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  • I'm here to recruit men to support gender equality.

  • (Cheers)

  • Wait, wait. What?

  • What do men have to do with gender equality?

  • Gender equality is about women, right?

  • I mean, the word gender is about women.

  • Actually, I'm even here speaking as a middle class white man.

  • Now, I wasn't always a middle class white man.

  • It all happened for me about 30 years ago when I was in graduate school,

  • and a bunch of us graduate students got together one day,

  • and we said, you know, there's an explosion

  • of writing and thinking in feminist theory,

  • but there's no courses yet.

  • So we did what graduate students typically do in a situation like that.

  • We said, OK, let's have a study group.

  • We'll read a text, we'll talk about it,

  • we'll have a potluck dinner.

  • (Laughter)

  • So every week, 11 women and me got together.

  • (Laughter)

  • We would read some text in feminist theory and have a conversation about it.

  • And during one of our conversations,

  • I witnessed an interaction that changed my life forever.

  • It was a conversation between two women.

  • One of the women was white, and one was black.

  • And the white woman said --

  • this is going to sound very anachronistic now --

  • the white woman said, "All women face the same oppression as women.

  • All women are similarly situated in patriarchy,

  • and therefore all women have a kind of intuitive solidarity or sisterhood."

  • And the black woman said, "I'm not so sure.

  • Let me ask you a question."

  • So the black woman says to the white woman,

  • "When you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror,

  • what do you see?"

  • And the white woman said, "I see a woman."

  • And the black woman said, "You see, that's the problem for me.

  • Because when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror," she said,

  • "I see a black woman.

  • To me, race is visible. But to you, race is invisible. You don't see it."

  • And then she said something really startling.

  • She said, "That's how privilege works.

  • Privilege is invisible to those who have it."

  • It is a luxury, I will say to the white people sitting in this room,

  • not to have to think about race every split second of our lives.

  • Privilege is invisible to those who have it.

  • Now remember, I was the only man in this group,

  • so when I witnessed this, I went, "Oh no."

  • (Laughter)

  • And somebody said, "Well what was that reaction?"

  • And I said, "Well, when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror,

  • I see a human being.

  • I'm kind of the generic person.

  • You know, I'm a middle class white man. I have no race, no class, no gender.

  • I'm universally generalizable."

  • (Laughter)

  • So I like to think that was the moment I became a middle class white man,

  • that class and race and gender were not about other people,

  • they were about me.

  • I had to start thinking about them,

  • and it had been privilege that had kept it invisible to me for so long.

  • Now, I wish I could tell you this story ends 30 years ago

  • in that little discussion group,

  • but I was reminded of it quite recently at my university where I teach.

  • I have a colleague, and she and I both teach the sociology of gender course

  • on alternate semesters.

  • So she gives a guest lecture for me when I teach.

  • I give a guest lecture for her when she teaches.

  • So I walk into her class to give a guest lecture,

  • about 300 students in the room,

  • and as I walk in, one of the students looks up and says,

  • "Oh, finally, an objective opinion."

  • All that semester, whenever my colleague opened her mouth,

  • what my students saw was a woman.

  • I mean, if you were to say to my students,

  • "There is structural inequality based on gender in the United States,"

  • they'd say, "Well of course you'd say that.

  • You're a woman. You're biased."

  • When I say it, they go, "Wow, is that interesting.

  • Is that going to be on the test? How do you spell 'structural'?"

  • (Laughter)

  • So I hope you all can see,

  • this is what objectivity looks like.

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • Disembodied Western rationality.

  • (Laughter)

  • And that, by the way, is why I think men so often wear ties.

  • (Laughter)

  • Because if you are going to embody disembodied Western rationality,

  • you need a signifier,

  • and what could be a better signifier of disembodied Western rationality

  • than a garment that at one end is a noose and the other end points to the genitals?

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • That is mind-body dualism right there.

  • So making gender visible to men

  • is the first step to engaging men to support gender equality.

  • Now, when men first hear about gender equality,

  • when they first start thinking about it,

  • they often think, many men think,

  • well, that's right, that's fair, that's just,

  • that's the ethical imperative.

  • But not all men.

  • Some men think -- the lightning bolt goes off,

  • and they go, "Oh my God, yes, gender equality,"

  • and they will immediately begin to mansplain to you your oppression.

  • They see supporting gender equality something akin to the calvary,

  • like, "Thanks very much for bringing this to our attention, ladies,

  • we'll take it from here."

  • This results in a syndrome that I like to call 'premature self-congratulation.'

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • There's another group, though, that actively resists gender equality,

  • that sees gender equality as something that is detrimental to men.

  • I was on a TV talk show opposite four white men.

  • This is the beginning of the book I wrote, 'Angry White Men.'

  • These were four angry white men

  • who believed that they, white men in America,

  • were the victims of reverse discrimination in the workplace.

  • And they all told stories about how they were qualified for jobs,

  • qualified for promotions,

  • they didn't get them, they were really angry.

  • And the reason I'm telling you this is I want you to hear the title

  • of this particular show.

  • It was a quote from one of the men,

  • and the quote was,

  • "A Black Woman Stole My Job."

  • And they all told their stories,

  • qualified for jobs, qualified for promotions,

  • didn't get it, really angry.

  • And then it was my turn to speak,

  • and I said, "I have just one question for you guys,

  • and it's about the title of the show,

  • 'A Black Woman Stole My Job.'

  • Actually, it's about one word in the title.

  • I want to know about the word 'my.'

  • Where did you get the idea it was your job?

  • Why isn't the title of the show, 'A Black Woman Got the Job?'

  • or 'A Black Woman Got A Job?'"

  • Because without confronting men's sense of entitlement,

  • I don't think we'll ever understand why so many men resist gender equality.

  • (Applause)

  • Look, we think this is a level playing field,

  • so any policy that tilts it even a little bit,

  • we think, "Oh my God, water's rushing uphill.

  • It's reverse discrimination against us."

  • (Laughter)

  • So let me be very clear:

  • white men in Europe and the United States

  • are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program

  • in the history of the world.

  • It is called "the history of the world."

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • So, now I've established some of the obstacles to engaging men,

  • but why should we support gender equality?

  • Of course, it's fair, it's right and it's just.

  • But more than that,

  • gender equality is also in our interest as men.

  • If you listen to what men say about what they want in their lives,

  • gender equality is actually a way for us to get the lives we want to live.

  • Gender equality is good for countries.

  • It turns out, according to most studies,

  • that those countries that are the most gender equal

  • are also the countries that score highest on the happiness scale.

  • And that's not just because they're all in Europe.

  • (Laughter)

  • Even within Europe, those countries that are more gender equal

  • also have the highest levels of happiness.

  • It is also good for companies.

  • Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively

  • that the more gender-equal companies are,

  • the better it is for workers,

  • the happier their labor force is.

  • They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition.

  • They have an easier time recruiting.

  • They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction,

  • higher rates of productivity.

  • So the question I'm often asked in companies is,

  • "Boy, this gender equality thing, that's really going to be expensive, huh?"

  • And I say, "Oh no, in fact, what you have to start calculating

  • is how much gender inequality is already costing you.

  • It is extremely expensive."

  • So it is good for business.

  • And the other thing is, it's good for men.

  • It is good for the kind of lives we want to live,

  • because young men especially have changed enormously,

  • and they want to have lives that are animated

  • by terrific relationships with their children.

  • They expect their partners, their spouses, their wives,

  • to work outside the home

  • and be just as committed to their careers as they are.

  • I was talking, to give you an illustration of this change --

  • Some of you may remember this.

  • When I was a lot younger, there was a riddle that was posed to us.

  • Some of you may wince to remember this riddle.

  • This riddle went something like this.

  • A man and his son are driving on the freeway,

  • and they're in a terrible accident,

  • and the father is killed,

  • and the son is brought to the hospital emergency room,

  • and as they're bringing the son into the hospital emergency room,

  • the emergency room attending physician sees the boy and says,

  • "Oh, I can't treat him, that's my son."

  • How is this possible?

  • We were flummoxed by this.

  • We could not figure this out.

  • (Laughter)

  • Well, I decided to do a little experiment with my 16-year old son.

  • He had a bunch of his friends hanging out at the house

  • watching a game on TV recently.

  • So I decided I would pose this riddle to them,

  • just to see, to gauge the level of change.

  • Well, 16-year-old boys,

  • they immediately turned to me and said, "It's his mom." Right?

  • No problem. Just like that.

  • Except for my son, who said, "Well, he could have two dads."

  • (Laughter) (Applause)

  • That's an index, an indicator of how things have changed.

  • Younger men today expect to be able to balance work and family.

  • They want to be dual-career, dual-carer couples.

  • They want to be able to balance work and family with their partners.

  • They want to be involved fathers.

  • Now, it turns out

  • that the more egalitarian our relationships,

  • the happier both partners are.

  • Data from psychologists and sociologists are quite persuasive here.

  • I think we have the persuasive numbers, the data, to prove to men

  • that gender equality is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win.

  • Here's what the data show.

  • Now, when men begin the process of engaging

  • with balancing work and family,

  • we often have two phrases that we use to describe what we do.

  • We pitch in and we help out.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I'm going to propose something a little bit more radical,

  • one word: "share."

  • (Laughter)

  • Because here's what the data show:

  • when men share housework and childcare,

  • their children do better in school.

  • Their children have lower rates of absenteeism,

  • higher rates of achievement.

  • They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

  • They are less likely to see a child psychiatrist.

  • They are less likely to be put on medication.

  • So when men share housework and childcare,

  • their children are happier and healthier,

  • and men want this.

  • When men share housework and childcare,

  • their wives are happier. Duh.

  • Not only that, their wives are healthier.

  • Their wives are less likely to see a therapist,

  • less likely to be diagnosed with depression,

  • less likely to be put on medication, more likely to go to the gym,

  • report higher levels of marital satisfaction.