I promised to write the blog post you are reading about four months ago, the topic being why men should care about the issues and inequities facing women and girls in Chester County, as documented in CCFWG’s recent Blueprint Report (ccwomenandgirls.org/research). I struggled to put fingers to keyboard because the answer seemed so obvious to me that it defied explanation. It’s like trying to explain why men should care about oxygen or laughter. Why wouldn’t men and boys care about equality and justice for their mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, colleagues and friends? Or at least recognize that women earning 73% of what men make in Chester County doesn’t seem right in 2016 (or 1916 for that matter). Or that black women dying of heart disease at a rate 32% higher than white women in Chester County might be something we should be concerned about if we really want to celebrate being ranked the healthiest county in Pennsylvania by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Of course, as a Board member of the Brandywine Health Foundation and a consultant to foundations and nonprofits, I might be more informed about the issues facing women and girls today, but I was still surprised that so few men attended the Blueprint Report event in May, and so few re/tweeted the staggering statistics about women’s poverty, health and safety that CCFWG has shared from it. So faced with the inevitable task of delivering on a deadline, I did what I always do. I launched Netflix on my Kindle and prepared to do some serious binge watching.
For me, serial drama is the new novel. I seek insight and inspiration in its art. And the complex yet strong women I admire in dramatic television, from Jessica Jones to Alicia Florrick to Carrie Mathison are not simply compelling characters I admire, they have strengths and flaws and insecurities I can identify with deeply. I believe identity is the key to unlocking this question of why men should care about women and girls’ issues.
We care about the people we love, the people we work with, and the causes that drive us, whether they are social or political. But caring is different from identifying, and that’s the challenge. Identifying means opening our eyes to the experiences that women and girls face every day, and that accumulate over their lifetimes. Once you identify with the idea of not being safe walking down the street, being denied healthcare access and autonomy, being paid less than others based simply on gender or race, being talked over in offices and classrooms, it’s hard not to want to talk about it, learn about it, do something about it. We can call it empathy if we’d like instead of identity. But whatever we call it, let’s get past the idea that women’s issues are something for women to deal with. They’re everybody’s issues. Let’s do something about them together.
Jason D. Alexander is a Principal and Co-Founder of Capacity for Change, LLC. He lives in West Chester with his wife Meghan McVety and sons Jackson and Colin