Think of what would happen to the careers of women if, for just a year even, we consciously sought each other out.
Like many other women, in the wake of this year’s election I find myself overwhelmed by both the coded and the blatant misogyny that we have witnessed in the last year. I am especially dismayed at how clueless and hurtful liberal men have been.
To help assuage my grief and fear, I decided to do something positive, to make a concrete step toward lifting up my sisters. So, I made the following resolution for 2017: I will, to the best of my ability, send all my consumer dollars to women, especially women of color or who are queer or disabled. Which is to say that I plan to read only books by female authors; follow female news reporters and anchors rather than watching shows and reading columns by male journalists; shop at women-owned businesses rather than at big box stores where women are not in charge and do not profit; use female health professionals, especially when a specialist is called for; and purchase music by female artists.
Of course, like every other obnoxious person on Facebook, I announced my resolutions during the New Year’s weekend. I suppose that I should not have been shocked by the response, but I was. With one exception, my female friends were either neutral or supportive. But some of the men in my world, who are all liberals, went a little bonkers.
In one way, these men are right. This amounts to a boycott of men. But it is not sexist, and I believe that boycotting men is a step that is long overdue and one that could have a considerable positive impact on women. Think of what would happen to the careers of women if, for just a year even, we consciously sought each other out.
One of the most startling things for me in reading the responses of men to a proposed boycott is that they genuinely feel entitled to be heard and read, and to enjoy women’s business and trade. After I finished reading their messages of outrage that we would even consider focusing our support on other women, I was even more convinced that this is a good idea—if for no reason other than the fact that it sends the explicit message that we owe them nothing.
But that is not the only reason, or even the most interesting or important reason to support a boycott of men. Simply put, it is in the best interest of women and of children to seek out other women. Some of the benefits are very practical. For example, recent research shows that patients of female doctors end up with better health outcomes than those of male doctors. Similarly, a study by the United Nations showed that as the rate of women a country has in positions of political power increased so did the country’s human rights ratings and healthcare. Infant mortality rates and mortality rates in general plummeted. This is because female politicians are more likely to put forward human-centered policies such as child care, education, elder care, healthcare and other things that benefit humans rather than corporations. They are also better at getting things done in Congress.
Beyond that, women still lag behind men in every profession not located in the pink ghetto. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, the pink ghetto is a name for the job sector that is almost exclusively populated by women and is, consequently, underpaid and lacking in respect. Think childcare providers, nurses, and social workers. Meanwhile, female doctors, scientists, business executives, and engineers continue to struggle to be accepted and to advance in their professions.
We are part of a society in which the norm is always white, able-bodied, straight-arrow men who feel completely unencumbered by the duties of family participation. Queering the norm is not just our right; it is our social responsibility. Something changes inside of us when we stop accepting that it is normal to see prime time on the news channels staffed by only male anchors. And something changes inside of our society when we declare that men should not dominate the Nobel, Pulitzers, Oscars, boardrooms, and the Oval Office.
It is not normal to see a sea of white men’s faces when we tune into C-Span. It isn’t normal to see women virtually excluded from sports channels. Shonda Rhimes and her growing family of prime time shows are the only things normal about our major network line-ups. It is not normal that we have to search to find female professionals.
I have heard a lot of objections, and I find most of them either ill-informed or silly. For starters, this is not sexism. For something to be sexist it must be part of a structure of gender disparity. A boycott on men is a form of affirmative action. It is saying that until women achieve some sort of parity in the labor market, some women will only support our sisters.
And of course there are those who declare that one should always hire the best person for the job without regard for the systemic obstacles that make it seem that white men are generally deemed the best people for nearly every job. We need to start really considering what makes a person more qualified than another. Are our standards as objective as we want to think or are they heavily influenced by a society in which white masculinity is idealized?
I acknowledge that the issue of a boycott of men becomes more complicated when it comes to voting. That is why I am not demanding parity in the gender of candidates. There are not enough viable female candidates to insist on gender parity in office at this point. And we owe it to those with even less power to protect them with our votes.
Instead of boycotting all male politicians, I vow to vote for politicians who will make the Clinton Pledge, that half of their cabinet or executive level staff will be women.
I believe that the 50% pledge is important and potentially transformative not just for women but also for our nation. With women in senior roles, political offices stop being boy’s clubs that never even consider how proposed policies affect women and children. Moreover, increasing the number of women in senior staff positions will give progressives a much healthier pool of female candidates from which to choose their nominees. And really, I think that you can learn a lot about a politician’s willingness to work with and for minorities by how he or she answers any call for representational hiring.
I believe that boycotting men could give feminism something that it badly needs: a sense of community. When we consciously seek out other women in every part of our lives, we build networks of influence and mutual support. We learn from each other wisdom that is wholly unlike what we learn from men.
That brings me to what I believe is the most important reason for feminists to boycott men: We need to stop thinking like they do and accepting their values as our own. It has been said that what makes feminism uniquely difficult is that we are the only group that willingly maintains intimate relationships with our oppressors. I think that there is a lot of truth to that because the inherent inequality in our relationships with men means that they take up a lot of room in our heads. Generally, theirs is the voice of moral authority that we call our conscience. They have set the standards by which we judge ourselves and each other.
A boycott on men will change us. It will change what we consider normal, desirable, and laudable. It will change our standards of morality and reset our values to those more in line with for caring for our fellow humans. We will become better allies and advocates for those struggling against racism and homophobia.
Only when those we most respect are women will be truly free to respect ourselves. Right now, the people who speak with the voice of authority in our lives are men. They are our doctors, lawyers, pastors, journalists, the stars with the highest wattage. They are the authorities on finance, technology, environment, agriculture, science, religion, politics, and medicine. I want to change that. And I believe that a boycott of men should be our next step.
Lynn Beisner writes about family, social justice issues, and the craziness of daily life. Her work can be found on Role Reboot, Alternet, and on her blog: Two Parts Smart-Ass; One Part Wisdom. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.