Bono: ‘Gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women’


Glamour Magazine did something new for their annual Women of the Year feature: they named a man as one of their women/people of the year. This is the first time it’s happened. And no, Glamour didn’t recognize Barack Obama or Joe Biden. They recognized… Bono. I’ve been going back and forth about what I want to say about this, just as I’ve been going back and forth about how I feel about it. Like, one of the reasons why magazines do “women of the year” events and features is because if they made into “people of the year,” the winners would be overwhelmingly male. That’s just what would happen. But… we need male allies. We need more men to embrace feminism. We need men to be conscious of their own bias. I guess it’s a debate between the ideal – that women don’t need men to “rescue” them from inequality – versus the realpolitik, which is that of course we need male allies.

As for Bono in particular, once I read the feature, I understood why he was chosen, but I still feel iffy about it. He was chosen because of his Poverty Is Sexist campaign and his decades-long work with poverty initiatives and HIV/AIDS-treatment funding, all of which directly affects wide swaths of women on the frontlines. That’s admirable, truly. But let’s see if Bono’s quotes rub you the wrong way.

His wife wasn’t sure he deserved the WOTY honor: “I asked did she think I deserved it. She wasn’t sure. She said I’ve work to do!”

Whether he thinks he deserves it:
“I’m sure I don’t deserve it. But I’m grateful for this award as a chance to say the battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women. We’re largely responsible for the problem, so we have to be involved in the solutions.”

The Poverty Is Sexist campaign: “Women bear the burdens of poverty,” Bono says, meaning they are far less likely than men to have access to food, clean water, education, and health care; laws in many parts of the world don’t protect them from sexual violence or allow them to own the land they work. By establishing Poverty Is Sexist, Bono is making it clear that powerful men can, and should, take on these deep-rooted issues.

Women, Africa & AIDS: “HIV/AIDS was a death sentence [in the 1990s]. Imagine going to a football match and thinking, A third of these people in this stadium are going to die. This was a war, and women were at the front line of fighting that war.”

Whether more men should work to be allies: When asked why so few men are willing to rally around women’s causes, Bono says: “Men can be a bit thick. And I include myself. Honestly, things that ought to be obvious sometimes are not.” What’s obvious to Bono (the father of two daughters and two sons, feminists and activists all ): “We can do much more than we think we can. Leaders are accountable to all of us. If they don’t support women and girls, vote them out of office. To quote Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible—until it’s done.’ ”

[From Glamour]

True or false? “The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women.” As in, women and men have to be on a level playing field as far as activism and advocacy or else gender equality won’t work? I think that’s false. Men have held so much power for so long, and when women stand up for themselves and fight on their own behalf, there’s gotta be some guy who is like, “BUT I THOUGHT YOU BELIEVED IN EQUALITY. MISANDRY!!” I know Bono didn’t mean it like that. I know his heart is in the right place and I truly admire his work. But man, I still don’t know how I feel about this.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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33 Responses to “Bono: ‘Gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women’”

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  1. Margo S. says:

    I know how I feel about this. I think it makes no sense. No, he doesn’t deserve a woman of the year award. He’s a dude. He can have a person of the year award. Like woman barely get awards as it is but yeah sure glamour, give it to bono (?!). And second, no, woman don’t need men to make a change. Men have run the world and everything in it for years. It’s not like we were there with them the whole time pushing for it. We did however let it happen for so long. Maybe because of the simple fact that we believed that since men are physically stronger then us, they win. Now that isn’t cutting it anymore. Of course, having more and more men identify as feminist is great, but what we really need is to come together as woman, stop judging each other and criticising and start supporting each other (even if we don’t necessarily agree).

  2. detritus says:

    Why can’t they have a separate award for allies?
    Like Prom King and Queen, Woman of the year and best Ally.
    Bono doesn’t need any more awards or exposure, and it rubs me the wrong way because he not a woman. He can make the same speech at other awards if he feels the message is important.

    Also, could you ever imagine a man of the year award going to a woman? It doesn’t go both ways and that’s what probably annoys me.

    • INeedANap says:

      I’ve heard it explained thusly: feminists do not need to make a space for men. Men need to take the space they have in society and make it feminist.

  3. K37745 says:

    I’ll take it. Hearing him speak, though potentially a smidge misguided, is refreshing. At least lately when we’re inundated with sexist talk 24/7 lately.

    He’s on board and raising his kids with healthy/realistic views. Can’t fault him for that.

  4. Heat says:

    The best quote, in my opinion, was:
    “We’re largely responsible for the problem, so we have to be involved in the solutions.”
    He hit the nail on the head with that. Whether he should be “Woman of the Year”, I’m not so sure. He is bringing women’s issues to the forefront, and encouraging men to fight the good fight with us for equality.
    Glamour Magazine could have gone in an entirely different direction, so for that I’m happy with the choice. Heck, they could have made one of the Kardashians or Jenners WOTY, and then I’d be pissed.

    • Hoopjumper says:

      Yeah, that quote jumped out at me, too. He’s right on the money there. I think it’s a bit odd he got a woman of the year award, but his comments are perfectly reasonable. A sea change like gender equality isn’t going to happen if 50% of the world’s population has no role. Also, he didn’t say, and I don’t think meant, men have to be equal in the fight. Just that they have to be a part of it.

  5. Deanna says:

    Reminds me of that Parks and Recreation episode.

  6. Nicole says:

    I think he means if men aren’t working towards gender equality nothing will change. Just like racist practices won’t change unless white people are on board. It’s not minorities or women that need to change, it’s the majority in power (white people and males) that need to change.

  7. Sixer says:

    Well, men can lead it in one important way, Bono dear. By CEDING POWER, VISIBILITY AND INFLUENCE. Which you don’t appear to be doing.

    Other than that, not really.

    Poverty is sexist though. And not just in the developing world. 80% of the cuts in services and benefits under Britain’s austerity regime since 2010 have fallen on women.

    • LAK says:

      Hear, hear!!!

      Men NEED to LEAD……<—–major side eye from me. Right there. He starts by assuming women can't do this without being guided by men.

      • Fl girl says:

        Yes! Maybe instead of “leading” you just get behind us for a change. As for his WOTY cover…maybe that is what it takes to get a larger conversation going with the people who actually buy/read Glamour.

    • MC2 says:

      Yes to all of this! Poverty is incredibly sexist and in the USA too.

      Women in America are still 35 percent more likely than men to be poor in America, with single mothers facing the highest risk. Currently, 35 percent of single women with children live and raise their families in poverty.

  8. Jenns says:

    So basically a man got a job that a woman was more qualified for. How wonderful that Glamour praised a man for not treating women like sh*t.

    • SM says:

      well, it is not his fault or responsibility the magazine decided to award a man. And for one, despite my lack of interest in his activism, his music (U2 were good around early to mid nineties – what happened?) I have no bad thing to say about him here. He is right, men should acknowledge that they are responsible for vast majority of problems women face in different parts of the world and in different settings and they should own up to it and stop using their power further to compromise feminism and equal rights. The societies will only win from being pro-feminist, not lose, as in the advocacy of women’s rights should not be seen as an attempt to rob men of their rights.

      • Jayna says:

        They may not put out great albums like Achtung Baby anymore, but on every album, since the mid nineties, still about half of the album is great. The guys can still write some great songs, which is more than a lot of decades-old bands do. I listen to a lot of their post mid-nineties music . And they put on a concert like they are still young and hungry. No lazy , uninspired tour for them.

    • LWithHearts says:


  9. pyritedigger says:

    Glamour chose him because they wanted to generate controversy. No one cares about these awards. I might pay attention for a milisecond about who was chosen, but suddenly a man gets a “woman of the year” award, and everyone is buzzing about it. Total craven manipulation on Glamour’s part.

    As for Bono, he’s an attention whore, so of course he accepted it.

  10. JustCrimmles says:

    He didn’t actually win the woman of the year award. Gwen Stefani did. He got their new man of the year. It’s all ridiculous (and win is a bit of a stretch) but no, he was not awarded woman of the year.

  11. Dippit says:

    I long for a day when a ‘Person of the Year’ award would not necessarily be male dominated. Do I think giving visibility to a man in a ‘Woman of the Year’ awards furthers us towards that ends… on balance, no I don’t.

    He, along with many other men, is aligned and committed to highlighting continuing inequalities. He, along with many other men, has an understanding and appreciation for the need for liberation campaigns and necessary frameworks and attitudinal shifts required to aide in eliminating such inequalities. He, along with many other men, recognise they must play an active role in alliance with women to help bring about required changes. His input, along with many other men, is welcome. BUT he should not be given an honour to speak from the position of ‘Woman of the Year’ in these matters because he, along with every other male who identifies as a man, is NOT A WOMAN.

    And I can’t help thinking this has come about as a “let’s be controversial for controversial sake” and his accepting to be party to this blurs further lines in the real work being done by women (and male allies) on tackling continuing inequality.

  12. I Choose Me says:

    I’m conflicted too. I like what he’s saying and I think it’s great that he’s an ally but him getting this award rankles. I mean, I get why Glamour wanted to recognize his charitable work for and behalf of women and to be fair he’s been doing this for a long time so I know his heart is in the right place but you’re telling me there weren’t any WOMEN out there more deserving? I find that hard to believe.

    • AngelaH says:

      I feel like high profile men need to step up and support women’s equality and the more that happens, the more other people (both male and female), will start to listen. I’m not saying that that is the way it should be, but it is the way it is.

    • Persephone says:

      About a dozen women were given Women of the Year awards by Glamour.

  13. Tourmaline says:

    I wish Bono would let his hair go grey because his auburny hair dye bothers
    That’s all I got

  14. Mae says:

    ‘Stand with women’ or ‘throw their support behind women’ instead of ‘lead it along with women’, I think would be better. We can lead ourselves.

  15. serena says:

    I think he meant well but yeah, the way he worded it rubbed me the wrong way.

  16. Joanie says:

    Bono can’t imagine a movement without him being front and center.

  17. Molly says:

    I’ve always loved him–grew up with the music of U2 in the 80s and 90s. Had such a crush on the young Bono. I think there’s some good in what he says here, and good on him for raising men and women to be feminists. Incidentally, I just tonight ran a Person of the Year event. Our winner was female.

  18. Godwina says:

    As a hardcore feminist, and as no fan of Bono, I’m ok with statements like that; we’ve been saying for years that sexual violence and street harassment are primarily a “male” problem and men have to get together to fix that shit. I hear THAT in his statement, nothing more, and I sure as hell agree with that.