An education

Here’s what happened after this man spent a month reading feminist literature

Swedish professor Carl Cederström. (LinkedIn)

How can men be good allies to women? The question has been circling in the year following the allegations against Harvey Weinstein that led to a worldwide expansion of the #MeToo movement. One Swedish professor, Carl Cederström, decided to hit the library to find out.

“I wanted to to sit down and read about women’s experiences, to stay silent for a while, and hopefully learn something,” he wrote in a column for The Guardian, as he wanted to explore “what can men do to show solidarity with women, and what can we do to address a culture of toxic masculinity and begin examining ourselves?” And so he narrowed down a list of influential feminist works, ranging from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, published in 1792 to We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which hit shelves in 2014.

What he found, of course, is what women have known their entire lives: Stories of sexual abuse have been around for centuries, and the blame is usually placed on the women who are attacked. “It is not as if these stories are new,” he writes. “They just hadn’t been heard properly.”

Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 feminist classic A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (Library of Congress)

Perhaps it was reading about specific stories of assault that paint the broader systemic problems into sharp relief — in Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay writes about being lured by a boy she thought was her boyfriend and raped by a group of 12-year-old boys.

The range of titles also highlight the broader perception of the roles women play in the world, and the limiting cultural pressures that can silence them. Back in 1970, Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch that if women are confined to the roles of wives and mothers, their “horizon shrinks to the house, the shopping center and the telly.”

So what did this one man learn in the end? The need to “ask, read, listen, widen your perspective, call your own perspectives into question.” If that’s what one month of deep reading can lead to, just imagine the results after a lifetime.

And for those men (or women) who are so inspired, here is the list of titles to pick up:

Read the full story and see all 13 titles on the professor’s full suggested reading list at The Guardian.

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