A woman’s world
Men make up just under half of the population. But by a long shot, they make more money, hold higher positions and take more of the major decisions than women anywhere in the world. Despite all this, when it comes to feminism, men are often surprisingly silent – especially considering the role they played in making the women’s movement one of the larger social successes of the 20th century.
deBuren lecture series tackles contemporary feminist issues
So where are all the men in feminism today? Can they find a place in this women’s world? And should they be allowed in at all?
On 27 February in Antwerp, the conversation titled “Male Advocates” will take up these questions and more in the second instalment of the lecture series Who’s Afraid of the F-Word, hosted by feminist think tank Vrouwen Overleg Komitee (VOK) and the Flemish-Dutch culture house deBuren.
Moderated by feminist journalist Francesca Vanthielen, Who’s Afraid of the F-Word? is a series of four lectures and debates about important questions in feminism. The first took place in Ostend on National Women’s Day on 11 November last year, featuring the theme of feminism in times of crisis and protest. Touring around Flanders, the next three will be panel debates that will tackle the hottest topics shaping feminism today: men in feminism, the sexualisation of society and nature, nurture and gender.
A man’s place
But wait, you say, feminism? Wasn’t that a bunch of angry women who stopped yelling in, like, the 1990s? A quick survey of the landscape shows that feminism and the women’s movement are greatly changed since the heyday of second-wave feminism in Belgium in the 1970s and 1980s.
Across the world, feminism has become a mixed movement, with men standing alongside women exploring how feminism can help both genders. With questions of inequality in education leading to shortages of workers, parental rights and parental leave, as well as the growing popularity of movements like International Men’s Day on 19 November, it is clear: Men are knocking, and it’s time for feminists to decide whether to open the door.
The goal of “Male Advocates” is to open up a dialogue on a man’s place in feminism today. VOK is bringing together three movers and shakers from the world of gender theory, including Kristien Hemmerechts, feminist author and scholar of the Brussels University College; Henk de Smaele, history professor at the University of Antwerp and co-president of the Archive Centre for the History of Women in Brussels; and Jens van Tricht, coach and consultant working in the field of (men’s) emancipation, diversity and youth participation. Together, they will try to untangle how men and women can help each other move forward in rights and equality movements.
Next in the series
After “Male Advocates”, two more panels will be held in March (Ghent) and April (Brussels). The first is “Sexualisation of Society”, in which VOK member Marjolein Van Bavel, media studies professor Liesbet van Zoonen and lingerie designer and author Murielle Scherre will look at sexualisation since the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ask: Are women really sexually free?
But the final debate, “Men from Mars, Women from Venus?”, is likely to be the liveliest, as Griet Vandermassen, a philosopher studying the evolutionary basis of gender, and science journalist Asha ten Broeke, who has written a book compiling research suggesting gender is socially constructed, debate whether femininity and masculinity are products of nature or nurture.