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Men and feminism: the Smurthwaite Deal

Feminism
Women
Men
Kate with someone else's child

The author, with someone else's child. © Kate Smurthwaite

I’m bored of hearing that ‘feminism needs to do more to attract men’. If only feminists could succeed by asking men nicely to allow us to gather up the scattered remains of our basic human rights from under their banquet of privilege!

What is it men want, anyway? Sports updates and side boob? Feminism is the campaign for women’s rights. And rights are rights. We shouldn’t have to ask nicely. We shouldn’t have to wait politely until powerful men feel comfortable handing them over. They’re rights, you fucking asshole, and I am entitled to them, even when I call you a ‘fucking asshole’.

The only reason to support feminism is because it’s right. Any man that needs to hear it from a smiley Emma Watson first doesn’t get it.

The other thing men shouldn’t do with feminism, of course, is try to run it. That can be hard, because little boys are often socialized to run the world and little girls to keep their legs crossed and let them. One interesting solution is for men who support feminism to call themselves ‘pro-feminist men’ rather than feminists.

I like men who do that. Sometimes I even give them some side boob. But I also hate complicated language that alienates people from what is actually a straightforward movement demanding simple, fair things.

So I will cut men a deal. The Smurthwaite Deal. You may call yourself a feminist in return for one simple thing: half a day’s free babysitting a month. Footnote – it has to be a child that isn’t yours. You can’t babysit your own child. That’s called parenting.

Gender equality is impossible while women continue to do the vast majority of the world’s childcare for free. Affordable childcare, often touted by governments as the solution, only moves the problem around, with different, poorer women doing the childcare and still not getting much thanks for it. The fact is there are loads of children, and they all need looking after, all the time. The only way for it not to be women that end up doing it is for men to do it, too.

But, but, but... ‘I don’t know how to look after kids!’ Well, if you had a good upbringing, replicate it; if you had a shitty one, do the opposite. ‘I spend ages looking after my own kids!’ So invite one of their friends along for the afternoon. You’ll even benefit when the favour is returned by fellow dads desperately trying to earn their Smurthwaite points.

I’m sure most compassionate men already do this. If you engage with those around you, you’ll soon notice someone struggling with the school run or stuck on their own with a toddler.

But what about the politicians who trot out the f-word (‘feminism’, not ‘fucking’ asshole) as a casual vote-winning strategy? David Cameron, Barack Obama, even Vladimir Putin. They might struggle to find the time between all the glad-handing of sexist dictators or lobbyists from industries that thrive on the unpaid labour of poor women raising the underpaid workforce of the future, but I think they’d learn a lot from meeting exhausted parents and spending a few hours mashing carrots and changing nappies. Or if they don’t fancy it, then, fine: feminism will have its word back.

Kate Smurthwaite is a comedian and activist. katesmurthwaite.co.uk. @Cruella1