The women’s rights movement initially started in 1848 with the suffragettes demanding votes for women, and picked up speed in the twentieth century when women wanted equal pay for equal work and opportunities for advancement commensurate with those afforded to men. That battle is still being fought in the twenty-first century.
So, why should autistic adults care about this? Most who are diagnosed are men, so they’re not affected, right?
Actually, that’s not right. Every time anyone is denied equal rights because of the group or population they belong to, it affects all of us who need and deserve those rights. This includes race, religion, sexual orientation, and ability/disability as well as gender. I’m writing about women’s rights this issue because it’s Women’s History Month, but human rights affects us all.
So, if you’re a man who wants to show support for the women’s rights movement, what can you do?
You can become an ally. An ally for any minority or oppressed population is one who is not affected by the prejudice but wants to make a difference and show support for those who are.
One thing you can do is to say something when you notice someone else disrespecting a woman. If you’re walking down the street with a friend, and that friend whistles at a passing woman or makes suggestive comments, a simple “Not cool,” will let them know you don’t appreciate that kind of disrespect. If you see a woman at work being blamed for something that she didn’t do, you can let your supervisor know. If it would be embarrassing to others to speak up in a meeting, such as calling out another co-worker and sounding like a tattle-tale, you could email your supervisor later and respectfully share what you know about the situation. And always remember, before you send an email to your boss, wait a while and re-read it when you are calm to see if it sounds angry or could be misunderstood. If you have a trusted friend that you can run it by without breaking confidentiality, get their opinion before hitting Send.
W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith wrote an article about this for the Harvard Business Review. They suggested six practices for men who want to promote women’s rights in the workplace. Here are three of them:
- LISTEN. It would be disrespectful for a man to speak up and try to “mansplain” to the women or teach them about women’s rights. Listen, without interrupting, to their experiences and what they have to say.
- RESPECT. If you are at a conference or meeting and a woman has the floor, show respect. Your respectful attitude can be a model for others
- REMEMBER, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. If a woman talks about how a man has treated her badly, don’t rush to say that all men don’t behave like that, or that you would never act that way. She is talking about her experience, not about you. You don’t need to justify yourself in contrast to how she has been treated by disrespectful men in her past. Let your respectful actions speak for you rather than trying to hijack the conversation or divert it to yourself.
Read the whole article here.
Whenever any group is being denied equal rights, it is up to all of us to stand up for the oppressed and check ourselves to make sure we aren’t being part of the problem. During National Women’s History Month, let’s remember that the historical fight for equality is not over yet, and work together to make sure that no one is left out.