Last week, Eastern Washington University engineering student Jared Mauldin wrote a letter to the editor of his school’s newspaper, The Easterner, in which he showed what it means to be a true feminist ally.
Mauldin’s letter, addressed to the women in his class, offers up some simple lessons every “men’s rights activist” or so-called “meninist” ought to learn. He begins by writing, “While it is my intention in every other interaction I share with you to treat you as my peer, let me deviate from that to say that you and I are in fact unequal.” Then goes on to say:
I was not overlooked by teachers who assumed that the reason I did not understand a tough math or science concept was, after all, because of my gender. I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the “diversity hire.” When I experience success the assumption of others will be that I earned it. So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.
We salute you, Jared. Keep up the great feminist work.
UPDATE: Jared tells the Ms. Blog,
I absolutely consider myself a feminist! Feminism is about establishing equality, not superiority and that is something I am completely behind. … I was married to a feminist for 10 years and though I didn’t see the subtle [sexism] at first, over time she helped me to understand the subtle comments that add up to a net social push. Once you see it, you see how often it really happens, and you can’t take up a position of ignorance anymore.
[My friend Holly Jeanneret motivated me to write the letter]. When Holly and I started Calculus 1 I quickly realized that while I was pretty good at math, she was better; a lot better. Holly consistently outscored me on exams and homework assignments, she understood the concepts on a level I couldn’t match. However, I often saw other men walk right past her and wander around the class looking for another partner. If they did partner with her, they were hyper-critical, they talked over her, they talked directly to me and barely acknowledged she was there. If Holly disagreed on an answer, instead of looking at both answers to find out who had done something wrong, as was common when I worked with other men, I saw them jump to the conclusion that she was must be wrong. It wasn’t just Holly. Since then I have seen the same behavior from men in nearly every class.
What happens when we start pushing some of these thinkers to the side? When they opt for other paths not because this isn’t a calling, but because they see the challenges as outweighing the rewards? I want companies to have access the best thinkers and the best ideas available and if we push certain people out of this field for reasons that have nothing to do with ability, we can’t have that result.
We [men] can’t know what it feels like to grow up in a society where these subtle slights are the norm; a society where women have become so accustomed to them that they can only recall the major ones. We cannot empathize, and our experiences are not the same, but we can listen and try to understand. From there, we can act.