Zelda Fitzgerald – wife of the great American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald was so good at writing that he stole her literary work and passed it off as his own. Adding salt to her wounds, he tried to make her appear mentally disturbed, to cover his plagiarism. Rosalind Franklin was an intrinsic part of the team that discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. Though the Nobel Prize for this work was awarded to Jim Watson and Francis Crick, they couldn’t have done it without Rosalind’s help. The 2014 film, Big Eyes was based on the true story of Margaret Keane. A talented painter whose speciality was portraits of people with huge eyes, she left the sale of these portraits to her husband. She didn’t realize he was taking all the credit for her unique artistry and when she took him to court, only painting in open court convinced the jury. Ester Lederberg, a microbiologist was never credited for developing a laboratory technique called replica plating. Lise Meitner was a physicist whose important contribution to the discovery of nuclear fission wasn’t really acknowledged. Nettie Stevens, a geneticist, was the first to discover that the chromosomes of an organism were responsible for determining its sex. And the list goes on.
You’ve probably never heard of these women given their hard work and groundbreaking discoveries were largely ignored. Awards and accolades were handed, instead, to their male counterparts.
We’re now in 2023, well into the 21st century and women’s contributions are still being ignored and their rights are trampled on. There’s pay disparity. We’re objectified. Female foeticide is still prevalent. And let’s not even talk about honour killings and rape.
Women have tried to claw their way out of patriarchy for millennia. We’ve fought to have a seat at the table, to be educated, to drive, to vote, to work, to be independent. And yes, we’ve come a long, long way. But the battle is long from over.
Women are starting to form the sisterhood. We’re starting to recognise and address the complex issues that face them in their daily lives. And women have realized they are strong! They are powerful! They are determined! They can do it all on their own – but they shouldn’t have to. Because when people have allies, they feel less alone. They feel their voices are heard. They feel their ideas and struggles are supported.
So yes. Women need friends, allies, and advocates. And these allies need to be recognised them, and celebrated for all that they contribute to making the cause stronger. And while the sisterhood gathers force around the world there is a band of men that champion this change that is needed to be brought into the world.
So, here’s to the men that are firmly, blatantly, and strongly in the feminist corner. Helping, supporting, cheering women on. Here’s to #menforwomen
Heard the song ‘Watermelon Sugar’? That’s sung by Harry Styles. Once part of the boy band ‘One Direction’, Harry’s also a songwriter, model, and actor. But we love him most for his vocal support of women. Styles has been known for immediately shutting down an interview that has any hint of negativism towards women. He’s also known for strongly supporting all women, his female fans in particular. What’s even better is that he wears his women-supporting nature easily. To him, equality of the sexes is as important as breathing and should just come as naturally!
Whether it’s him stepping out in a dress (which he has, on occasion) or sporting a t-shirt that says “Women are smarter”; whether it’s his vocal objections against objectifying women or his support of gender equality – we’re glad Harry Styles has chosen to bar for the other side!
Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish
In January 2009, just a few minutes before he was due to appear on Israeli television, shells ripped through the home of Dr Abuelaish. They destroyed not only his home but his life. For it’s an unspeakable tragedy for a parent to bury a child, never mind three.
All eyes were on Dr Abuelaish. Would he sink into despair? Was he going to seek revenge? Would he spew hatred towards the Israelis? Any (or all) of these reactions would be justified – given what he went through.
But he reacted in a way that stunned the world. He pleaded for the senseless destruction and bloodshed to stop. He made an appeal for mutual understanding and peace. In the memory of his daughters – Bessan, Mayar, and Aya – he established The Daughters for Life Foundation. His aim was to honour the memory of his daughters – their love of life, their enthusiasm for learning, their aspirations and wishes for a better future, a better-educated world for women. The Foundation provides scholarships to young women in the Middle East – supporting their education, investing in their potential, and encouraging them to succeed. This is a MAN!
In a society where menstruation is equated with impurity, where sanitary napkins are considered a luxury, and where menstrual health is largely ignored – even by women, it’s unthinkable for a man to take it up as a cause. But Anunachalam Muruganantham did just that! After observing his wife reusing old rags while on her menstrual cycle, he became fixated on creating a low-cost sanitary pad. No one understood his obsession and he was disowned by family and community.
But that didn’t deter him. He carried on with the single-minded conviction of a person convinced of his idea! Eventually, he succeeded – and how! He created the world’s first customized sanitary pad-making machine. Simple to use, this machine does more than produce extremely affordable sanitary napkins. It provides employment. It improves women’s hygiene and health, and it gives women confidence and self-respect.
Today, Anunachalam is not only a hero in the village that once ostracized him, he’s recognised around the world. His machine is changing lives in 27 countries and there is even a movie based on his incredible story. The ‘Padman’ deserves a salute and gratitude for transforming the lives of millions.
Dr Denis Mukwege
Born in east Congo, as the son of a pastor, Dr Mukwege decided early on that he was going to pursue medicine. His decision was made when he went with his father to pray over a terminally ill child who couldn’t be saved. Dr Denis Mukwege followed his vocation and is now a world-renowned gynaecologist, human rights activist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Growing up in a war-torn region with a high incidence of sexual violence, Dr Mukwege devoted his career and expertise to treating women raped during conflict. In the Panzi Hospital and Foundation which he started, his team has treated over 50,000 horrific and nightmare-inducing injuries. They’ve developed a holistic model to treat and rehabilitate these survivors of wartime rape. Surviving attempts on his life, he continues in his calling, and campaigns to end the use of rape as a war weapon.
The world needs more men like Dr Mukwege.
This popular host of the ‘Daily Show’ has used his platform brilliantly to highlight women’s issues and the role men must play in addressing them. He’s also an advocate for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, speaking out for gender equality, and funding and promoting programmes for women’s empowerment. To honour his love for learning, and his appreciation of his teachers, the Trevor Noah Foundation is working towards a world “where education enables youth to dream, see and build the impossible.” In his final Daily Show, Trevor paid a special tribute to all Black women – but especially those who shaped him.
Irrespective of the colour of your skin, having Trevor Noah take up the cause of feminism has helped take the message far and wide.
CEO of the Ingka Group (previously IKEA), Jesper Brodin, is working hard to close the gender gap. The company has always supported equality and human rights. But under his leadership, there is more dedication to women’s empowerment. With a strong strategy for gender equality and bridging the gender pay gap, the Ingka Group aims at making a positive impact around the world. On behalf of the company, Brodin signed the Women Empowerment Principles, which includes, among others, equal pay and transparency in reporting. After capturing our attention with innovative and affordable home stuff, the company is now capturing our hearts with their equitable and fair policies. IKEA furniture is all the more appealing because it’s built on principles of fair play.
Perpetrators of domestic violence are men, about 95% of the time. Women in abusive relationships leave approximately 7 times, before the final goodbye. Close to 750 women and children look for a safe escape from domestic violence – every day! If these statistics have left you reeling, they did much more to Ben Davis. Shaken by the sheer senselessness of domestic violence, Ben Davis decided to find a solution. Since the core of the problem was the lack of a safe space for this vulnerable section in times of need, he conceptualised ‘Rescue Rooms’. This service connects vulnerable women and children with social workers who support them and organise a safe, secure hotel room within 48 hours. He has worked relentlessly with charities, hotel boards and chains and lobbied to convince anyone he can to work with him on this noble cause. Davis openly considers himself as an ally to women and is passionate in his belief that everyone can help to bring about change. Every woman who has found safety through his efforts would agree.
There are many others – Richard Branson from the UK, Toni Elemelu from Nigeria, Khalid al Ameri of the UAE… As the world continues to turn, more and more men are coming out to correct millennia of injustices. In the words of Margaret Plant, ‘An intelligent woman with allies can accomplish anything’. And now, more than ever we need men to ally with women to create a safe world for our children and our children’s children. So, here’s to men for women! May they continue to support us, fight for us, celebrate us and elevate us!