Fred Parvaneh is a digital media and marketing professional. A staunch advocate for gender equality and vouching for women’s rights, Fred shares his insights into how he became deemed as a male feminist, and how his own personal journey influenced this.
This year, MALA is spotlighting individual stories from men and women who take a stand to eliminate violence against women, both nationally and globally. Our community looks forward to supporting UN Women’s Orange the World Campaign to support efforts to end violence against women and girls worldwide. UN Women and partners around the world are marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, launching from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th until UN’s International Human Rights Day on December 10th.
The motto for the #HeforShe movement has been:
“Ask yourself, if not me, who? If not now, when?”
As I write this essay, I am reminded that most people believe in gender equality, yet only a small portion actively advocate for the cause. To me, the question of remaining passive and silent about an issue that affects one half of the human population has always been perplexing.
What I find more disturbing is that majority of people in a civil society view discrimination as morally wrong, yet even in the most liberal cultures, women are still treated both economically and socially below men.
To me this notion is simply absurd. A woman is no more inferior or superior to a man, she is neither more intelligent, creative, or capable than a man, nor less, but yet for a multitude of reasons women are still considered second citizens.
I was born in Tehran, Iran to a non-practicing Muslim Father and a semi-devout Christian Mother. Growing up, my family was considered a ”modern family” and a model of acceptance by most, yet from an early age I became aware that outside of my immediate family, all was not equal when it came to genders. The issue troubled me, as I couldn’t fathom why people should consider my mother less qualified than my dad, simply because of her gender.
I was fortunate enough to attend a co-educational elementary and high school and witnessed first hand how capable my female classmates were, both intellectually and physically. They excelled in their academic studies as well as in sports, and the thought of them not being to equal to my male friends never ever crossed my mind.
Regrettable today in Iran, there is a large disparity between women & men’s rights. Iranian women are denied basic fundamental rights, even though they are highly educated and enormously talented in business, sports and arts.
The first time I experienced gender discrimination outside Iran, was ironically when I started working in Corporate America. I routinely saw female employers being passed up for promotions, earn less than their male counterparts and on some rare occasions harassed and viewed simply as sexual objects.
It was then that I became a ‘male feminist”.
I pride myself in having the conviction to speak up every time I saw an injustice towards my female colleagues. At times, I was ridiculed and admonished, but it didn’t deter me. I strongly believe changing perceptions and a way of life that is ingrained in some is a difficult task and a lengthy process. I also knew that unless men start speaking up, true gender equality will unlikely be achieved.
The subject matter is still a difficult one for some, but the Time is Now, and I stand United with all Women, and for that I am proud of my advocacy.