My name is Chris. I’m a 26-year-old male, primary school teacher from Geelong, Victoria. I would consider myself a fairly stereotypical middle-class man and because of this, I am conscious of my privilege. I joined GPAN at the beginning of 2020 after attending the previous two GPAN Trivia nights in 2018 and 2019.
The GPAN team asked me to answer some questions from the male perspective and hopefully I can share some of my thoughts and experiences.
Would you call yourself a feminist and why?
I definitely call myself a feminist, although it is only in the last couple of years that I have done so. I think the word feminism scares men and makes them feel insecure. I think deep down that’s how I felt. I didn’t really know men could be feminists. The ridiculous thing is that my values in this time have not changed. I have always believed in equality for all. I just didn’t understand how to express this or what needed to be done to achieve equality. So yes, I am a feminist, because I now know what it means and how important it is.
Why do you think feminism is important to you?
GPAN has really shown me how important equity is. I am far more aware now about how important it is to build people up, especially the women in my life. I think that I am in a somewhat unique position having taken the time to educate myself on this issue. Everyone can play a part in fighting for gender equality and I think I can influence other men around me to change their attitudes and to become more aware of their actions.
Have you ever had to stand up to mates who you don’t see eye to eye with and did you receive backlash?
The more I learn about gender inequality the more confidence that I have to educate others and stand up for those beliefs. This doesn’t always get received well from mates but I have found that being calm and respectful when explaining myself, the respect is usually reciprocated. I think that I have at least been able to get some of those mates to consider a new point of view on gender inequality. Honestly though, it can be pretty tough to explicitly call mates out for sexist comments or attitudes. It’s not as simple as calling it out, you need to be able to explain why they shouldn’t say something, without seeming like you are attacking their integrity. Having regular interactions with GPAN has helped me to do this more confidently.
Has GPAN helped you to strengthen your views and voice?
Absolutely. Like I just mentioned, I feel that I am now far better equipped to challenge others when I see or hear sexist behaviour. More importantly, I now have my gender lens on 24/7 and I actually notice this behaviour way more often. I feel like that glass has been shattered and the comments that I would have once never thought twice about or even said myself are now staring me right in the face until I do something about them. In no way am I perfect, it would be disingenuous to claim that I don’t ignore some comments or awkwardly laugh and move the conversation on. I’m trying to pick my battles and make small steps whenever I can.
How have you seen gender inequality play out in your life?
When I was younger, I thought gender inequality was a thing that used to exist before I was born. I innocently thought girls my age had the same opportunities as me and didn’t recognise that gender stereotypes and gender roles affected the world around me. I went to an all-boys college and although I began building a passion for social justice, gender inequality was something that was not on the forefront of my mind. I have a very good family and friend network who I consider to be fairly respectful people. However, seeing things on reflection through a gender lens, I know that I have been guilty of sharing sexist views and comments with both family and friends in the past. That means that I now have a responsibility to help educate those around me. If I can encourage those closest to me to become more thoughtful with their actions and words, hopefully they too can become active bystanders in standing up against sexism.
How can males have more productive conversations about women’s rights?
As a primary school teacher, I do everything that I can to encourage my students to speak about equality and what is fair. I do hope that this will have some effect on the kids, however it is so much more important that these values are taught at home by parents. These conversations should be had from a young age and be ingrained into boys as early as possible. On a more practical level, men who are aware should take as many opportunities as possible to point out injustices and to call out bad language and behaviour with their mates. This can be difficult to do but I found that it’s important to know what you are talking about, to be confident and be ready to agree to disagree if things don’t go the way you planned. I am nowhere near the perfect active bystander, but I am working hard to become better. The ‘locker room’ chat does still occur around me at my sporting club and between some of my mates. I haven’t been a part of that for a long time and am encouraging others to cut it out completely too. Men need to be much better in this space and I hope I can become a good example of that.
What does GPAN mean to you?
GPAN has opened my eyes in so many ways and most importantly, I now have my gender lens on at all times. GPAN has given me so much confidence to stand up against sexism. I am very thankful to be a part of a group of like-minded people who share their stories and experiences with each other. It has been a great support network and given me assurance that I am on the right path.