Men’s Letter to the President: Support Gender Equality
By Rob Okun
Will Donald Trump change his attitude toward women?
After the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood video caught him admitting to sexually assaulting women, many citizens couldn’t believe he could receive enough Electoral College votes to become president. I was one of them.
On January 31, I was a signatory to an open letter to Mr. Trump in POLITICO calling on him “to support this country’s, and the world’s, women.” (An accompanying petition is gaining names). My co-letter writers and I challenged the president to set a high standard, to show that he is a man who believes in women’s equality and who opposes discrimination and violence of all kinds by men against women and girls.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump often repeated, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” even as he said and did things women and men consider disgraceful. (No need to reiterate here his many vulgar, offensive characterizations of women.) We reminded Mr. Trump that there is nothing manly about disrespecting women, and called on him “to make amends and to set a new tone.”
Will he? The White House plan to gut funding for Office of Violence Against Women Act grants, and his executive action barring from receiving US government funding any international NGOs that perform or promote abortions, suggest it’s unlikely.
Because the U.S. has long been a leader in promoting women’s empowerment around the globe, we urged Mr. Trump to insure the U.S. strengthen that role. Women deserve equal pay, affordable, high quality childcare and reproductive health services, we wrote, as well as paid family and medical leave for mothers—and fathers—so we can all care for our children. (In a glaring omission, Ivanka Trump’s family leave proposal omits fathers.) We also called for the U.S. to expand efforts at home and abroad to ensure women and girls are not harassed, beaten, or raped.
We reminded Mr. Trump why millions of women marched in this country and around the world the day after his inauguration: because women are apprehensive and fearful that their rights will no longer be seen as human rights; because they fear for their own, and for their families’ futures; because they’re disturbed his administration will roll back basic protections. We shared that as men who unequivocally believe in gender equality, that we—and tens of thousands of other men—marched with them. (His discriminatory executive order barring from the U.S. citizens from seven targeted countries only underscores our shared concerns.)
Mr. Trump, use the presidency to explicitly demonstrate that “you will champion the rights of all women”—including immigrant women, women of diverse religious faiths, and diverse sexual orientations and identities, indigenous women, racial minority women, women with disabilities, women who are economically impoverished, and women who are survivors of violence.
We wrote: Show us you will elevate women’s voices and women’s leadership by supporting the International Violence Against Women Act, and programs and campaigns against sexual assault on campus that support initiatives that prevent men’s violence against women; that you will hold accountable men who disrespect women.
Show us by supporting pay transparency and the Paycheck Fairness Act that you believe in giving women the platform to fight discrimination in the workforce.
Show us by supporting paid family leave and affordable childcare for all parents.
As men who deeply believe in women’s rights, we wanted Mr. Trump to know that every day we stand up for women in our personal and professional lives. We dared him to show the world that he’s a man who abhors all violence against women and girls, and who champions equality.
A president’s words and actions reverberate not just around the country but around the word. If “nobody has more respect for women and girls than me,” than show us, we challenged Mr. Trump. “Show us that you agree that men need to speak out and stand up against inequality and violence against women. Show us that you will #BeAModelMan.”
The Violence and Discrimination Women Face
Too many women and girls in the U.S. face violence and discrimination that we perpetuate in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and policies.
- One in four women in the U.S. will experience violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life, and underreporting persists due to stigma, as well as policies which don’t hold perpetrators accountable.
- Women in the U.S. are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, for the same work.
- 3 out of 10 women under 45 will need to access safe and legal abortion in the U.S., a right which is now under threat.
- Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been raped in her lifetime, including in her own home, in the military, on college campuses and schools.
Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor of Voice Male. A new edition of his book, Voice Male – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement will be published this year.