Yes, Men Can Participate In The Women's March

by Caitlin Flynn

This Saturday — the day after Donald Trump's inauguration — another historic event will occur: the Women's March on Washington. It's one of the largest protests in recent American history, with more than 200,000 marchers expected in the nation's capital. And although the biggest march will take place in D.C., "Sister Marches" have been scheduled in 616 locations across the globe, bringing the grand total of expected marchers worldwide to 1,364,010, according to the march's website — sending a strong statement to president-elect Trump, the GOP, Congress, and the world that women and other marginalized people will never stop fighting for their rights. But women won't be the only ones marching — men can participate in the Women's March, too. And they should — because now, more than ever, it's crucial that men be involved in the fight for gender equality.

Though the majority of American men don't identify as feminists, most of them hold feminist beliefs — according to a 2013 poll, only 16 percent of men identify as feminists (compared to 23 percent of women), but 82 percent of both men and women surveyed believed that “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals," which is how feminism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. And while some media coverage of the march has focused on the idea that the march is somehow alienating to men due to its name, or that men believe that they are not permitted to march, it is stated on the march's official website that the event is for "for any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights." The march is many things — among them, an opportunity for men to show that they not only believe in equality, but are willing to take steps to help make it a reality.

During the next four years, women's rights will be under greater attack than at any other point in recent memory. For example, Paul Ryan has already vowed to federally defund Planned Parenthood and he'll have allies in Trump, who promised during his campaign to work to overturn Roe v. Wade, and VP-elect Mike Pence, who has spent years attempting to shut down the organization. Until 2018, Republicans will have control of the White House and Congress — so we need everyone to stand up and push back. America can't afford for anyone who believes in equality, no matter their gender, to be complacent. Although these fights have only just begun, men can take a strong stand on January 21 by marching alongside women and endorsing the progressive platform put forth by the Women's March.

Linda Sarsour, one of the march’s lead organizers, has clarified to men thinking about marching that there's one caveat: "You have to be okay with being led by women." This shouldn't give potential participants pause — after all, most of the men who have expressed interest in the event are the same men who cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton in November and hoped to see a woman lead the entire country.

But the men who voted Democrat need to make sure their voices are heard going forward, because the gender gap in the 2016 election was 13 percent — the largest since exit polling began in 1972. This could indicate that a significant portion of male voters were unconcerned with Trump's misogynistic rhetoric and policies, still have hangups about a woman in the Oval Office, or both. By marching with us, men can lead by example and show other men that it's a sign of strength and conviction to be lead by women. We all need to be vocal going forward and men can play an important role — by making it clear that being a feminist is not a threat to a man's masculinity. The march is the perfect opportunity to show that.

When Obama and Biden launched the It's On Us initiative against sexual assault, they emphasized that men need to play an active role in fighting rape culture. Our new administration won't prioritize women's safety, and that's a travesty — but Biden recently reminded us that we don't need Obama in the White House "to know what the right thing to do is when you see violence and sexual assault taking place right in front of you." When men are actively involved in the feminist movement, they're more likely to speak up when they hear a peer engaging in "locker room talk." The type of rhetoric used by Trump has been normalized by the election — but men can play an important role in reversing this.

Although I'm hesitant to say anything positive has come out of Trump's election, I feel encouraged by the number of men who are eager to become involved in women's rights. So, let's encourage the men in our lives to march with us on January 21 — it's the best way to move forward and fight together for gender equality. There's so much work to be done, and we'll make so much more progress if all our friends and family members are engaged and committed to the cause.