Op-ed columnist Frank Bruni wrote recently in the New York Times about the puzzling stamina of sexism.
Many hoped that after the feminist struggles during the 1970s, we would be further along than we are now; that a panel of witnesses on sexual assault in the military might contain more than one woman amongst eleven men; that physical and sexual violence might not affect over one third of women globally.
The gender gap is disheartening, truly, but it’s inspiring to see this list below and know that at least some of the white men in power do at least try to have women’s best interests at heart. Supporting the aims of feminism doesn’t mean you have to be a woman — it just means that you are working towards the end of sexism and sexist oppression. Here’s to hoping that men — white, old, and otherwise — both begin and continue to place women’s rights as a high priority.
1. Joe Biden
Vice President Biden showed his support for women most notably by drafting the Violence against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), back when he was a Senator during the Clinton administration. The act covers female (and male as well) victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault stalking, providing $1.6 billion towards the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. In February, the Senate passed an extension of the act, expanding coverage to same-sex relationships and Native Americans, among other provisions. Biden gave a stirring speech in 2012 explaining why the re-authorization of VAWA was so important, cementing his place on this list.
2. Bill Clinton
While admittedly not a paragon of professionalism during the scandal he faced his presidency, the ex-President has actually done a lot to further the cause of women’s rights, namely through the foundation he started in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative. The initiative convenes global leaders to discuss solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, which includes gender inequity. During his presidency, Clinton also appointed the first women to serve as Attorney General, Secretary of State, White House Press Secretary, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Domestic Policy Adviser, and various other White House positions.
3. Nicholas Kristof
This New York Times columnist has often written columns that draw attention to the plight of girls in developing and third world countries, specifically human trafficking. Kristof also co-authored the book Half the Sky, which explores the plight of women and girls in developing countries and illuminates how economic progress could be buoyed with the liberation of women. The book was recently adapted into a television documentary series for PBS, and additional platforms and tools have been added to the Half the Sky movement, which aims to provide concrete steps for changing the lives of women in developing countries.
4. Bill Gates
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was started by Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates. Though Gates made his fortune in the fairly “boys club” culture of computers, he and his wife have directed a significant part of their foundation to helping women in developing countries with family planning. The foundation’s goal is to make sure that women and girls all have access to family planning information, services, and supplies. They’re currently investing in two new versions of contraceptives in Africa and South Asia.
5. Matt Damon
Though he’s supported a myriad of causes, including stopping the genocide in Darfur, actor Matt Damon has made sure to support women’s rights. He narrated a segment for PBS’s series on Women, War, and Peace in which he offers reasons why men should care about women’s experiences in conflict zones. Damon is also father to four daughters and clearly cares about the opportunities that will be available to them.