Out in the Open

How to talk to men about feminism

For over a decade, Todd Minerson spoke to men about feminism, power and gender equality. He says you have to appeal to one’s “enlightened self-interest.”
Todd Minerson moderating a global panel on gender equality in Delhi in 2015 (Courtesy of Todd Minerson)

Todd Minerson has been called a traitor to men.

He's talked about feminism and gender equality to men for over a decade as the former head of White Ribbon, an organization targeting men to end violence against women.

"We used to operate on this principle of enlightened self-interest. So, what's in it for me?"

"It's not as pure and as lovely as saying it's the right thing to do, so just do it, but it's a real entry point for getting men to think of feminism," says Todd.

From heads of States, heads of military, CEOs to High School boys, Todd starts by talking about what it means to be a man and the harm associated with gender norms around masculinity: "What does it cost us when we tell young boys to not cry, or to man up, or to be tough or don't seek help?" 

"That way of getting men to think about their own experience [with gender] is the entry point to think about others, to empathy, and to think about women's experiences." 

Todd says one of the hardest things for him personally, when he started having these conversations in his own life, is giving up the defensiveness.

"You can be a good guy in a bad system," says Todd.

"That really turned everything on its head for me and said, 'Ok, I gotta stop being so defensive.' When it's a critique about patriarchy and power and male privilege, it might be about my actions or inactions, but it's also about a system that I'm a part of."

In response to the often heard defence of 'but it's not all men' who are violent or perpetrators, Todd agrees. "It's not all men," he says, "but not all men are doing enough at the same time."