It was a sight that would have caused anyone to do a double-take, even the most progressive of thinkers.
At the end of February, hundreds of Turkish men marched through the streets of Istanbul wearing miniskirts. A rallying cry in support of human rights for women, the march took place after a bus driver senselessly murdered a 20-year-old Turkish woman on his bus after she refused his advances.
The miniskirt movement started online shortly after the horrific event, with women protesting the increasing incidents of violence against women and misogyny in a country whose government seems to be turning back the clock on women’s rights.
The hashtag campaign quickly spread to neighbouring Azerbaijan, where men began posting pictures of themselves wearing miniskirts in support of women’s right to live safely, regardless of their attire. Turkish men soon jumped on-board and took the protests to the streets, despite criticism from Turkey’s president.
Men Adopt Women’s Movement
Over the years, the women’s rights movement has been advanced primarily by women who have fought hard to win the right to vote, to hold public office, to own property, to work and to earn an equal wage.
But in the last several years, we’ve seen a trend toward inviting men into the conversation, and more and more men have heeded that call.
The miniskirt movement in Istanbul wasn’t actually the first of its kind. Similar protests took place in India and Iran in 2013, evidence of a growing contingent of men who are willing to publicly stand up for women’s rights and dignities.
Earlier this year, the UN’s He for She, a solidarity movement for gender equality, invited men to take a stand on behalf of women, gaining widespread visibility. Similarly, the UK’s White Ribbon Campaign consists of men working to end violence against women.
Closer to home, BC’s Toughest Men Campaign aims to make domestic violence a men’s issue, and redefine what it means to be “tough” by calling on men to pledge to do their part in ending violence against women.
International Women’s Day Aims to Make it Happen
In 1977, the United Nations proclaimed March 8 International Women’s Day, a day to raise awareness of equality and women’s rights issues. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen”.
Of course, making equal rights happen goes well beyond a single annual day of recognition. It also goes beyond just women.
More than ever, the fight for women’s rights needs men and women alike to take a stand and make it happen. As this Guardian columnist argued, it’s time for men to embrace feminism (without stealing it), to help create a united front on issues that affect both women and men every single day.
It would be great to see equal rights happen this year, but just witnessing the cause shift from a women’s issue to everyone’s fight is a sign of hope. Because if we all work together, we can change the world and make it a better place for everyone, regardless of gender.