A Letter to Non-fathers on Father’s Day

Can we wait until men become fathers to hopefully see them committed to gender equality?

Did you know that 80% of the men worldwide will fathered in their life time?

Fatherhood is one of the few common denominators that we share as men, regardless of our race, religion, sexual orientation, geographic location or class. Without a doubt, becoming a dad constitutes one of the most fundamental changes in our lifetime, a social landmark in the process of becoming a man, whatever that means these days.

For this, fatherhood is used as a powerful entry point when seeking to shift harmful practices and behaviors that men display. For instance, low engagement of men as caregivers, their lack of equal contribution performing household chores and the use of violence at home as a valid mean. There is robust evidence that shows that when a man becomes a dad, there is a unique window of opportunity to change these situations. In spite of this, the current levels of violence against women, the suicide rates among men and the prevalence of a rape culture keep me thinking: can we wait until men become fathers to hopefully see them change?

Simply no, we cannot.

This is why, I want to take advantage of this Father’s day to share a message with you and all the men in the world who are not fathers yet. Why? because society cannot wait until you become a dad to change. Men, women and gender minorities need men and boys to reflect critically about who they are and what they stand for NOW. I am not pretending to tell you what you need to do, but I am telling you that you must do something about it. Here is a question, a fact and an invitation for you:

  1. What is your role in promoting Violence Against Women?

This goes from telling women how they must dress at the workplace to blaming them when they are victims of assault or sexual abuse. We tend to think about ourselves as “good men”, men who value and respect women. We justify this by saying “I have a mom, a sister, a girlfriend”. But the pervasive force of violence against women is so present and normalized that the only way to not partake on it, is by constantly reflecting about our own personal role in it. This is about the jokes you make, the products you buy, the silence you choose instead of speaking up. Are you playing a role in this? What is your role? Are you minimizing the facts using “political correctness” as an argument?

  1. By being a man you enjoy privileges, period

By the mere fact of being a man, you are given power in society. That is a fact. The color of your skin, your sexual orientation and socio-economic status determine the extent of those privileges, but you don’t lose them. Even more, if you are a white heterosexual man, you have advantages and possibilities that are systematically denied to other men, women and gender minorities. Recently, white, professional swimmer, and rapist,  Brock Turner was given six months for sexually assaulting an unconscious girl. Thanks to these privileges, you don’t have to worry about getting harassed on the streets for the clothes you wear, or about getting raped every time you party, drink or walk home. Hey, it is not your fault to have privileges, but you are responsible for them. It is up to you to use your them to take actions that allow others to live life with the same dignity that you hope for yourself.

  1. Invitation to ask and listen

It is difficult to think that you are part of a problem when you see yourself as good, or recognize that you enjoy benefits that you do not deserve, just by being a man. But the best way to start making sense of these situations is by asking and listening. Ask the women around you, ask the men that you look up to. Ask questions that might be difficult to ask. Then, listen. I know it is really hard, we are trained to have answers about anything and everything. But listening allows us to create a counter narrative about the objectification of women and the ability to emerge out of a patriarchal culture that justifies men’s behaviors by saying “boys will be boys”.

Don’t wait to be a dad to become the best version of yourself. Act now and get others around you excited about doing the same. Equality is not only an objective, it is a way of living.

Sebastián Molano

Sebastián Molano is a Colombian gender specialist and development worker living in Boston. Currently, he consults for different NGO's on how to promote gender justice and engage men and boys in development projects. You can check here his TEDx Talk in gender isses: [a href="http://bit.ly/TEDxTalk-DefyinGendeRoles"]http://bit.ly/TEDxTalk-DefyinGendeRoles[/a] With the support of his awesome life partner/wife, Sebastián writes about the need to engage men and women in a needed, healthy discussion about new and liberating re-configuration of gender roles. He leads Defying Gender Roles a multi-lingual group that seeks to engage men and women in how to challenge harmful prevailing gender norms and roles. Check it out: http://defyingenderoles.org/
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