James Neal

It’s once again popular in some circles to publicly decry and mock feminism.

Yes, 170 years after the first Women’s Conference in Seneca Falls, NY, we’ve made America once again so great that the systemic inequality of half our population is a punch line.

This less-than-great regression calls me back to a question I’ve felt compelled to answer from time to time: Am I a feminist?

Some may consider me ill-equipped to bear the title, or even to consider its meaning. I am, after all, a man. I make no apology for that. I am what God made me.

But, I’m not just any man. I’m a heterosexual, middle-aged, overweight, church-going white guy, who served in the military and lives in one of the most conservative corners of society.

It’s fair to say if you were looking for a spokesperson for the term “feminist,” I wouldn’t naturally spring to mind.

I am certainly not qualified to fully understand what it means to be a woman in our society. Whatever my thoughts or intentions, I am and always will be a man.

I’ll never know what it’s like to accept a job, and have to wonder if my pay is less because of my gender. I’ll never have to wonder if I was excluded from a job because my genitals, or perhaps just my emotions, were judged a detriment to performance.

I was never told as a child that certain professions, sports or activities weren’t “for me.” I’ve never been asked to wear anything higher, or shorter, or longer because it might make me “more agreeable” around the office.

Frankly, I’m not qualified even to make a sufficient list of all the things I’ve never had to face, and will never fully understand about being a woman in our society.

But I do know a few things on this topic. I know my incredibly talented, hard-working wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt all have worked harder and gone further to receive less than they would have if they’d been men.

I know my smart, talented daughters soon will be walking into the same world I’ve seen denigrate and discriminate against women. I know that scares and enrages me, and leaves me feeling despair for the path they must take through a society in which misogyny is still winked and back-slapped into acceptance.

Now, that last bit – the winking, back-slapping sexism – I can speak to that. You see, being a middle-aged, overweight man, people tend to think I’m a willing, or at least safe, witness to this mentality.

So, once again, let me clear up where I stand on this.

Making derogatory remarks about someone because of their gender is not OK. Paying someone less because of their gender is unjust. Denying someone a job, or confining them to certain roles because of their sex, is unacceptable. 

Hurling insulting epithets at people who want to be treated equally in relationships, in the workplace and society as a whole is indecent, and antithetical to both American philosophy and Christian theology.

What do these views make me? I don’t know. I am simply a man with a wife and two daughters, who fears society is slipping back into a place in which it’s morally permissible to cheat them out of an equal chance at all this world has to offer.

I don’t have a cure-all for misogyny. I do know doing nothing is unacceptable. Saying nothing is complicity

Indifference can come only from ignorance, cowardice or laziness. And those aren’t words I want chiseled in my daughters’ memory of me.

So, I do what I do: I write. And I pray. And I pray others will write, and speak and pray, and demand a world in which all our children, regardless of gender, may finally live the true meaning of liberty.

Am I a feminist? I don’t know that I deserve the title.

But, if my voice may help lift equality’s banner in some measure, then I gladly give it.

And if you judge me deserving of being called a feminist, I will gladly accept the honor.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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I am a retired Naval Officer and small business owner, outside of my work at the News & Eagle. My wife Tammy and I enjoy serving together at church and attending Gaslight and ESO. We have two daughters, three dogs and little free time.