“Women’s rights are human rights,” Hillary Clinton had proclaimed in a historic watershed moment in the women’s movement, in 1995.
No great leader has earned universal respect and adulation, without embracing the feminist struggle and making it their own. Some of our most esteemed male icons are no exception to this rule. Here are six of these visionary men who refused to settle for anything but all-round progress, and proclaimed themselves feminists to set the ball rolling.
1. Justin Trudeau:
The new Canadian PM, alias heartthrob of the universe and someone I wouldn’t mind becoming Prime Minister of the world, has never for a second had reservations in attaching the ‘F-Word’ to his identity. After being elected, he spoke at the World Economic Forum where he not only stated very matter-of-factly that he is a feminist, but also lobbied for its acceptance. “By the way, you shouldn’t be afraid of the word feminist. All men and women should use it to describe themselves.” He also walked the talk and appointed the most diverse cabinet in history, wherein 50 per cent constituted women.
2. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Founder of modern Turkey:
Feminists everywhere would collectively croon, “We found love in a hopeless place,” when you hear about who it was that waved the flag for woman rights in 19th Century Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk also sowed the seeds of feminism in the form of a Bourgeois women’s revolution. He made a clarion call: “Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains that the other half can soar into the skies?”
3. President Barack Obama:
Equal Pay for Women gained the most traction during Obama’s term, and was brought to consequence by the man himself, when he passed the Lilly Led better Fair Pay Restoration Act bill into law on January 29, 2009, enabling women to file equal pay lawsuits against their employers for up to six months after receiving their last paycheck.”Too often women can’t access the information they need to fight the pay discrimination… Women can’t wait for equal pay. And I won’t stop fighting to address this inequality,” says the visionary.
4. Prince Harry:
The 31-year-old Kensington royal proved that he is worth his salt with the finesse in his mindset, which, unfortunately, is rare to come by. He made news last week, when he was in Nepal, with a speech he gave for the first time on the subject that acts as the biggest hindrance to humanity’s progress. “There are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve. We need to acknowledge that so many countries and cultures are failing to protect the opportunities of young women and girls in the way they do for boys. We won’t unlock these opportunities for young women and girls unless we can change the mindset of every family and community. To achieve this, it cannot just be women who speak up for girls,” said the newest feminist on the block.
5. Nelson Mandela:
While his relentless march against apartheid and imperialism forms a dominant part of his legacy, a lesser known fact about him is that he was an outspoken champion of women empowerment. At the opening of the first parliament in 1994, President Mandela declared, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.” He said, as a tribute to women’s contribution in their freedom struggle, that Africa constitutionally ought not to unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. His cabinet constituted 27 per cent women, a historic number for Africa post-apartheid.
6. The Dalai Lama:
In September 2009, the Dalai Lama made a speech at the National Civil Rights Museum, where he simplified it for anyone who has whirlwinds of warped ideas around the rather uncomplicated term. “I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?”
The need for men to join the movement has never been made more urgent – and articulate, as of September 2014, when Emma Watson spelled out why the Women’s Movement concerns all of humanity. Men everywhere must follow the example and accept the “formal invitation” extended to them to make this struggle their own.