The day after Donald Trump was sworn into office over 500,000 men, women and children peacefully gathered and marched throughout downtown Los Angeles. Millions more marched in Washington DC, Chicago, Manhattan and dozens of other cities throughout the world.

Though many conservatives mocked and complained that these protests were just “a bunch of bitter feminists,” their perception was tainted and far from the truth. What in fact took place was a convergence of movements – civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, environmental rights – gathering together to show solidarity and determination against discrimination, not only of women, but of immigrants, blacks, Muslims, gays, the disabled and all others believed to be vulnerable under the new administration. All in all, it was a day in support of humanity.

As with most divisive issues, supporters and rivals of feminism represent a broad spectrum of beliefs, from casual to radical and everything in between. Unfortunately, when both sides become polarised, common sense is thrown out the window. People will do or say anything they must in order to get their point across. While some resort to violence and name calling, it’s important to note that on January 21st, in over 50 countries around the world, millions of people from all walks of life marched and protested, shoulder to shoulder, without inciting any violence or destruction whatsoever.

So why did I choose to march in the first place? The simplest answer would be compassion.

As a white, straight male born and raised in America, I’ve always known that I’ve got it good: I don’t often worry about being raped when I go out. I don’t worry about the government telling me that my reproductive organs are subject to their laws. I don’t worry about getting beaten up for who I’m attracted to. And I don’t worry about being pulled over and shot by the police because of the colour of my skin.

In addition, after many years of working with Amnesty Int’l. on their campaigns to bring an end to human rights violations, I became keenly aware of who and why people are being intimidated, oppressed, jailed, beaten and killed throughout the world. Thus, my compassion has grown throughout the years from exposing myself to the injustices that still exist today. I didn’t stay in a bubble. I traveled. I spoke to others and I remained open-minded. I gained perspective.

So, when my teenage daughter asked me if she and her friends could take the train downtown to participate in the Women’s March, I felt compelled to join them as well, not only as their chaperone, but as a supporter of their right to protest. It turns out that I wasn’t the only father who felt this way. Tens of thousands of men joined with their daughters, wives, mothers and sisters to ensure that their voices would be heard that day. And they were!

Though the original impetus for this event came from the intense anxiety many felt about the new presidency, participants were left feeling empowered and hopeful by the sheer size of the crowds that reached over 50 countries by the day’s end.

I asked my daughter, “What was your favourite part of the day?” She responded, “When all the women began chanting, ‘My body, my choice’ and then the men chanted, ‘Her body, her choice!’” She continued, “Marching with so many ‘manly men’ really gave us confidence, and walking with so many incredible women, helped us see that we aren’t alone – that our collective voices are very loud, and very important.” Needless to say, I was quite pleased that this was her experience.

It was only once we returned home to watch the nightly news and read social media comments that we started to see so much opposition and loathing from men AND women against those who had participated in the protests.

“Feminism is the problem,” read many of the negative comments. My daughter replied, “Why do they hate us so much?” I couldn’t help but respond, “Good question.”

Feminism is supposed to be about women being equal to men in political, economic and social standings. My daughter asked, “In 2017, is that really asking for too much?”

Granted, there are extremists in ALL movements, and over the years feminism has had its fair share of them insulting men and making them feel a bit emasculated. However, women have also had to endure unimaginable discrimination throughout the centuries, and millions of women in less developed countries still suffer extreme discrimination to this very day. Their fight is not over.

Comedian Michael Che made an observation about being called a feminist that illustrates how many men feel nowadays: “I think it’s weird to be called a name just for being a reasonable person. Because that’s all it is – believing in equality just means you’re not a dick. And for me, that’s enough. I support women’s rights because I’m not a dick.”

His comments made me chuckle, as well as wonder, “Why do I personally believe in the principles of feminism while so many others still don’t?”

So, I started with reflecting on my upbringing. I was raised to believe that we are all equal. That we are to treat others with respect. And in my family, that meant ALL others: regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, etc. My father was a very secure man. He respected my mother and I never heard a demeaning word about her gender come out of his mouth. In addition, my mother taught my brother and I to be compassionate and empathetic as well. “Put yourself in their shoes,” she’d often say.

Too many people today are completely self-absorbed and clueless as to how their words, actions and inactions are affecting others. There’s no doubt that this selfishness and narcissism is why we still see so much intolerance and violence in the world.

As I continued with my introspection, I then reflected on how I perceive myself, and how I view the world. As I mentioned before, because of travel and education I’ve always been aware of how much worse my life could be. I recognize that corrupt governments are far more dangerous to me than women and their rights to be treated as equal. Granted, there are many who do not have the opportunity to travel nor obtain a higher education, but with the unlimited amount of educational media on television and online today, people in remote locations can obtain international perspective and knowledge more than ever before.

I also reflected on how accountable and responsible I am for my own actions – my own successes and failures too. Though some men may claim that they were passed over for a job or promotion by a woman, I’ve never blamed a woman for my failures. Plus, as mentioned above, I recognize the enduring struggle that women have experienced for centuries in order to obtain an education, participate in the workplace, or even simply to vote.

Men are evolving. And many of us recognize that feminism is not a threat to our manhood. It’s an opportunity. To show love, respect and dignity to our mothers, our daughters, our sisters and our wives. And in return, we DO get something valuable. We gain more empowered, intelligent and compassionate team members in our society, in our politics and in our workplace who can help in our collective pursuit of solving the much bigger, more threatening issues of our time.

Marc Levey is a Conflict Resolution Specialist and Personal Development Coach. As the founder of Quantum Resolution Coaching, Marc specializes in helping highly competitive professionals through milestone transitions. Greatly influenced by his experience living and working in Japan, Marc marries Eastern principles with the practical realities of Western life into his coaching and writing including his upcoming book The Art of Mindful Divorce. Integrating a distinctly zen-inspired approach into his coaching practice, Marc helps clients resolve conflict and create balance in their professional and personal lives through transformational growth and development.

It is in this context that I see Marc’s qualities of wisdom and the Middle Way an important path towards working on what we all need to focus on:

The ability to respect our differences, work together and to have compassion for those less fortunate than us.

We, men, need to do our part for our wives, daughters, mothers and sisters of blood or spirit, to feel a solidarity as they have never before.

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