celebratory tones we do little to inspire the next generation to continue to challenge the status quo. Frustratingly, it's a case of evolution not revolution.

So, a centenary since the first landmark victory for women's suffrage - is this still a man's world? I hope not. Western society is historically a patriarchy. A male-dominated society, fundamentally designed to empower men at the expense of women. The change is seismic and now rapid. The way sexism manifests is usually subtle, but it is extremely damaging to society and the self-esteem of women and men - yes it does work both ways! I have witnessed so-called feminists berating misogyny in one breath before following up with a hateful comment about men.

Anyone who seeks to legitimise any form of sexism scores a fatal own goal - the fuelling of an environment in which bigotry isn't evenly challenged. Being sexist against men is unquestionably as loathsome as prejudice against women.

Is positive discrimination counter-productive? Shortlists and jobs reserved for those from a specific background breed resentment and penalise individuals who don't tick the right boxes. If we truly desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.

My wife is an amazing and practical individual. She is wonderfully talented, intelligent and loving. She's comfortable with a chisel in one hand and lipstick in the other. If you insist on labels, she's boyish and feminine but to me she's my amazing life partner. Gender is a biological fact, and an important one, but it doesn't define the individual or what they can achieve.

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We should arm our next generation of women with 'mental hammers'. Ready to smash, not chip, through any glass ceiling. However, any true 'feminist' will understand why in the long run they must be as concerned and supportive of our boys as our girls. After all, a gender-equal society would be one where the word 'gender' does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.