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A Father's Day Wish: Engaging Men As Gender Allies

June 13, 2019

Father’s Day, coming up this Sunday in the U.S., is an emotionally-loaded day for me. 

First, because I miss my own father. Vince Doyle was not only a wise and fun (!) Dad to his seven children, he was also the greatest ally and mentor an ambitious young woman, negotiating gender land mines in the 1970s and '80's, could have asked for. 

Second, it triggers deep sadness that my son, Kevin, now 27, missed the invaluable gift of growing up with the security and encouragement of knowing his Dad always had his back. Because his father died when he was only seven, I've sometimes teased that I deserve special treatment on both Mother's and Father's Days. Of course, Kevin never bought that, because he and I both always knew that no one can ever replace your father. 

But there's another reason why this holiday celebrating men is an emotional trigger for me. It's also a reminder of the disproportionate power that men have over the lives of everyone in the human family, long after childhood and our own fathers are only memories. 

Sexual harassment, date rape, domestic violence, pay inequity, toxic work cultures, extreme laws violating women's right to privacy and deeply ingrained patriarchal bias that continues to deny girls and women equal opportunities to put their talents to work as leaders and decision makers for the human family are all perpetrated and/or perpetuated by men.  Males behaving badly are just the tip of the iceberg. What's most devastating is the the apathy of the millions of men who are unwilling or simply uninterested in understanding the sexism, bias and blatant misogyny that every little girl must deal with throughout her lifetime. 

The extreme "heartbeat" laws that have been passed In the U.S. recently, primarily by male lawmakers, punish women while ignoring the role and responsibilities of men in procreation. If we want to end abortion, as this thoughtful USA Today article pointed out, then we need to "Hold Men -- Fathers of Unplanned Children -- Accountable." When women are expected to be society's caregivers, men are allowed to be careless.  

I’ve been outraged for decades over the gender violence and bias that goes on and on, despite all of our talk and hand-wringing. That's why it gives me hope to encounter Jeffery Tobias Halter, who is one of only a handful of men who are working every day to engage males as gender allies. 

The Founder of YWomen, Jeff took the stage for his TEDx talk wearing red high heels to make a point about how differently men and women move through the world.  He believes, and I think he's right, that the big breakthrough in eliminating gender bias will come when Fathers stand up and demand change -- for not just their own daughters, but for the world's daughters. 

Jeffery was my guest on this week's POWERING UP podcast. It's one of my favorite interviews. He's fun, he understands the issues and he believes, "It's time to stop telling women to lean in, and start asking men to stand up!" 

So Happy Father's Day. I hope you'll celebrate by sharing my conversation with Jeffery and his "Father of a Daughter" iniative and "Male Advocacy Profile" tools with the fathers in your life. Women and girls needs all the great male allies we can get!  

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