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When Bono Is a Woman of the Year, We Have a Problem


Is it that there aren't enough men recieving awards and Bono has truly gone unrecognized?

It's no secret that women are not yet equal to men when it comes to wages and treatment within society. However, one women's magazineseems to think providing opportunities solely for women is "outdated."

Glamour just announced that for the first time in the history of its Women of the Year awards, it would be honoring a man. What's more, the man it selected is not someone plucked from obscurity or unrecognized for his work, but none other than U2's Bono.

Pause to allow steam to exit your ears, then read what the magazine's editor in chief had to say about it:

"We've talked for years about whether to honor a man at Women of the Year and we've always kind of put the kibosh on it. You know, men get a lot of awards and aren't exactly hurting in the celebration and honors department," Cindi Leive told the Associated Press.

"But it started to seem that that might be an outdated way of looking at things, and there are so many men who really are doing wonderful things for women these days," she added. "Some men get it and Bono is one of those guys."

While it is great that Bono "gets it," I wonder if Leive does. There are, as she said, many opportunities for men to be honored and recognized for their work. Plus the idea of conferring a special honor on a man for his feminist activities perhaps indicates that working on behalf of women is something men like Bono need to be praised for repeatedly. It's condescending to women.

"The idea that a man who could select any cause in the world to call his own, or no cause at all, is choosing to work, and not just for one night or at a special event, but consistently -- day after day and month after month -- on behalf of women is incredibly cool and absolutely deserves applause," Leive told the AP.

This is like presenting someone with a White Ally award!

Even Bono's wife, Ali Hewson, found the award ridiculous. "Apparently he turned to his wife and broke the news and she told him, eh, I think you still have some work to do," Leive told the wire service.

While Bono has done incredible work on behalf of gender equality, honoring him wastes the opportunity to elevate and recognize the important work women do everyday on our own behalf, while simultaneously operating as women in the world. The challenge of being a woman is nowhere near outdated. The need for positive female role models in the media is still urgent. It's sad that a women's magazine could be blind to this.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend BinderCon, a writing conference supporting women and gender-nonconforming writers. One mission of the event is to uplift marginalized voices in a media landscape oversaturated with men. The idea is to provide a platform, a broad audience, ways of connecting and opportunities for visibility to those who are often shouting from the sidelines.

At this conference it is incredibly obvious why spaces and opportunities specifically for non-men need to persist. We haven't reached a level playing field, so it's important to harness our own power and create systems of merit outside of the broader patriarchy.

In 2015, Glamourdecided to honor transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner mere months after her transition, using the Women of the Year award to deliver an important message of inclusivity to transgender women. Certain critics felt Jenner had not spent enough time living as a woman to quality for the award, but the magazine stood firm in its commitment to transgender rights and to Jenner's identity. While it may seem radical to honor Bono alongside numerous women, it actually isn't and in fact dilutes the profound message the magazine delivered in Jenner's case. Awarding Bono is merely a return to the status quo; it's not expanding representation of women in the media, but limiting opportunity.

ELIZABETH DALEY is an Advocate contributor covering feminism. You can follow her on Twitter @fakepretty.

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