Bono gets it. The U2 singer is fully aware that it’s hard to sound sympathetic to the plight of those less fortunate when you’re a white millionaire rock star. That said, the tireless social justice warrior has a thing or four to say about the current #MeToo moment in an impassioned essay he penned for Time magazine entitled: “Why It’s Time for Men to Step Up for Women Too.”
“I am not a masochist, and clearly as a singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band I prefer the roar of the stadium’s affection to the whistles and boos of town-hall politics,” he writes. “But I must say I quite enjoyed the trouble I got into about a year ago when I was the lone man honored as part of Glamour’s Women of the Year awards. My favorite trash-talking tweet came from a woman who said that in my defense, my glasses did make me look like a 75-year-old granny from Miami. Or another who said it was inspiring how I’d overcome ‘the adversity of being a millionaire white dude.'”
Undeterred, the 57-year-old rock icon was glad for the opportunity to light a match in the debate about what role men play in the fight for gender equality. “It seemed obvious to me that the sex who created the problem might have some responsibility for undoing it,” he says. “Men can’t step back and leave it to women alone to clean up the mess we’ve made and are still making. Misogyny, violence and poverty are problems we can’t solve at half-strength, which is the way we’ve been operating for a few millennia now.”
The singer says he’s been aptly home-schooled by his wife Ali and their two daughters about the fact that there is “nowhere on earth where women have the same opportunity as men,” a stark reality brought home with the statistic that there are 130 million girls around the world who are not in school. As part of his ongoing efforts with the RED anti-poverty campaign, Bono shifts to a plea for one of the organization’s goals: guaranteeing universal access to education by 2030, a move that can give women and girls a fair shot at escaping poverty.
“There isn’t just room for righteous anger at the injustice of all this, there is a need for it and for outrage at the violence — physical, emotional and legal — that perpetuates it,” he writes. “But there is also, in the facts, room for hope. Because the research is clear — it’s plain on the page and has been proved on the ground — that funding girls’ education isn’t charity but investment, and the returns are transformational.” One additional year of schooling can increase a girls’ wages by 12 percent, he says, while closing the gender gap in education could generate $112 billion to $152 billion a year for economies in developing countries.
Unless, of course, those women and girls are held back by the rampant sexism that has been exposed over the past year. The singer says he’s fighting against the hopelessness and cynicism that is peaking at the moment, working on himself, but also for the 130 million girls counting on the rest of us to pressure leaders to fund efforts like the Global Partnership for Education, which is due for renewal this year.
“The key lesson in my own home-schooling is something Ali has been saying to me since we were teenagers: don’t look down on me, but don’t look up to me, either,” he concludes. “Look across to me. I’m here. It just may be that in these times, the most important thing for men and women to do is to look across to each other — and then start moving, together, in the same direction. Making education a priority is a way of making equality a priority, and even men with limited vision should see that’s the only way forward.”
Click here to read the full essay.