This International Women’s Day (IWD) I’m writing to you (again), Remington, you are now six years old, and Raymond, you are three years.
This IWD 2022 the global theme is ‘Changing Climates: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. This year’s theme is all about recognising and amplifying the important role women and girls around the world play in addressing climate change.
It’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t your day – it’s the day of my women kind who have fought so hard for the freedom and rights of white male privilege. But I’ve been to enough IWD events, where we talk about the depressing statistics of how my gender is treated in our society, and quite frankly I’m sick of hearing of the disparity and discrimination. I’m much more interested in the solutions – the solutions and actions that will lead to change. Whilst women must and will continue to fight for their rightful position in this world, I’m of the school of thought that it will take both genders to see in this ongoing revolution. Hence why I think of you, dear sons, as we celebrate women today and focus our energy and attention on changing climates, for the betterment of our world.
So what can you do, as white privileged males, to contribute towards our aim for ‘equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’?
First, you must acknowledge your privilege. You and I, we walk around this country with the knowledge that we will not face racism. The colour of our skin wrongly governs our experience in this way and we move freely in this society without scrutiny. This is a privilege and one that we must not forget. Further, your first 1,000 days of childhood (crucial according to new research about our neurological wiring) has been blissful, free from violence, drugs and full of reading, play and a peaceful (if busy) home life. Again, this puts you in a privileged position.
But you are also privileged because of your gender. Gendered norms and ideas of what a woman’s role should be in society often mean that women and girls experience the impacts of climate change and natural disasters differently. Yet in spite of this, their voices are frequently side-lined when it comes to developing solutions to the climate crisis.
When it comes to climate change, 67% of all decision-making roles are currently held by men.
It is important that you know, dear sons, that excluding the voices of women, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, particularly those of Indigenous peoples and people from the Global South, will leave us with little chance of ever achieving true climate justice. Food shortages and the financial hardships that come with climate change can also increase the risk of violence against women and LGBTQIA+ people, with rates of gender-based violence often rising following natural disasters.
This leads me to my second ask. Once you acknowledge your privilege then I ask you to make sure you use your standing for good.
Women, trans, non-binary and gender non-confirming people, especially those from marginalised groups, are severely underrepresented in all formal decision-making bodies.
This underrepresentation means a lot of women’s concerns and experiences might never make it to formal decision-making spaces. This not only leaves us with gaps in our understanding of the reality on the ground but also limits the potential for new and innovative ideas to be developed based on the unique insights and knowledge women have to offer.
So boys, before you speak, check your standing. Consider if you are enabling all people to speak. Sometimes this will mean you need to step down from your platform, so that others have space. This is not a sacrifice, this will actually assist you (and all of us) in the short and long term. You can be the generation that ensures all voices are heard and listened to.
Do you see my sons? You have an opportunity. You can use your white male privilege to give others a voice and be part of a more sustainable tomorrow.
And to the women that have paved the way, that have fought the good fight, that have made it possible for me to be standing here today – sons you must remember to say thank you. Our family will honour the hard work of these women. We will not forget them. We will make sure they are named in our history books and are proudly on display at Her Place. We will recognise their efforts and pay them justly for their work.