The topic of gender equality can be a sensitive one. I can recall heated conversations at dinner parties where my girlfriends and I discussed the gender gap over dessert with male friends who held varying opinions on the subject. These conversations took on many tones but I can say for certain they weren't filled with humor.
And that is exactly why Michael Kimmel's recent TED Talk, was so refreshing to me. It's not every day you hear a man recruiting other men to support gender equality and I suppose it's also safe to say it's less common to hear about a man's point of view on the subject. Michael provides both - perspective and support - in his funny yet poignant TED Talk, arguing that gender equality is good for everyone - even men.
Like all great TED Talks, no matter the subject, the beauty is in the storytelling. This one proved no different. Using a smart and clever narrative that really won me over, he walks us through the pivotal moment in his life where his views on gender were challenged, altered and defined.
Witnessing a conversation 30 years ago between a white woman and a black woman about privilege, identity and race caused Michael's own sense of gender to change. It was, he describes, "the moment I became a middle class white man and when class and race and gender were no longer about other people, they were about me."
"Making gender visible to men," says Michael, "is the first step to engaging men to support gender equality." It's not that most men are against it - in fact most men believe the idea is fair, just - and as he explains, "a way for us to get the lives we want to live." The benefits of gender equality extend far beyond the workplace. Family life, relationships and friendship all factor in - and data shows that equality is a win-win based on one simple concept, "sharing."
Although delivered with humor, Michael has the data to back his statements up, explaining that "when men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. Their children have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement. They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. They are less likely to see a child psychiatrist. They are less likely to be put on medication." Let's not forget that their partners are happier and healthier while the men themselves are also healthier, smoke less, drink less.
So if sharing and empowering both men and women equally leads to greater happiness and health, I'd agree with Michael, it's a win-win for everyone.