NFL star Wade Davis on how men can join equality movement

"Don't say things like, 'because of the Me Too movement I'm afraid to take women out to lunch' -- you weren't doing it anyway!"

"Own your shit," "make it personal" and "don’t seek praise."

These are just three things the modern man can do to be part of the equality movement, says former NFL player Wade Davis.

The corporate diversity, inclusion and culture consultant delivered a road map for re-imaging gender roles to expand our understanding of masculinity and femininity at the AdColor Conference in Los Angeles on Saturday.

"What the Me Too movement says now is that the goal posts have moved," said Davis. "And women have a voice in what is appropriate and inappropriate. Historically it has been for us to say. Those rules are there now. Thank you.

"We need to own that and say this movement is good for me. Because no longer can we touch women on the small of their back and think that that’s okay. And stop thinking that you’re a good guy -- you’re not -- you’re perfectly human."

Wade said he bullied the only openly gay kid in high school before coming out as homosexual himself because he was afraid of his peer’s courage. "Now I do some really amazing things in the world -- am I a good person?" he asked. "I’m human. Can you rest in your own humanity?"

Davis said that for men to move from a space of being an allie to an actual equality advocate we must be "self-aware of our own shit."

He shared how he once told a female colleague, "sweetie, calm down," before brushing off her reaction as "emotional." Davis’ supervisor called him in and told him to read Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by Bell Hooks. He read it once, and when asked by his supervisor to explain what it’s about, she ordered him to read it again. This happened two more times, until he eventually realized the book was about him.

"I’m sexist as hell," he said. "How could I not be? I have to own that. A lot of us will say things like ‘I became a gender equality advocate after having a daughter,’ which is called benevolent sexism, because every woman in your life actually meant nothing -- because it took for you to have a daughter before you decided that this patriarchy stuff is not okay.

"The Me Too movement isn’t about women -- they already know what’s going on -- it is about us. We learn about four women in high school: Rosa Parks, Betsy Ross, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman. That’s it and we’re like, ‘we got it.’ How can we be advocates for women when we know nothing about them?"

He urged men to read, adding that a lot of people want to become advocates without doing any of the homework.  

Davis said to make the journey personal and connect gender equality to your own values.

When advocates talk to other men about this issue, he stresses it should be framed around leadership and growth, not fixing someone’s broken mindset.

He encouraged men to be disinterested in the need for praise for the fact that they’re an allie to gender equality.

"Here’s the truth: the corporate workplace is set up for men to succeed," he said. "Own that. And say, ‘how can I remove the barriers in the workplace that women are facing?’. How am I a bystander? How am I complicit?"

He added: "And don’t say things like, ‘because of the Me Too movement I’m afraid to take women out to lunch’ -- you weren’t doing it anyway!"


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