From the Director

 Dona Yarbrough

By Dona Yarbrough

I’d like to dedicate this issue of WNN, “Men and Feminism,” to all the men who have supported the Center for Women (CWE) since its inception. Some of these men would not even call themselves feminists; nevertheless, they have incorporated feminist ethics and ideals into their thoughts and actions. 

For some, the idea that men could be feminists seems nonsensical, but I have never understood why. Perhaps this is because I have so many friends, ex-boyfriends, colleagues, neighbors, former classmates, and current and former students who are feminist men. At its most basic level, feminism is a belief that men and women should be treated equally. Surely a huge segment of the male population believes in that. Of course, we could argue about what exactly “treated equally” means, but feminists constantly argue these finer points among ourselves.  

Men—both in jest and complete earnestness—often ask about the CWE, “Oh, am I allowed to go there?” I certainly can understand why. Our name, for one thing, can be offputting. (By the way, I am open to alternatives; email me your suggestions!) And then there are historical reasons why men might question whether they would be welcomed here. 

Five years ago, when I arrived at the CWE, I was part of a number of conversations about whether, and to what extent, the center should be “women’s only” space. I felt strongly, as did most students I talked to, that the center should not and could not be exclusionary. Yes, men play an enormous role in the problems women face, but that is all the more reason to invite them to be part of the solutions. Additionally, men—like women—suffer from gender norms, stereotypes, and policing. Feminism, which fights against these oppressive structures, can be a path to freedom for men as well as women. 

Five years ago, there were no men working at the CWE and very few, if any, men involved in preventing sexual assault on campus. Since then, more than a dozen male student workers and volunteers have cycled through our doors, including several “old-timers”—those who have been with us two years or longer. Men have also been members, volunteers, and in fact leaders in Feminists in Action, one of several student organizations we support; the annual Vagina Monologues productions; and the Office of Health Promotion’s Respect Program in Campus Life, which engages the Emory community to prevent and respond to sexual assault and relationship violence. In addition, the CWE’s Men Stopping Violence Initiative specifically engages men in ending violence against women.

This issue of WNN celebrates many of the men involved in these programs, as well as other men at Emory and beyond who are deeply involved in “women’s issues.” In addition, we have included a cautionary tale in the form of Shannan Palma’s article “The Good Men Project,” about the rise and fall of a woman-positive online magazine for men. 

I hope our intentional inclusivity has begun to change men’s ideas about the CWE. Despite our name, our center is truly for men too: we don’t promise always to make you feel comfortable or agree with you, but we do promise to welcome you, engage you, challenge you, and support you in learning more about women and gender.