I’m A Man And I Call Myself A Feminist Now, And You Should Too

by Joe Belsterling

I am a white male conservative. I don’t usually label myself as such because in today’s world, most labels have way too intense of social and political connotations. (Notice how I said “conservative,” not Republican.)

But, something I never thought I’d label myself as was “feminist,” which recently led to a heated debate with my best friend.

Obviously I completely support equal opportunity and the issues women face today are worth the fight.

However, feminists also often transcend just these issues and the cause turns into something I do not support (here is one example of many).

However, just because I do not label myself doesn't mean I don't empathize with issues related to the title.

Specifically, being that I work in the startup world, I am very sensitive to the plights women face.

Only 3 percent of venture capitalists are women and only around 10 percent of VC-backed startup founders are women.

This is a trending issue in the startup world, and the topic of sexism in startups and venture capital has certainly been put on display by the recent Kleiner Perkins-Pao trial.

Understanding the importance of not stopping at just acknowledging that a problem exists, I even told my best friend how I try to do my part.

When my super young, super small startup was looking for our first intern, I intentionally spent hours finding and interviewing female college student candidates.

Now, with summer coming around, I'm doing that once again.

I was quite proud of this, but it didn't seem to impress the intern.

Much to my surprise, she (a proud feminist) said, “That’s great, but that’s not what feminism is about to me, and that’s not why I think it’s important to be a feminist.”

She said, “I’m not passionate about feminism because I want to make an extra $2,000 starting salary when I graduate.

To me, feminism is about the low-income woman who doesn’t have the option to walk away when she gets pregnant, unlike the baby’s father.

Now, being a single mom, she can’t afford to take care of her kid because she’s making less money than her exact male counterpart.”

Then something that never happens happened: I conceded.

Here are three reasons why I now call myself a feminist (admittedly, still somewhat hesitantly, but that’s okay), and you should, too:

It's about so much more...

As I just said, it’s about so much more than what a lot of us think in our privileged bubbles.

As important as it is to have more women in venture capitalism, more women start-up founders and equal pay in high profile jobs, there are more important reasons to be a "feminist."

As she said, it's about the single mom who does not have the option to walk away from her child and now cannot pay her bills because of wage differences.

Stand for something or fall for anything.

Nothing’s perfect, but that’s not an excuse to not stand by/for anything. As Rosa Parks said, “Stand for something or you will fall for anything.”

Even if you cannot think of a single woman in your life you hold dear, equality is equality.

Cost-benefit analysis.

The harm that comes from perpetuating these disadvantages is much greater than the harm that comes from not being willing to align with equality for women.

And, these issues do the most damage in circles most privileged people never see. None of these reasons stand alone, but rather, they all fit together to form a more complete argument.

PS, there are countless other reasons that could be listed. Tweet me @JoeBelsterling to tell me yours.