Alan Howell is not your average feminist.
For starters, he’s a white British man. A descendent of Sir Walter Raleigh, Alan was brought up to be a proper and chivalrous gentleman.
Taught to open doors and give up seats for women. However, it was last year at the Seven Dials music festival when Alan worked alongside the CEO of Sister London, a PR firm located in Soho, that he found himself, almost a year later, working as a promotional officer for International Woman’s Day 2019.
After the festival, he went back and told his employers how much he enjoyed working with Sister.
“I love the fact that I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he tells me as we sit on a velvet pink couch in a pop-up shop in Seven Dials.
Everyone is welcome at our #Balanceforbetter Hub! ✨We’re open until the early evening, so come in, relax and enjoy our free book exchange 📚For our full schedule of events in the Hub click here – https://t.co/mZoIkOM4Cs #iwd #sevendials #balanceforbetter pic.twitter.com/R14cnCORbK
— Seven Dials (@7DialsLondon) March 6, 2019
“We’ve been educated on the subject matter but not on the content or the opinions. I wondered what I was getting into, but I wanted to be educated, and to learn as a man.”
The theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceisBetter, which targets body positivity and the gender pay gap. As a seasoned actor, Alan had never been exposed to the plights women face in various industries.
“I’ve never had an experience when I knew a fellow colleague was earning less than I was. Obviously, if they were the lead then they would earn more but for those of us in the ensemble, we’re all on a minimum wage. It’s only when you become more important that the gap becomes bigger.”
When I asked Alan what it was that men needed to learn, he chuckled,
“Everyone needs to learn, not just men. International Women’s Day and other events highlighting difficulties women face can make a difference and both sexes can walk away from this event learning something. However, the lads who lunch definitely need waking up when it comes to business industries- especially the older generation.”
Alan has been no stranger to body positivity, even confiding in me, a complete stranger, about the struggles he’s dealt with in the entertainment industry.
“I’ve been told I need to lose weight- and I know I do.”
I stare at him cynically as he continues,“But, if you’re going to change something about your body it should be because it makes you feel good not because society is telling you it’s something you should do. You should be able to look in the mirror and embrace who you are no matter what sex, religion, social class, or whatever your background. That to me equals #BalanceisBetter.”
Influencing future generations with events like International Women’s Day is the most important thing to Alan. When promotion for the event first began, himself and another cohort passed out flyers around Seven Dials, he says with a massive smile painted across his face.
As Alan tells me about how passionate he is about closing in on the wage-gap or promoting body positivity, I can’t help but think what the world would be like if all men and women became as proactive about fighting social issues or even opening our minds to new information in the way he has.
“Everyone needs to be open to change,” he says, “especially elected officials”.
I pondered on what Alan had shared with me so far before I imposed my last question, contemplating how a white middle-class cis-gender British male could be sat before me saying everything he had, I probed.
“Are you sure you didn’t just sign up to this to meet girls?” After letting out an uproarious laugh he insists “No, I’m madly in love with a beautiful woman who makes me strive to become better than I am because she is just so strong, driven and wonderful,”
It was exactly at that moment when women all over the world were heard sighing, “ why can’t all men be like Alan?”