Ask an activist: What does it mean to be a man and a feminist?

Date: Friday, June 14, 2019

About the author

Gary Barker. Photo: UN Women/Zina Alam
Gary Barker. Photo: UN Women/Zina Alam

Gary Barker is CEO and Founder of Promundo, an international organization working to promote gender justice and prevent violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls. As Promundo launched its State of the World’s Fathers 2019 report at the Women Deliver global conference, Barker spoke to UN Women about men’s role in gender equality advocacy, and the importance of closing the gap in unpaid care work.

“Feminism is not men against women, it is not women against men, it's all of us in this together. That to me is what gender equality means.

There can be no human rights agenda, there can be no better world and no Sustainable Development Goals without a feminist agenda. It will simply fall apart without it. Men need to be a part of it.

I think the obvious part for me, as a man, is to pay attention to power and privilege. To question it and to use my voice where I can, to call other men into this, and to call men out when they cause harm. We must acknowledge that men didn't carry the flag that got us here. It has been women's lives and voices that brought the feminist agenda to the table.

As Promundo launches our third State of the World’s Fathers report, we’re pushing men and boys towards doing 50 per cent of the hands-on caregiving at home.

Unpaid care work is the biggest barrier to women's participation in the paid workplace and in leadership. We [men] need to do our share of the care work at home. In order to get there, we need paid leave, both for men and women. We need to work with young people so both boys and girls see equality from the very start. We need to take this into the health sector, into cash-transfer programmes and poverty alleviation programmes.

Men who do hands on care work are better men. Their health is better. They are happier. They see the results in their household. Young men who treat their sisters and young women around them as equal, who have respect for sexual diversity – I see that paying forward in so many ways. The next generation keeps me inspired.”